KANSAS CITY — The Kansas City Chiefs only intend to lose to the Denver Broncos once, and that thought goes beyond the rematch between AFC West rivals in two weeks at Arrowhead Stadium.
After falling 27-17 on Sunday night for the first time all season, the Chiefs insisted that they are turning their attention to the San Diego Chargers. They aren’t going to dwell on missed opportunities, turnovers and miscues that cost them dearly at Mile High Stadium.
In other words, they aren’t going to let the fallout from Denver beat them against San Diego on Sunday.
“Listen, we’ve got San Diego up next, so we’re not thinking about Denver right now,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said not more than 30 minutes after the defeat. “We’re moving on to San Diego and making sure that we get ready to play a good football team there. That’s No. 1.”
Still, it was a strange feeling when the Chiefs sleepily filed through the doors of their practice facility Monday. They got home at about 2:30 a.m. and were faced for the first time this season with something other than a “Victory Monday” — the light day Reid gives them after wins.
Reid wasn’t going to run them into the ground after a bruising defeat, of course. But he certainly wasn’t going to let them relax as they did after their first nine games.
“We played a good football team and they got us,” Reid said. “We’ll bounce back. We’ll learn from our mistakes. There are plenty of things we’ll learn from here and get those fixed.”
For starters, the Chiefs need to do a better job of scoring touchdowns.
Their popgun offense was hamstrung all night by the Broncos defense, and when it finally did get into scoring position, it couldn’t capitalize. The Chiefs were stonewalled on three straight runs from the Denver 2 in the second quarter and had to kick a field goal.
That left the Chiefs in a 17-10 hole heading into halftime.
“It really doesn’t matter who you’re playing. You’re still trying to go out there and execute every play. That’s it,” said Alex Smith, who threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns. “When they got up a couple scores, you have to answer. We weren’t able to get it done.”
Part of the reason for that — and the failings at the goal line — was a miserable night by the Chiefs’ offensive line. Even though Kansas City has spent lavishly through the draft to build its front five, the Chiefs struggled to open holes for Jamaal Charles for much of the game.
Whenever Smith dropped back to pass, he usually had a Broncos defender in his face.
“I won’t talk about my O-line,” Charles said afterward.
It wasn’t just the offense’s inability to put points on the board that cost the Chiefs dearly, though. Their defense, which had been among the most ferocious in the NFL through the first nine weeks, couldn’t lay a finger on Peyton Manning the entire night. The league leaders in sacks didn’t bring him down once.
“He definitely makes sure he gets the ball out of his hands as quick as possible,” linebacker Tamba Hali said. “I know he doesn’t get sacked a lot. A lot of guys do hit him — we didn’t hit him like we anticipated. We just have to do a better job next time.”
The same thing could be said of the Chiefs’ secondary, which started off well but couldn’t hold Manning in check the whole way. Manning wound up throwing for 323 yards, the most Kansas City has allowed in a game this season, with a touchdown pass and no interceptions.
“You have to give some credit to their offense,” cornerback Sean Smith said. “They are very efficient and they don’t make too many mistakes. We still have to find some kind of way to force some turnovers. Whether it’s fumbles or interceptions or whatever, we need to be able to create more opportunities for our offense.”
That process started Monday, when the Chiefs truly turned their attention to San Diego.
Even though they’re coming off their first loss of the season, the Chiefs are still 9-1 and tied with the Broncos atop the AFC West. So they’re refusing to take on a doom-and-gloom outlook for the season, knowing full well that they’re still in the division race.
“As great as it is to win, it’s lousy when you lose,” Smith said. “We have to find a way to deal with it. How many teams have ever gone undefeated given the history of football? We have to find a way to get better and prepare for next week. We see (the Broncos) again in two weeks, but we have to prepare for another big division game next week. These games keep getting bigger.”