Chiefs Put to the Test Once Again, Fall to Bengals

The Chiefs fell to 1-3 on the season after a 36-21 loss to the Bengals on Sunday

Forget the fact that the Kansas City Chiefs fell to 1-3 on the season, this time due to a 36-21 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals (4-0).

Forget the fact that the combined record of the teams handing out those three losses are now a perfect 12-0 on the season and that Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals were all playoff teams last season.

The bottom line is the Chiefs have now had three opportunities to see where they stack up against three of the better teams in the NFL.

"There is a small margin between winning and losing," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said after the game, "and we've got to tighten that up."

The Chiefs are close, but not quite there yet and the good news is that it's still early in the season.

In place are the players they need to accomplish the goals they're looking to achieve. They have the coach they need leading the charge, someone who has been there before and won more games as an NFL head coach than all but 18 coaches who have ever roamed an NFL sideline.

It's a matter of things coming together, which they haven't to this point.

It's much easier said than done, which is frustrating to all of those who are on the field, sideline, in the stands or watching at home to watch it all transpire in the way that it has.

On Sunday, while some of the issues from the last couple of games remained (keeping Alex Smith upright, third-down offense, red zone defense), there were some things that did improve, although still not enough to change the only statistic that truly matters—the final score.

"It's pretty easy to observe what took place with big plays from their defense and [our] offense across the 50-yard line," Reid said. "We were moving backwards and we have got to take care of that."

The Chiefs finished the game 0 for 3 inside the red zone, ultimately settling for 7 Cairo Santos field goals on the day.

While it's a great thing for Santos, who broke the all-time Chiefs record for field goals in a game and became the seventh player in NFL history to kick 7 field goals in a single game, it's also terrible reminder of the inability of the Chiefs offense to put 7 points on the board despite multiple chances.

"It's always great to go out there and perform well and do your job," Santos explained after the game, "but I would have been happier if I kicked seven extra points and we won the game instead of field goals."

The good news is the Chiefs were moving the ball on offense and averaged 6.3 yards per play, which is a stark improvement and 1.2 yards per play more than they averaged in the first three games combined.

The bad news is the Chiefs defense allowed the Bengals to average more than 8.9 yards per play.

The Chiefs finished the game with just seven penalties for 46 yards, while the Bengals finished with 11 for 84 yards, but for the Chiefs, the penalties always seemed to come at the worst time.

With the Chiefs trailing 14-9 midway through the second quarter, the Bengals had an opportunity to extend their lead on a Mike Nugent 44-yard field goal attempt.

It hit the left upright.

With good field position and a little life, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith hit veteran receiver Jason Avant for 8 yards, then two plays later Smith found Jamaal Charles for another 8 yards.

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The momentum was building as the Chiefs marched towards what would have been a go-ahead touchdown with the score at 14-9.

On the next play, Charles took the handoff 24 yards to the Bengals 26-yard line.

Then, as the Chiefs had finally developed some rhythm and were marching towards the red zone, the negative play fairy snuck up again.

On first-and-10 from the Bengals 26-yard line, Jeremy Maclin was flagged for offensive pass interference on a Travis Kelce 6-yard reception.

Instead of second-and-short from the 18-yard line, the Chiefs were facing a first-and-20 from the 36.

It was a microcosm of the entire night.

Combining the 5 sacks allowed, 7 penalties and 3 offensive plays that resulted in negative yardage by the Chiefs offense, 9 of those 15 plays happened inside the Bengals 40-yard line (including D.J. Alexander's holding on the kickoff that De'Anthony Thomas had returned to Bengals 34-yard line).  

"I thought plain and simple it was negative plays," Alex Smith explained of the problem on Sunday after the game. "It was penalties, a sack and all of the sudden, you've put yourself in second-and-long and it's going to be tough versus a good defense.

"They're not going to let you throw it downfield."

Smith wasn't happy with his performance against the Bengals, against whom he finished 31 of 45 for 386 yards, which was a career-high for him.

"You're always kind of taking what they give you," Smith said of the Bengals defense. "We were going to spread it out and pick our spots. If some opportunities presented themselves we were going to take [shots down the field].

"I feel like we did a better job of that today, mixing it around [and] spreading it out after being put in some tough situations."

Smith's 8.58 yards per attempt is the fourth-highest of any game in his Chiefs career thus far dating back to the 2013 season.

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Smith came into the game having been sacked more times than any other quarterback in the NFL (13), and the Bengals were able to bring him down 5 times in the game, including 9 quarterback hits

"We're young in some spots and inexperienced in some spots," Reid said of his offensive line after the game. "I never say it's a long season, but you can expect the improvement to continue to take place as we go forward. This is a good defensive front, which isn't an excuse. 

"We've got to keep getting better and that's the bottom line."

Overall, the Chiefs had more total yards (461 to 445) and dominated time of possession (36:53 to 23:07) against the Bengals on Sunday afternoon.

"If you look at the stats, they're pretty equal on both sides," cornerback Sean Smith, who played his first game after returning from a three-game suspension, said. "The difference is, they stood up and forced us to kick field goals and we just gave up way too many plays.

"That pretty much sums up the game there."

Photos from the Chiefs week four matchup against the Bengals

The Bengals made timely plays, including a fantastic 55-yard touchdown catch and run from Brandon Tate on third down, two chunk plays offensively early in the game from A.J. Green and Rex Burkhead, a second-and-23 conversion from Andy Dalton to Tyler Eifert up the seam and finally, the forced fumble of Travis Kelce late in the third quarter in a one possession game.

Those were some of the key plays in the game that fell in the Bengals favor.

Overall, the Chiefs finished 0 for 3 in the red zone while the Bengals finished 4 for 4.

Forget everything else. That's the most important single aspect of the game. The Bengals came through when they needed to and the Chiefs did not.

The Chiefs now must look forward and prepare to host the Chicago Bears (1-3) on Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium with their first normal week of preparation this season.

While all games are important, the losses piling up will only put more focus on the next game as the Chiefs try and pull themselves out of the rut they find themselves in right now, all the while many are beginning to doubt them after three consecutive losses.

"This is a tough time," veteran offensive lineman Ben Grubbs said. "This is not a good feeling. A lot of times, players start pointing fingers and placing blame on others [rather] than themselves, but this team has good character.

"We are family and we're going to stick together and weather the storm."

Everything that's happened up to this point can be rectified by a nice little winning streak.

"In the National Football League, it's never as bad as you think and never as good as you think," coach Andy Reid said after the game.

The Chiefs hope to get on the better side of that next week against the Bears.

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