The Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) have lost four of their last five games after falling to the New York Giants (2-8) Sunday afternoon, but even so, they still hold a two-game advantage in the AFC West after the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos both lost as well.
Coming off their bye week, the Chiefs struggled to take care of the ball on Sunday against the Giants—turning it over three times and going 0 for 3 inside the red zone, settling for three field goals on the day.
"It's tough to win in the National Football League," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said after the game. "There is parity. It doesn't matter if you are 1-8 or whatever it might be. There is the opportunity. You have to bring you're A-game every week and we have to get ourselves back to playing better. It's my responsibility that we do that."
The Chiefs' offense, which came into Sunday's game leading the league in several offensive categories, including yards per play, struggled to find a rhythm against the Giants.
"I think that's the thing that jumps out, just out of rhythm," quarterback Alex Smith explained. "Even when you're stalling – there's a lot of times when you're going and you're not scoring, you're still getting in a rhythm, and we aren't. Got to find a way to get going earlier. It took us too long to get going and find any kind of rhythm."
Smith finished Sunday's game 27 of 40 for 230 yards and two interceptions. It's just the fifth time in 75 career games that Smith tossed two or more interceptions.
"I had a couple (of throws) I felt like I really wish I'd had back," Smith added. "All for different reasons. Whether you see something that's not there, or certainly just an accuracy issue and a bad ball. Different things, certainly a handful. When you lose, those get magnified. Those hurt even more when you go back and watch them."
Smith's first interception came early in the game on a shovel pass that was intended for tight end Travis Kelce, but the ball was deflected up into the air and into the hands of All-Pro defensive lineman Damon Harrison, who had the first interception of his career.
Smith's second interception came with four minutes left in the game when the game was tied, 6-6, as cornerback Janoris Jenkins flashed across the middle and picked off the intermediate pass over the middle of the field. That set up the Giants' go-ahead score late in regulation.
Both interceptions led to nine points for the Giants.
"Does he have a couple throws he would like to have back? Yes, I think he would," Reid explained. "This is all part of everyone being part of that. It's not just Alex there as you look at it. We all have a piece of that thing."
The Chiefs finished with 363 yards of total offense and were held without a touchdown.
"I think it's disappointing in the sense that our defense held them to nine points, and in this league, that should be good enough to win," Smith noted.
Despite the disappointment of a missed opportunity of gaining a three-game advantage in the division, the Chiefs benefit from the struggles of the other teams around the AFC West.
All combined, the Raiders, Broncos, and Chargers have combined to go 6-12 in their last six games.
"The important thing is that everyone sticks together and keeps working," Reid added. "This locker room has that characteristic. We have to make sure we do that and as coaches, we have to make sure that we are putting the guys in the right position. When you're in the position, you have to make a play.
"When I tell you we all have that, we all have a piece of that."
"This is the NFL. You have to bring it every single week," Smith added. "We expect to go out there, play well and win. That's our mindset, and when it doesn't happen, it's frustrating. It's just a matter of doing those little things. I think we have the personnel, I think we have the plan and the coaches. Then again, it's a different matchup next week, and we have to find a way to get ready and go against that."
The Chiefs host the Buffalo Bills next Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, where the Chiefs will play four of their final six games of the season.
While playoff-seeding is a common discussion amongst those outside of the locker room, the Chiefs' goals are becoming clearer and more defined through their recent struggles.
"The first thing you have to do is punch your ticket to the dance," Smith explained. "You have to get into the tournament. Until you do that, you should be focused on every single one of these games and at one at a time, stay short-sighted. You have to have a sense of urgency. Plenty of teams have started out hot, but you have to be able to continue to get better. Certainly, these games get bigger and bigger as the season goes on, and we have to find a way to win.
"And until those (playoff) opportunities aren't in front of us, all those goals we keep talking about-until they take those away, they're still there for us."