KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — After the way the Kansas City Chiefs collapsed toward the end of last season, and especially in the playoffs, they arrived at training camp in July with the mantra of “finish.”
It didn’t matter whether it was a drive, a game or the entire season.
Well, they haven’t done a very good job of it lately.
The Chiefs have lost three straight beginning with a defeat to lowly Oakland, their opponent again on Sunday. What once was a team that was 7-3 and barreling toward the playoffs is now a team that must win at least two of its final three to qualify — and might just need a clean sweep.
“We face adversity each and every day,” linebacker Joe Mays said. “It’s easy to play well when you’re winning. It’s easy to accept coaching when you’re winning. But when you’re losing, that’s when you have to step up and that’s when you have to play better.”
That’s something that Kansas City never could do last season.
After winning two games the previous season, the Chiefs began coach Andy Reid’s tenure by rattling off nine straight victories. They were suddenly the talk of the NFL, the best record in the league. Then they went to AFC West-rival Denver and were flattened, 27-17.
The loss began a streak of three straight defeats not unlike this season’s swoon.
And while Kansas City bounced back to win twice more, the Chiefs backed into the postseason with losses to Indianapolis and San Diego — granted, they rested nearly all their starters in the finale.
They didn’t rest any of them in the playoffs, though. And after taking a 38-10 lead early in the third quarter, the Chiefs failed to finish.
Andrew Luck and the Colts stormed back to score the eventual winning touchdown on a 64-yard pass to TY Hilton with about 4 minutes left in the 45-44 victory, sending the Chiefs into an offseason with some very bruised egos.
“You do have to learn from that,” Reid said. “We put an emphasis on finishing and so now you’re down to three games and so you put the clutter of the playoffs and all that out of your mind, and you focus in on how to take care of the finish. You take care of the game that you can control and that’s the one taking place this week.”
Besides, it’s not such a welcomed sight if they were to look ahead.
After playing the Raiders (2-11) at Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs finish up with a trip to Pittsburgh and a home game against San Diego, a pair of teams also in the playoff mix.
“You know, you can’t get to the end of the line unless you take that first step, and it starts Sunday,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “Stay shortsighted, not getting ahead of yourself. Everything is right there, right in front of us.”
Mays said the Chiefs remain focused on the short term thanks to Reid, who never gets too high or too low. The coach’s even demeanor has prevented a young locker room from panicking after three subpar performances, including that disastrous loss a few weeks ago to Oakland.
“He’s real cool, calm and collected,” Mays said. “He always stays that medium level, whether it’s a win or a loss. I think that’s great to have in a head coach because if he’s not panicking, we can’t panic. He’s going to attack his job each and every day the same way.”
That doesn’t mean that Reid is trying to sugar-coat things. He understands that the season has gone from promising to perilous, and that the Chiefs need to find a win on Sunday.
“You have to be real with that,” Reid said. “You have to learn from your mistakes in order to do that and be real with that. That’s how we’ll go about it here.”
NOTES: RB Jamaal Charles, LB Tamba Hali and TE Anthony Fasano did not practice Wednesday with knee injuries. All are listed day to day. ... DL Allen Bailey (concussion) remains out, but WR Junior Hemingway returned to practice after passing the concussion protocol.