AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs head to the locker room

The Kansas City Chiefs head to locker room after clinching the AFC West with a 29-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins.
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The Kansas City Chiefs head to locker room after clinching the AFC West with a 29-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins.
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Sports

Chiefs 29, Dolphins 13: Insta-reaction!

By Sam Mellinger

smellinger@kcstar.com

December 24, 2017 03:13 PM

You may have noticed this on TV and you definitely did if you came to Arrowhead Stadium today but, well, how do we say this fairly?

There were LOTS of empty seats.

Whenever this happens with a team that’s not the Browns or Marlins, we tend to hear or see a bunch of That’s Embarrassing For That Team’s Fans #hottaeks, and this is a particularly big pet peeve of mine, along with the catch rule, the NFL’s concussion protocol, public funding for stadiums, redundant and unnecessary college athletics officials, the NCAA’s lack of common sense and people who simply CANNOT WAIT to tell you how much they don’t care about soccer, or women’s sports, or NASCAR, or whatever.

Guys, you have to stop doing this.

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And if you hear a friend doing this, help them stop.

This was Christmas Eve. It was 20 degrees out at kickoff. Roads were snowy and potentially icy. If you can’t understand why someone with a ticket might want to instead light a fire in the fireplace and watch from the couch and spend time with family then you’re trying awfully hard to be obnoxious.

Don’t do that.

Don’t do that for a lot of reasons, but also don’t do that because even if none of these factors existed — holiday, bone-chilling cold, snowy roads — it’s not up to fans to support a team.

It’s up to the team to make sure fans care enough to support it.

Staying home on an ice-cold Christmas Eve doesn’t make you a bad fan. Makes you warm, among other things. But not a bad fan.

▪  The Chiefs clinched their second consecutive AFC West championship, a bizarre thing to say about a team that lost six of seven.

Then again, Alex Smith was leading the league in passer rating entering the weekend, which is a bizarre thing to say about a quarterback who was so atrocious at one point that many wanted him benched.

There are a lot of moving parts here, but the Ravens beat the Colts on Saturday which — I believe — means they are still the most likely opponent for a wild-card round game at Arrowhead.

I’m guessing the Chiefs will be a four-ish point favorite in that, and even though the Ravens are the least appealing of the potential opponents — the Bills and Titans are the others, though I believe the Chargers may still be a possibility — I’d still expect them to win that game.

Joe Flacco stinks.

If the Chiefs win, they’d play on the road in the divisional round, most likely against either the Patriots or Steelers (though I believe the Jaguars are technically still a possibility), and I just don’t know why anyone would give the Chiefs more than a puncher’s chance against either.

We have plenty of time to talk about this, and nobody can be sure what will happen, but that would mean a lack of progress in a season the Chiefs absolutely needed to make progress.

▪  You guys, I think Patrick Mahomes is going to play in Denver on Sunday. I will be there, and I will be excited.

▪  Tyreek Hill made me look good, which is always appreciated, because on the same day this column about his rise to stardom was published he was un-coverable, again.

There is a tendency to write him off as a gadget player, or simply a track guy, but if that’s all he was he would not have the feel for subtleties in working leverage and momentum to get open on the 52-yard pass down the middle, and he sure as spit wouldn’t have been able to adjust like that on the 33 yarder down the right sideline.

In that column, I wrote that Hill is the Chiefs’ best receiver since Otis Taylor, and I believe that whole-heartedly. But I also recognize it’s a bit of a low standard — is this Mizzou’s best men’s basketball team since 2012?

The point that I hope sticks, though: he is a star. Much more than a return guy, much more than a speed guy, much more than a gadget guy.

The only weakness I saw in reviewing all 98 of his targets was a little polish needed on some of his routes. He has a tendency to round off some angles, which is both understandable considering his speed and natural considering this is the first time he’s ever been a full-time receiver.

Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill appeared to make a catch on a pass in the front corner of the end zone against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. However, the ruling on the field was that the pass was incomplete.

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▪  The fumble on the Dolphins’ first drive really was a remarkable play by the Chiefs. Derrick Johnson, in one of those flashes of Old DJ, perfectly diagnosed the speed, angle and location of where he needed to be.

And how often have you seen someone do a toe-tap along the sideline in catching a fumble like Marcus Peters did on that play?

The play required skill, luck, timing and calm.

Chiefs haven’t had enough of those things this season.

▪  Before the rest of this bullet point, I want to acknowledge that it was cold enough that a bottle of water left in my car last night was a bottle of ice when I got in my car this morning. That had to have an effect on things.

But the Chiefs’ tackling was often abysmal, embarrassing and a major problem.

That was most evident on Jakeem Grant’s 65-yard, three-busted-tackles touchdown catch.

The Chiefs had a lot of problems on that play, starting with the fact that they apparently had just 10 players on the field.

Seriously.

The video is the broadcast view, not the All-22, but at the snap you can see eight defenders in the screen. Then Ron Parker and Daniel Sorensen appear. The Dolphins’ radio crew apparently caught the same thing, claiming only 10 defenders on the field.

The tackling was atrocious. Reggie Ragland and Ron Parker had the best shots at Grant, but Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Sorensen also could’ve made made the tackle. In addition, Peters was caught watching, apparently thinking Grant was stopped instead of ball swarming. By the time he realized Grant broke through, it was too late.

That’s fully half of the Chiefs on the field at the time.

Include the 11th player who was on the sideline, and that’s six screw-ups on one play.

This is an example of why it’s hard to trust this team in the playoffs.

Other examples include, but are not limited to: lack of a consistent run game, Travis Kelce’s inconsistent hands, lack of a pass rush, lack of secondary depth, and, basically, the entire month of November.

▪  Your weekly instant and probably-wrong-because-I-need-to-see-the-All-22 take on Alex Smith: he was good, imperfect, tough and deserved better because of some brutal drops, most notably by Wilson on a perfectly thrown ball that should’ve been a 55-yard touchdown.

Basically, he was Very Alex Smith.

He’s over 4,000 yards now, the best season of his professional career, and here I am excited to see his backup next week. The world is weird.

▪  Merry Christmas, everyone. Hope you have a good night, and a great Monday.

Sam Mellinger: 816-234-4365, @mellinger