The unit put on its worst performance of the season with a national audience watching, allowing 551 yards in a 45-10 loss to the Chiefs. But the final score didn’t show just how bad it was. Then again, losing by 35 says a lot.
Players missed tackles all night, allowed Chiefs players to get wide open for scores and essentially looked like they were a step behind the other team all night. Even linebacker Vontaze Burfict, arguably one of the Bengals’ best defensive players, looked completely inept when matched up against the speed of the Chiefs’ offense. Burfict had only two tackles before leaving in the third quarter with a hip injury.
The Bengals have a problem, and it’s not going to go away. While they might be able to pull out wins when their defense is generating turnovers, they don’t match up well against any type of speed or quick-paced offense. On nights like Sunday, when the Bengals’ offense also isn’t clicking, the issue becomes even more obvious.
For whatever reason, the Bengals’ defense has not gotten going under new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, and it’s hard to say what percentage falls on the players vs. the scheme. There’s not exactly a solution waiting in the wings either.
The Bengals’ defensive line has failed to get any pressure the past two games, and both their linebacker and cornerback depth are razor thin outside of the starting players.
That’s not to say the offense shouldn’t take its share of the blame. The Bengals failed to capitalize on several breaks against a porous defense that came into Sunday’s game ranked last in the league. A kickoff that went out of bounds and an interception by Shawn Williams gave the Bengals good field position, but the offense responded by going three-and-out both times. Quarterback Andy Dalton threw a pick-six and couldn’t get the ball to anyone but A.J. Green.
That’s not to mention the head scratching aborted punt that resulted in a quick Chiefs’ touchdown, or the decision to punt with 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter when the Bengals were trailing 45 to 10. At that point, it seemed clear the Bengals had thrown in the towel.
The Bengals need to change their mindset, whether it’s a more aggressive scheme or a different approach. If there’s no savior on the roster, then it’s on the coaching staff to reassess what has gone wrong with the team in the past two weeks and figure out how to cater to the strengths of the players they have.
The Bengals couldn’t stop the Steelers in the final minute of last week’s loss, and they couldn’t stop the Chiefs at any point on Sunday. Unless they go back to forcing timely turnovers, it’s almost a given that the defense will cost them more games. The Bengals certainly have talent at key spots, and that’s why these performances are so puzzling.
If the Bengals want to be considered a legitimate playoff contender this year, they certainly have a long way to go before proving they’re in the conversation. So far, they haven’t proven anything yet.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The career of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes through eight games has been like no other — at least when it comes to touchdown passes.
Mahomes threw four scoring passes in Sunday night’s 45-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium. That gives him 22 touchdown passes in the first eight games of his career, breaking the NFL record of 21 set by Kurt Warner.
“You think you’re going to have success, but I didn’t expect this much,” Mahomes said. “But at the same time, I knew the weapons we had, and I knew if I just ran [the offense] and did what Coach [Andy] Reid wanted me to do that there was a chance we could be really, really good.”
Mahomes is closing in on the Chiefs’ single-season record for touchdowns. Len Dawson threw 30 touchdown passes in 1964, and Mahomes has nine games to catch him.
“We have a lot of season left. … We’re going to try to get a couple more and keep doing what we’re doing,” Reid said.
Mahomes threw four touchdown passes this season in games against the Chargers and Patriots. He had six scoring throws in a game against the Steelers.
Mahomes, the Chiefs’ first-round draft pick in 2017, said he has never had as much fun playing football as he’s having this season.
“To be able to learn every day from Coach Reid, to be able to get out here with all these guys … we literally have fun every single day,” he said. “We love coming to work, I guess you would say, and just getting to play this game that we’ve loved since we were little kids and winning a lot of football games.”
Mahomes threw three touchdown passes in the first half as the Chiefs built a 24-7 lead. He had scoring throws of 6 and 15 yards to Kareem Hunt and 17 yards to Demetrius Harris.
Mahomes’ 22nd touchdown pass of the season came in the fourth quarter. Tyreek Hill caught the 3-yard throw.
Mahomes failed to throw a touchdown pass in two of his eight career games: last season against the Broncos and this season against the Jaguars.
They saw the game for what it was in the moment — a three-point defeat on the road against the two-time defending AFC champions.
“I feel like if we had the ball last like they did, we would have gone down and scored and won, too,” running back Kareem Hunt said. “We can take this loss. I mean, you never want to lose. We’re going to learn from this, go study and make sure it [doesn’t] happen again.”
For now, at least, that’s the proper attitude for the 5-1 Chiefs to take after their first loss of the season. But they should be aware of the dangers that can follow.
Just last season, the Chiefs started 5-0 before an innocent-looking loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Chiefs then lost five more in their next six games to fall to 6-6 before righting their season and claiming the AFC West title by winning their final four games.
The Chiefs also started 9-0 in 2013 but finished 2-5. They were 7-3 at one point in 2014 before a three-game losing streak took them out of realistic playoff contention.
So the Chiefs are familiar with prolonged slumps. That’s why next Sunday night’s game against the 4-2 Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium might be the most important of the season for the Chiefs.
“This team has got great character,” cornerback Orlando Scandrick said. “It’s one of the best groups I’ve been around my whole 11-year career. We’ll be fine. I’m not worried about it at all [given] the way this team works, the way this team prepares. If we handle our business the way we’re supposed to handle our business, there is a good chance we’ll see [the Patriots] again.”
The Chiefs could have left themselves some margin for error by finding a way to win the close game against the Patriots. At 6-0, they would have had a commanding lead in the AFC West and for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Their nearest competitors in the division, the Los Angeles Chargers, are 4-2, and every other AFC team has at least two losses.
At 5-1, the Chiefs’ lead over their division and conference rivals is more precarious. But they can re-establish a larger sense of control by beating the Bengals. They would be 6-1 heading into one of the easiest three-game stretches of their schedule: home games against the Broncos and Cardinals and a road game with the Browns.
The Chiefs would do well to take advantage. This easier stretch of schedule ends in Week 11 in Mexico City, where they face the Rams, who — by beating the Broncos on Sunday while the Chiefs lost to the Patriots — are the NFL’s last remaining unbeaten team.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — A fan at Gillette Stadium who threw beer on Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill has been identified by security, banned from the facility and had his case turned over to law enforcement.
The incident occurred after Hill’s 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown late in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s game. Hill’s momentum carried him through the end zone to the barrier where fans can stand while watching the game. While some fans flipped off the receiver, another doused him with beer.
Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Breeland Speaks admitted he was worried about being called for a roughing the passer penalty on Tom Brady when he appeared to let the quarterback out of his grasp on a key play late in the fourth quarter Sunday.
Brady gave the Patriots the lead with a rare touchdown run with 5:25 remaining when he escaped a would-be sack by Speaks on third down and scored on a 4-yard scramble.
Speaks had his left arm around Brady’s midsection behind the line of scrimmage, but the rookie said he wanted to avoid a penalty because he thought Brady had already thrown the ball.
“I thought the ball was gone,” Speaks said. “Because I thought the ball was gone, I didn’t take him to the ground. It sucks, it sucks. You’re supposed to finish plays like that.”
Brady’s touchdown run gave New England a 37-33 lead. The Patriots ultimately won 43-40 on Stephen Gostkowski‘s 28-yard field goal as time expired.
“I don’t know what happened,” Brady said, when asked how he avoided being sacked by Speaks. “They doubled three guys on the play, and I’m just glad. I’ve got to watch (the film of the play), but I got close to the goal line and figured I’d just try to get it in. We needed it.”
Speaks, a second-round draft selection, said he will risk being penalized in the future in order to prevent game-changing touchdowns.
“It’s just the risk we’ve got to take now,” said Speaks, who finished with six tackles and a sack Sunday. “Whether we get the flag or not, whatever happens, you’ve just got to go ahead and push through it and go ahead and make that play.”
He didn’t get rattled. He instead turned the game into a classic duel in his first showdown with New England’s Tom Brady.
“When you have the guys I have on this team with the weapons that I have,” Mahomes said, “I have to keep slinging it.”
That’s what Mahomes did. He threw four second-half touchdown passes, three to Tyreek Hill, in leading the Chiefs back from their 15-point halftime deficit.
Brady beat Mahomes in the end. The Patriots kicked a walk-off field goal to win 43-40.
Finally, Mahomes came across an opponent he couldn’t outscore. Brady and the Patriots got it done, though Mahomes made them work for it.
“He made a lot of big (throws),” Brady said. “Tough to slow those guys down. They’re going to be pretty tough to stop. So glad we had our last shot and glad we took advantage of it.
Mahomes and the Chiefs are 5-1 this season.They are 6-1 when Mahomes is their starting quarterback, counting the final regular season game against the Denver Broncos last year. In that game, Mahomes led the Chiefs to a walkoff field goal and a 27-24 victory.
The game didn’t start off well for Mahomes. He put the Chiefs in bad spots in the first half for the first time with his two interceptions. One put the Patriots on the Kansas City 4 and they took advantage of the favorable field position for a touchdown.
The other, in the red zone near the end of the second quarter, cost the Chiefs at least three points.
I missed some throws,” Mahomes said. “That happens in this league. But whenever you’re playing good football teams you can’t miss those throws. We left some points out there.”
But he kept firing and was rewarded with the four touchdown passes, including one of 67 yards to Kareem Hunt and another of 75 yards to Hill.
“We just starting hitting on throws that I was missing earlier,” Hunt said. “I feel like we moved the ball well the entire night. We just have to find ways to score in the red zone. The last two weeks it just seems like we can’t punch it in there and I feel like in the second half we finally started getting it in the end zone.”
Brady and Mahomes wished each other well at midfield after Stephen Gostkowski‘s 28-yard field goal decided the game. The game might have only been the opening chapter of their rivalry.
“He gave me congrats on playing a good game and of course I did the same to him,” Mahomes said. “I just kind of told him good luck for the rest of this season. We’re going to go out there and hopefully we can keep playing and hopefully we might be able to see him again.”
But the end result was still pretty sweet, as these are the types of games — with just one punt between the teams and a tense finish in which clutch plays needed to be made down the stretch — that can build championship mettle.
“I think we’ve got a lot of clutch players. I think we have no problem grinding it out,” quarterback Tom Brady said. “That’s what the football season’s all about.”
Even better for the Patriots: By improving to 4-2, and dropping the Chiefs to 5-1, it keeps them out of what could have been too deep of a hole from which to recover for possible home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.
Of course, that’s a long way away.
The Patriots next visit the Chicago Bears, who were one of the surprise stories of the NFL after their 3-1 start but came off their bye Sunday and fell to quarterback Brock Osweiler and the Miami Dolphins, 31-28 in overtime.
The Patriots head to Chicago having learned a lot about their team.
Coach Bill Belichick has said that two of the most important characteristics of his best squads are mental toughness and the ability to rise up in the crucial situations to make winning plays. The 2018 Patriots showed Sunday night they are capable of that.
“That was a great job by our players and coaching staff. Just battling for 60 minutes. We talked about that all week,” Belichick said. “In the end, we were able to just do a little bit more, do enough. I’m really proud of the way we competed all the way through — from the opening kickoff to the final kick. It’s a great effort. I thought we went out and played hard. I think we deserved it.”
The Patriots led 24-9 at halftime, which at their home stadium is one of the most ironclad locks in professional sports. Since Brady took over as the starter in 2001, the Patriots are 95-1 in the regular season at home when leading at the half.
The lone loss came to the Chiefs (in the 2017 season opener), and in a stunning second-half turnaround Sunday night, it looked as if the Chiefs were ready to do it again.
A Patriots defense that forced two turnovers in the first half suddenly became vulnerable to the big play after halftime. Uncharacteristic decision-making from Brady led to a strip sack that Kansas City quickly turned into a third-quarter touchdown.
“I don’t think we’ve seen our best. We can all play a lot better,” Brady said. “And that’s what we plan to do.”
Tom Brady floats the ball deep to Rob Gronkowski for a 39-yard gain, setting up Stephen Gostkowski for a 28-yard field goal to win the game.
But the Patriots showed fortitude in overcoming the slippage — a clutch play with the game on the line as old reliable Rob Gronkowski reeled in a 39-yard catch to set up the winning field goal as time expired — in what was a playoff-type environment.
“I’ll keep throwing to him in the biggest moments,” Brady said of Gronkowski, whose big catch was the 500th of his career. “We talked about competing for 60 minutes, and that’s what it took — right down to the last three seconds.”
In doing so, the Patriots improved to 94-2 at home with Brady as a starter when they get a double-digit lead.
“A lot of us had been expecting that all week, knowing that’s a high-powered offense,” Patriots receiver Josh Gordon said. “We had one of our own, so we were expecting to take it the full length of the game.”
The right-handed Mahomes was drifting to his left. He threw the ball late to the middle of the field. The pass was made across his body.
But Mahomes still made it work. Tight end Travis Kelce was open and the Chiefs got a 29-yard gain on the play and, eventually, a field goal on the drive.
This was a case, and there have been others this season with Mahomes, when the Chiefs have benefited from letting their quarterback use his uncommonly strong arm.
“They never encourage that,” Mahomes said of coach Andy Reid and the other offensive assistants. “As long as you complete it and you get the first down, they’re fine with it. At the same time, you have to know when not to do that.
“You never want to throw across your body as a quarterback, especially in this league … but it kind of [happened] naturally.”
Mahomes has yet to get himself or the 5-0 Chiefs into trouble with any of his daring passes. The Chiefs have tamed Mahomes, who arrived with a reputation for making some reckless passes, without taking away the qualities that attracted coach Andy Reid to him in the first place.
That’s a big reason why Mahomes, in his first season as a starter, has 14 touchdown passes with only two interceptions heading into Sunday night’s game against the Patriots in New England.
“Most guys are told not to do that,” said fullback Anthony Sherman, who was referring to the Kelce pass but could have been talking about other unconventional Mahomes passes. “He goes out there and executes it and it’s like, ‘OK, I guess you can do that.’ … Coach Reid gives him the ability that if he thinks he can get it there, throw it and get it there. He knows he’s going to have to get the ball into some tight windows, but he trusts his arm enough.
“I think at this point we should trust him and know he won’t put us in a bad situation. He’ll just find a way to get the ball to an open receiver.”
Mahomes didn’t throw a ton of interceptions in college at Texas Tech: 29 in 857 pass attempts, or on about 3.4 percent of his throws.
But he was prone to try to make a play down the field when one wasn’t necessarily available rather than always operate within the offensive system and be content with a shorter gain.
The Chiefs set about changing that part of Mahomes’ game from the time he arrived last year as a first-round draft pick. The first thing they did was have him observe last year’s starting quarterback Alex Smith, who protects the ball as well as any quarterback.
Smith has thrown an interception on 2.1 percent of his passes in his 13-year NFL career and on 1.4 percent of his throws in his five seasons with the Chiefs.
“What he learned from Alex was having respect for the football,” former Chiefs assistant coach Brad Childress said. “I’ve been around quarterbacks who have no regard for the football. If it became between you and the football, you can have the football. So Pat gets that part, how turnovers can kill you.”
The Chiefs hired assistant coach Mike Kafka to work with Mahomes last year. Kafka, who once played for Reid with the Philadelphia Eagles, was promoted to quarterbacks coach this year.
“Mike Kafka has lived with this kid now for two years,” Reid said. “Mike played in the offense, so he knows the rules and regulations you kind of have to go by but also the freedom you get to be yourself, to put your own mark on it. Then, the kid is wired that way. He wants to do well and be the best. So you can coach him and he will take his coaching and he’ll work with you on it. It’s a tribute to him. He’s a special kid that way.”
Reid routinely uses a trust test with his quarterbacks, asking them after certain plays during practice or games what he saw from the defensive coverage. Reid said Mahomes almost always breaks down the coverage exactly the way it unfolded.
“Not every quarterback can spit that out to you,” Reid said. “The thing about Pat is he’s blessed with this great vision. He sees everything out there.”
Because he’s so confident Mahomes is aware of everything the defense is doing from the start of a play to the finish, Reid is comfortable in not placing many restrictions on him in terms of the types of throws he can make. As Reid put it, “You let him put his personality on it.”
Childress said Mahomes last season in practice made several no-look passes, gazing out into the flat while throwing a slant toward the middle of the field.
“I coached [Brett] Favre for two years and he’s the only other guy I’ve seen that was confident enough to be able to do that, to look one way and throw the other,” Childress said. “He would do that in practice and Andy of course would keep a straight face. He didn’t encourage it at all, but you’ve got to let him be himself.
“He’s got supreme confidence in his ability. You don’t want somebody who doesn’t. You wouldn’t want somebody who doubts himself or questions himself.”
Mahomes had some interception-filled practice sessions early in training camp. Reid described a lot of the interceptions as the result of Mahomes testing the limits of what he can get away with on certain plays and against certain coverages.
Mahomes’ two interceptions this season, both last week against the Jaguars, weren’t reckless throws. One appeared to sail on him and went over Tyreek Hill‘s reach. On the other, Demarcus Robinson went up the field rather than coming back to the ball.
Regardless, Mahomes will keep chucking, and the Chiefs will keep reaping the benefits.
“It’s all situational,” Mahomes said. “Sometimes you can extend plays and give your receivers chances to make plays, and sometimes you need to stay in the pocket and just take what’s there.
“I’m not fast. I know my strength is not running the ball. I know I have a lot of playmakers whose strength is catching the ball and making people miss. I know if I keep my eyes downfield I can get it to them.”
“The rankings, the comparisons and all that, I’ll just leave that up to you guys [in the media], whatever you say,” Gronkowski said Wednesday. “I just try to do my best. I think he’s a great player, and I’ve just got to worry about what I can do to help out the team.”
New England’s Gronkowski remains limited in practice with an ankle injury, but he said that his body feels good and he will “be ready to play Sunday night,” which sets up the inevitable comparisons with Kansas City’s Kelce, as they are two of the best tight ends in the NFL.
“He’s quick, he’s shifty, which is very crucial to have,” Gronkowski said of Kelce. “He knows how to get separation and get away from the defender. I like watching him play when I get a chance.”
Gronkowski was amused to learn that both he and Kelce are 29 years old, even though Gronkowski has been playing in the NFL since 2010, while Kelce entered the league in 2013. Gronkowski said the two have met a few times, mostly at NFL events such as the Super Bowl, but they don’t have much of a connection beyond that.
This season, Kelce has the edge on the stat sheet, having caught 28 passes for 407 yards, with three touchdowns. Gronkowski has 23 receptions for 308 yards and one touchdown, as he has been kept out of the end zone in each of the past four games.
“I’ve got to pick it up. I’ve got to start scoring,” Gronkowski said, after noting that he’s happy as long as the Patriots are winning.
Because some view the 6-foot-6, 268-pound Gronkowski as more of a combination tight end (equally effective as a pass-catcher and a blocker) and the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Kelce as more of a bigger wide receiver who is less likely to be an in-line blocker, Gronkowski was asked if he even considers them playing the same position.
“You can look for yourself. I think he’s a great player and can definitely learn from guys like that. Just his shiftiness is nice,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gronkowski took a moment to acknowledge the Boston Red Sox advancing to the American League Championship Series, relaying that he has watched “a couple innings here and there” and has been impressed with how they came together as a team.
Sunday night’s Patriots-Chiefs game in Foxborough is scheduled to kick off at 8:20 p.m. ET, which is about an hour after the start of Game 2 of the ALCS, as the Red Sox host the Houston Astros at Fenway Park.
Gronkowski had some fun with the scheduling.
“That’s pretty nuts. But you know Boston sports fans, they’re going to have two TVs — the Red Sox game right there and the Patriots game right there,” he said. “Probably halftime of our game, the Red Sox game will be [finishing] up or something. New England fans, they’re die-hard fans — not just for football, but for every sport around here. So you know they’ll find a way to watch both.”
Coach Andy Reid said he expected Duvernay-Tardif to return later in the year.
“He won’t be done for the season,” Reid said.
Jordan Devey replaced Duvernay-Tardif at left guard against the Jaguars and is the likely starter in next Sunday night’s game against the Patriots in New England. Devey started two games for the Chiefs over the past two seasons. Previously, he started 13 games for the Patriots and San Francisco 49ers.
Duvernay-Tardif graduated in May from the medical school at Montreal’s McGill University, making him the first known doctor to play in the NFL.
In other moves, the Chiefs re-signed veteran linebacker Frank Zombo, who played for Kansas City the past five seasons before being released at the end of training camp this year. Zombo’s addition would be necessary if Justin Houston couldn’t play against the Patriots. Houston left the Jaguars game because of a sore hamstring.
The Chiefs also placed rookie safety Armani Watts on IR because of a groin injury.