KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Back-to-back losses for the first time this season and three setbacks in the last five games may have bruised the image of Chiefs as the NFL regular season comes to a close, but you won't find head coach Andy Reid feeling sorry for his team right now.
“Last time I checked we were in pretty good position here,” Reid said reflecting after the team's 38-31 loss at Seattle Sunday. “I know it can become a 'woe me' thing, this is how it happens. That can be a negative but I feel like throughout the team though the guys understand where they're at and what they need to do to fix it.”
Indeed, the Chiefs can still capture the AFC West and claim home-field advantage through the playoffs with a victory at home in Week 17 against the Oakland Raiders. The Chiefs tried to seal the same deal Sunday night in Seattle, but a slow offensive start and a struggling defense close the door on the opportunity.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes finished 23-of-40 passing for 273 with three touchdowns against the Seahawks. But he complete just one of his first seven passes Sunday night, and the Chiefs turned in three-and-outs on three of their six first-half possession. A fourth drive ended after two snaps following a Damien Williams fumble.
Early starts on the road in primetime games mark one of the rare blemishes on the Mahomes report card in his first year as a starter. The Chiefs have a 1-3 record in primetime visits to Denver, New England, the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle, with opponents outscoring them 33-19 in the first quarter. The club has a 10-1 record in all other games, outscoring their opponents 114-23 in the opening quarter.
“Those things happen to all quarterbacks, whether they're young or old,” Reid said. “Some of it I can put him in a better position to make plays and give him better calls there. And then he'll take care of the rest of it. He knows and it's no want-to of not starting fast and all that. I think it's just kind of the way it's laid there, but I can help him with some of those things too.”
Mahomes admitted in the past feeling excited for primetime games, but Reid dismissed the notion that the young quarterback needs time settling into marquee matchups.
“Each throws a little different, and not like he's throwing them in the dirt or throwing them out of the stadium, that's not what he's doing,” Reid said.
The coach pointed to Mahomes' opening pass Sunday night, a short slant to wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Linebacker K.J. Wright tipped the pass away at the line of scrimmage.
“If that kid doesn't get a hand on it, Tyreek's gone,” Reid said. “It was a good decision by him, trying to shape it around the guy and the guy made a good play. That wasn't anything with being too hyped or anything else.”
Reid also tried injecting new life into his team's 31st-ranked pass defense by benching safety Ron Parker and cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Two undrafted rookies, Charvarius Ward and Tremon Smith, made their first NFL starts with Kendall Fuller sidelined with a thumb injury.
“Smith got thrown into it a little bit more because of the injury part,” Reid said. “I thought we might be able to spot him in there instead of him having quite as many things. But when Fuller wasn't able to go, that put him into that position to play the extensive amount that he did.”
Both rookies had their highs and lows, but Reid though both acquitted themselves well in their first starts. Reid planned all week to start Ward in place of Scandrick, and sees potential in the 22-year-old from Middle Tennessee State.
“Ward I think it's just a matter of paying a little bit,” Reid said, “but he was in pretty good position on most the throws and he can learn from that just exactly how you up and through a guy at the end of a route and get the ball out, and then he had a couple of good plays. I liked what I saw there with Ward.”
Reid hopes Fuller can return for the season-finale against Oakland. A loss against the Raiders and a Los Angeles Chargers victory over Denver would drop the Chiefs to the No. 5 seed with a ticket to play on the road in the Wild Card playoff round.
“We're playing for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs,” Reid said. “We've had a couple of rough weeks here but we're going to bounce out of that and get ourselves right. I want people to feel that.”
–CB Kendall Fuller did not play Sunday against Seattle after surgery last week for a thumb injury. He was scratched as a game-time decision with rookie Tremon Smith stepping into the lineup in his place. The Chiefs hope Fuller can return for the season finale against Oakland.
–S Eric Berry played 69 of the team's 80 defensive snaps, but he sat out the team's final defensive stand as Seattle marched 75 yards in eight plays for the game-winning touchdown.The Chiefs have ramped up Berry's playing time over the last two games in preparation for full duty during the postseason.
–LG Cam Erving was active but did not play against Seattle. Erving sat out the team's Week 15 contest against the Los Angeles Chargers, but was a full participant in practice during the week and did not carry a game status designation on the final injury report. Veteran Jeff Allen started at left guard for the second-straight game.
–S Ron Parker was among the team's inactives Sunday against Seattle. That marked the first game Parker missed in six seasons in six seasons with the Chiefs. Daniel Sorensen started alongside Eric Berry in the secondary with Jordan Lucas filling in as the dime safety.
–CB Orland Scandrick did not play Sunday night as a coach's decision after spending the first 14 games of the season as the team's nickel cornerback. Rookie Charvarius Ward claimed Scandrick's spot in the lineup, and appears likely to play alongside starting corners Kendall Fuller and Steven Nelson in Week 17.