KANSAS CITY, Mo. — He returned to the locker room alone late Monday night, through the long tunnel showcasing the Kansas City Chiefs’ greatest accomplishments — the many banners celebrating division crowns, AFC championships and the Super Bowl .
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, the Chiefs’ oldest receiver at 29, uttered only one word, a four-letter expletive. He used his helmet to display his frustration, triggering a loud, high-pitched noise when he slammed it against a wall. Then Valdes-Scantling lowered his head, his way to the locker room requiring several more steps.
Moments earlier, Valdes-Scantling had a chance to help his teammates leave Arrowhead Stadium with a come-from-behind victory, one that would have alleviated a terrible second half for the Chiefs’ offense. Sprinting toward the end zone and away from the last Philadelphia Eagles defender, cornerback Bradley Roby, Valdes-Scantling watched the ball, which was released on a perfect deep pass from quarterback Patrick Mahomes, reach his hands. Three seconds later, after falling to the turf, Valdes-Scantling watched the ball go away from him and heard a sound no receiver wants to hear in the end zone: the groan of the home crowd.
Instead of a heroic moment, Valdes-Scantling’s fall with less than two minutes remaining encapsulated yet another offensive collapse by the Chiefs in the second half, another 30-minute streak of failure, this time leading to a 21-17 loss.
Many fans inside Arrowhead Stadium — on a night when the weather continued to change from drizzle to rain and back to drizzle — had the same reaction as Mahomes after the game: their hands on their heads, mouth open in disbelief.
“We have to find a way to finish games offensively,” Mahomes said.
As the reigning NFL champions, the Chiefs boast Andy Reid, a future Hall of Fame coach known for his offensive innovations, and Mahomes, the most talented quarterback in the league. And yet, after 10 games, the Chiefs’ biggest problem is clearly their offense. In one of the league’s biggest matchups of the season, a rematch of Super Bowl LVII — and perhaps a preview of Super Bowl LVIII — the Chiefs offense made mistake after mistake after mistake, scoring zero points after half-time. Monday’s loss solidified an embarrassing and worrying trend: The Chiefs haven’t scored in the second half in their last three games.
“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot,” Reid said. “I need to do a better job of helping with that. My guys have to do the same thing. We’re just not that sharp. I could put the guys in better places.
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Before Monday’s game, the Chiefs were averaging 23.1 points. But Monday’s game was supposed to be a turning point for the offense, an opportunity for the unit to reestablish itself as one of the league’s most productive. Every member of the offense participated fully in every practice the week leading up to the matchup against the Eagles (9-1). The Chiefs (7-3) were also coming off a bye week, a scenario in which Reid, before Monday, had an excellent 27-4 record, including 5-0 with Mahomes as the starter.
Using a significant amount of new plays that they hadn’t shown on film this season, the Chiefs scored 17 points before halftime, executing their final two drives of the second quarter to perfection.
In the third quarter, the Chiefs went on two drives to create more of a lead after taking a 10-point lead.
“I don’t think it’s about energy or focus,” wide receiver Justin Watson said of the offense’s struggles. “These are just unforced errors that we need to correct.”
Reid and offensive coordinator Matt Nagy leaned on Mahomes in the second half, as the coaches, in a collaborative effort, called just nine designed running plays. In 28 dropbacks, Mahomes completed only 14 of his attempts in the second half for 99 yards.
Mahomes failed to connect on four deep passes to his receivers, three of which featured the receiver — Valdes-Scantling or Watson — in front of the last Eagles defender. When the Chiefs entered the red zone, star tight end Travis Kelce fumbled the ball. As the Eagles celebrated, Kelce pounded the turf with his right fist after the team’s 19th giveaway of the season, tied for third in the league.
Five players set the offense back by also committing a penalty.
“I have to be better,” Kelce said. “I’m just not playing at the level I was in the past. I have to be better. (It’s) turnovers and penalties from our half. This is nothing they did. It’s all us.
Perhaps the biggest problem on offense is that Reid and Nagy haven’t developed one of their receivers into an effective, consistent and reliable secondary option for Mahomes behind top pass catcher Kelce.
Although rookie Rashee Rice was the top contributor among wideouts, Mahomes only targeted him five times against the Eagles’ zone coverage. Kadarius Toney, perhaps the Chiefs’ most dynamic receiver, was more effective on special teams as a punt returner than on offense as he finished with just two receptions on two targets for 12 yards.
“I didn’t pass good enough in certain situations,” Mahomes said. “I threw an interception in the red zone.”
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In box scoring, the Chiefs finished with as many turnovers in the red zone (two) as touchdowns.
“They’re undefeated when they win the turnover battle,” Reid said of the Eagles, who managed a giveaway. “Then you add the penalties to it, a few drops. We have to take care of it.
Mahomes’ receivers, including Kelce, dropped five passes, bringing the Chiefs’ total to 26.
“They know I’m going to keep shooting,” Mahomes said of his receivers. “It’s just who I am. I’ll send it back to the guy who’s open. Usually, they are the ones who make the games.
Despite their numerous mistakes, Reid and Nagy played a perfect passing game after the two-minute warning. With the Chiefs near midfield, Mahomes said the Eagles placed three defenders near Kelce in the middle of the field, which created a one-on-one opportunity for Valdes-Scantling against Roby. Known for his speed, Valdes-Scantling was 4 yards ahead of Roby when he dropped the potential game-winning 51-yard touchdown pass.
Had Valdes-Scantling received the reception, the Chiefs would have improved on another pretty troubling stat at this point in the season: They have scored just one fourth-quarter touchdown this year, the fewest of any team in the league .
Valdes-Scantling was unavailable to speak to reporters after the game, but on Tuesday morning he posted his thoughts on social media. “I’m grateful, I’ll get better. And I appreciate the criticism and support. God put this on me because He knew I could handle it. Gratitude for everything that comes with it.
“The game is definitely not about one play,” Watson said of Valdes-Scantling. “I saw Marquez make this play 99 times out of 100. It was precisely the one he didn’t make. He will make this play for us next week or the next time he is called upon.
Injury Update: Receiver Mecole Hardman injured his right thumb in the first quarter after a 5-yard reception. He returned to the field at the end of the third quarter. As the starting punt returner, Hardman was replaced by Toney, who had a trio of stellar returns, producing 58 yards on six opportunities.
(Photo by Márquez Valdes-Scantling: David Eulitt / Getty Images)
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