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Chiefs’ 1-5 start is uncharted territory for Reid

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This is the 34th season of Andy Reid’s coaching career that began as a graduate assistant at his alma mater Brigham Young in 1982.

Only once before this 2015 season was Reid part of a team that began the schedule with a 1-5 record. That came in 1989, when he was the offensive line coach at the University of Missouri under first-year head coach Bob Stull.

It was Reid’s job then to mold a bunch of young blockers into a cohesive unit for the Tigers offense.

There is so much more on his plate 26 years later, with his Kansas City Chiefs holding the NFL’s longest current losing streak at five consecutive games. Frustration is mounting within the building, although Reid is keeping a cap on his emotions right now.

At the beginning of the regular season, he said he had a good team, one that could compete at a level where the franchise could achieve its goals of success in the postseason. He’s not backing off that notion.

“I still believe that,” Reid said. “We still have to do it though. It’s one thing to say it, it’s another thing to do it. Until we do that, it’s all words and it doesn’t mean anything.”

In the Chiefs’ locker room, especially after last Sunday’s 16-10 loss to the Vikings in Minneapolis the frustration was starting to bubble to the surface.

“I’ve been through it before and when I have been through a team that was 1-5 or wasn’t in the winning column at the middle of the season like this, that team was kind of supposed to be like that,” said the most veteran Chiefs player, linebacker Derrick Johnson.

“This team is different. It’s a different 1-5. You are your record; you are what your record says. I don’t know. It’s a loss of words because we expect to win every week. We have a chance to, we’re not closing it. … We have to figure it out because this ball is rolling downhill.”

Reid described his job right now as a problem solver, but so far that’s been like plugging the leak in one spot of the basement, only to have water start pouring out somewhere else.

The most aggravating factor is that the Chiefs have shown flashes of being able to play at a contender’s status. But they’ve yet to string together four well-played quarters in the same game, and the problems have shown up on offense, defense and special teams.

“That’s the part if you are in my shoes, you go back and try to find out the whys and figure those out, and get the answers,” Reid said. “That’s my challenge … I’m a problem solver and I’ve got to solve the problems and get that done quickly.

“I still believe in my locker room, I believe in our coaches that we can get over this hump here and play better football consistently.”

Offensively, the Chiefs need to find a way to jump-start their attack without injured running back Jamaal Charles. They also might be without top wide receiver Jeremy Maclin for Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh as he recovers from a concussion.

In the last three games, the Kansas City offense has scored two touchdowns and quarterback Alex Smith is bruised and battered because of leaky pass protection.

The defense has been a bit more consistent than the offense, but has been hurt by giving up too many big plays in the passing game.

Other than defensive end Allen Bailey (4.5 sacks) and outside linebacker Justin Houston (4), they Chiefs have not had a pass rush they can count on, with 13 total sacks.

Outside linebacker Tamba Hali has one sack in six games. The Chiefs have only four interceptions and six takeaways.

In the kicking game, the Chiefs have not played to the level expected from special teams coordinator Dave Toub, allowing a field goal to be blocked (in the Chicago game) and racking up multiple penalties in the last five games, without any significant punt or kickoff returns.

Forget any thoughts of the playoffs for the 2015 Chiefs; at 1-5 they are tied with Jacksonville and Baltimore for the last spot in the AFC standings with 10 games to play.

Right now, Reid and his team must first string together four productive quarters. They appear confident if they can make that happen, they can end their losing streak.

“We have to take what we did there in the third quarter (offensively vs. Minnesota) and in the early part of the Houston game (a 27-9 over Texans at halftime) and throughout a good part of the Denver game (led by seven points with 2:27 to play) and we have to make sure we are prepared to do what we do best, and to put it out there for four quarters,” Reid said.

The Chiefs’ problem solver falls back on the head coaching text book to describe what his team’s approach must be preparing for the Steelers (4-2).

“I believe there are ways of solving it, through good, hard work, consistently, day-in and day-out,” Reid said. “Making sure you’re studying, doing those things, spending the extra time.

“When given opportunities on the field, you take advantage of those opportunities. I think those are the real things, those are things you can control. So you start there and you create your own breaks, that’s how you go about it — by taking advantage of those opportunities.”

SERIES HISTORY: 30th regular-season meeting between the teams that first met in the full merger season of 1970. The Chiefs are 9-20 against the Steelers, and last won the game between the teams in 2009, when they picked up a 27-24 victory in overtime at Arrowhead Stadium. Pittsburgh is 10-5 at Arrowhead (since 1972), and last won in the building during the 2011 season. The Steelers have won the last three games between the teams, including a 20-12 victory last season in Pittsburgh. There was a single postseason game between the teams after the 1993 season when the Chiefs led by quarterback Joe Montana posted a come-from-behind 27-24 victory in overtime. It was one of only three victories in the playoffs for the Chiefs since they won Super Bowl IV in January of 1970.

GAME PLAN: The Chiefs aren’t sure if they’ll see Ben Roethlisberger or Landry Jones running the Steelers offense and that presents a wide spectrum of possibilities for their defensive preparation. One man they know they’ll see is running back Le’Veon Bell, as both a runner and receiver out of the backfield. Last Sunday, the Chiefs had success keeping the lid on a similar back, Adrian Peterson of the Vikings, who had only 57 offensive yards. None of that will matter if the Chiefs offense can’t score touchdowns. Kansas City has only two in the last three games and are No. 22 in the league in points scored, thanks to a two defensive touchdowns. The Chiefs are minus-28 on point-differential, while the Steelers are plus-37. After dealing with the Arizona offense last week and limiting the Cardinals to 13 points, Pittsburgh is unlikely to find the Chiefs too troubling. The Chiefs are going to need their defense and kicking game to make the difference.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

–Chiefs cornerbacks Sean Smith and Marcus Peters vs. Steelers wide receivers Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant.

In recent weeks, the Chiefs have been giving up big plays in the passing game, and the Vikings had three completions of 30-plus yards. Brown and the recently returned Bryant live off the big plays. In his first game back after serving a suspension, Bryant had six catches against Arizona last Sunday with two touchdowns, including an 88-yard play. How Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton handles the coverage will be interesting to see. Peters has the quickness and reactions to best handle Brown, even when Pittsburgh’s leading receiver is in the slot. Smith has the size (6-3, 218) to handle Bryant (6-4, 211), but does he have the speed?

–Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce vs. Steelers safeties Mike Mitchell and Will Allen.

Quite possibly the poster boy for the underachieving Chiefs so far in 2015 would likely be Kelce. Much was expected from the third-year man this season and he has 29 catches for 416 yards and two touchdowns in six games. But in the last three games, he has 13 catches for 172 yards, an average of four catches for 57 yards per game. Kelce hasn’t grabbed a touchdown pass since the season opener. Both Allen and Mitchell have interceptions this season, and opposing tight ends have had minimal success against them. New England’s Rob Gronkowski (five catches for 94 yards and three touchdowns) and San Diego’s Antonio Gates (nine catches, 92 yards and two touchdowns) are the only tight ends that have had production against the Steelers.


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