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What's wrong with Kansas City so far this season?

Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs walks

Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs walks across the field in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans  at Nissan Stadium in Nashville on October 24, 2021. Credit: Getty Images/Andy Lyons

The NFL is known for producing surprises every year, which is one of the great things about pro football. But this one? No one could have seen it coming.

Kansas City seemed about as safe a bet as anything coming into the season. They’d won the Super Bowl two years ago after just missing out the year before in the AFC Championship Game against Tom Brady’s Patriots. They repeated in 2020 as conference champs before losing to Brady’s Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV.

And they came into this season as favorites yet again to get back to the title game. My pick to win it all: Kansas City.

And here we are …

Andy Reid’s team, which had the makings of a potential dynasty to pick up where the Patriots left off, are 3-4 and tied for last place in the AFC West. The defense, presided over by two-time Super Bowl championship coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, is in shambles. And former NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes has almost as many interceptions this year as he did in the previous two years – combined.

What is going on here?

For Reid, the problems are easy to identify. The solutions? Well, they’re simply not there. At least not yet.

"The turnovers are hurting us, and the penalties in crucial situations are also hurting us," the coach said Thursday. "We’re going back to the drawing board to fix the problems."

Reid has been one of the NFL’s most consistent coaches over the years, first with Philadelphia and then with Kansas City. And discipline has been a hallmark of that Hall of Fame-caliber career, which features three Super Bowl runs and one championship ring. But this year’s team has not been on point, whether it’s Mahomes’ nine interceptions (he had 11 combined picks in 2019-20), penalties (the team averages more than six per game), or a defense that has betrayed Spagnuolo on a weekly basis.

Only four teams have allowed more than the 404.2 yards per game the former Giants defensive coordinator’s side of the ball has given up. And only four teams have allowed more points than Kansas City, which is surrendering 29 points per game.

"We’re working on it on both sides of the ball," Reid said. "That’s all you can do. You’ve got to attack it and work on it, evaluate it and make any changes you need."

Kansas City has lost two of its last three, including a 38-20 defeat at home to a Bills team it beat in last year’s AFC Championship Game and a 27-3 loss to a Titans team it defeated the year before in the conference championship. That was a stunning defeat at Nissan Stadium, one that laid bare the problems on offense, where Mahomes failed to throw a touchdown pass for just the third time since 2018. On defense, Kansas City kept All-Pro running back Derrick Henry to just 86 rushing yards, but gave up all 27 points in the first half.

Mahomes owned up to his share of the blame.

"I need to play better in order to have success," Mahomes said Thursday of his career-low 6.0 QBR in the loss to the Titans. "There were plays where we had matchups down the field that I didn’t hit that I usually would give those guys opportunities to make plays."

Reid puts the bulk of the responsibility on himself.

"That’s where I start," he said. "You have to be able to look in the mirror and make sure you’re giving the guys the right things to perform to the best of your capabilities. If you’re not, you have to do something different."

Nothing has worked so far, at least on a consistent basis. Even so, Joe Judge takes nothing for granted against a team that may look vulnerable on paper but is capable of embarrassing opponents if both sides of the ball are working well.

"They’re explosive offensively, and they’ve got a ton of weapons," the Giants’ coach said. "They can score on any play from anywhere on the field. Obviously, they have one of the best quarterbacks at this point in a long duration of the game."

Just a few weeks ago, Monday night’s matchup in Kansas City looked virtually unwinnable for the Giants, who started 0-3 and then fell to 1-5. But after finally putting together an impressive all-around effort in last Sunday’s 25-3 home win over Carolina, and after Mahomes has looked – dare we say it – human through much of this season, there is at least a chance for the 2-5 Giants.

Not a great chance, given Kansas City’s potential, but a chance.

Then again, if the two-time defending AFC titlists are going to make another run to the Super Bowl this season, it’s virtually a must-win scenario.

And you know how champions behave. When they have to win, they usually do.

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