Drops, turnovers and penalties: Inside the Chiefs’ offensive collapse against the Eagles

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — He returned to the locker room alone late Monday night, through the long tunnel that houses the Kansas City Chiefs’ greatest accomplishments — the numerous banners celebrating division titles, AFC championships and Super Bowls.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, the Chiefs’ oldest receiver at 29, said just one word, a four-letter expletive. He used his helmet to express his frustration, making a sharp, loud noise when he slammed it into the wall. Valdes Scantling then bowed his head, his walk to the locker room still requiring several more steps.

Just moments earlier, Valdes-Scantling had the opportunity to help his teammates leave Arrowhead Stadium with a come-from-behind victory, one that would have capped a horrific second half for the Chiefs’ offense. Running toward the end zone and away from the Philadelphia Eagles’ last defender, cornerback Bradley Roby, Valdes-Scantling watched the ball, launched on a perfect deep pass by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, reach his hands. Three seconds later, after falling to the turf, Valdes-Scantling watched the ball roll away from him and heard a sound no receiver wants to hear when he’s in the end zone: the groan of the home crowd.

Instead of having a heroic moment, Valdes Scantling’s go down with less than two minutes left led to another second-half offensive collapse by the Chiefs, another 30-minute stretch of failure, this time resulting in a 21-17 loss.

Many fans inside Arrowhead Stadium — on a night when the weather kept turning from drizzle to rain and back to drizzle — had the same reaction as Mahomes after the play: hands on their heads, mouths open in disbelief.

“We have to find a way to finish games offensively,” Mahomes said.

As the reigning NFL champion, the Chiefs have Andy Reid, a future Hall of Fame coach known for his offensive innovation, and Mahomes, the most talented quarterback in the league. However, after 10 games, it is clear that the Chiefs’ biggest problem is their offense. In one of the league’s biggest marquee 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, scoring zero points after halftime. Monday’s loss reinforced an embarrassing and troubling trend: The Chiefs haven’t scored in the second half in their past three games.

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“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot,” Reid said. “I have to do a better job of helping with that. My guys have to do the same. We’re not sharp. I can put guys in better positions.”

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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, and a chance for the unit to re-establish itself as one of the most productive teams in the league. Every member of the offense was a full participant in every practice in the week leading up to facing the Eagles (9-1). The Chiefs (7-3) were also coming off a bye week, a scenario in which Reid had, before Monday, compiled an excellent 27-4 record, including 5-0 with Mahomes as the starter.

Using a significant amount of new plays that have not been 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 had two drives to create more cushion after taking a 10-point lead.

“I don’t think it’s energy or focus,” receiver Justin Watson said of the offense’s struggles. “They are just unforced errors that we have to correct.”

Reid and offensive coordinator Matt Nagy relied on Mahomes in the second half, as the coaches, in a collaborative effort, called just nine designed run plays. On 28 punts, Mahomes completed just 14 of his second-half attempts for 99 yards.

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Mahomes failed to connect on four deep passes to his receivers, three of which featured the receiver — Valdes-Scantling or Watson — before the Eagles’ last defender. As the Chiefs got inside the red zone, star tight end Travis Kelce fumbled the ball. As the Eagles celebrated, Kelce hit the turf with his right fist after the team’s 19th win of the season, third in the league.

Five players pushed the offense back by committing a penalty as well.

“I have to be better,” Kelce said. “I’m not playing at the level I was in the past. I have to be better. (It’s) turnovers and penalties on our part. It’s nothing they did. It’s all us.”

Perhaps the biggest problem with the offense is that Reid and Nagy have not developed one of their receivers into an effective, consistent and reliable secondary option for Mahomes behind Kelce, their top pass-catcher.

Although rookie Rashie Rice was the best contributor among the players, Mahomes targeted him just five times against the Eagles’ zone coverage. Kadarius Toney, perhaps the Chiefs’ most dynamic receiver, was more effective on special teams as a kick returner than on offense as he finished with just two receptions on two targets for 12 yards.

“I didn’t make good enough passes in certain situations,” Mahomes said. “I threw an interception in the red zone.”

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In the box score, the Chiefs finished with as many red zone turnovers (two) as touchdowns.

“They’re unbeatable when they win the turnover battle,” Reid said of the Eagles, who were given one giveaway. “Then you add penalties to it, a few drops to it. We have to take care of that.”

Mahomes’ receivers, including Kelce, dropped five passes, increasing the Chiefs’ league-leading total to 26.

“They know I’m going to keep shooting,” Mahomes said of his receivers. “That’s just who I am. I’ll shoot the guy who’s open. They usually make the plays.”

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Despite their numerous mistakes, Reed and Nagy called a perfect passing play after the two-minute warning. As the Chiefs approached midfield, Mahomes said the Eagles positioned three defenders near Kelce in the middle of the field, setting up a one-on-one opportunity for Valdes Scantling against Roby. Valdes-Scantling, known for his speed, was 4 yards ahead of Roby when he dropped a potential game-winning 51-yard touchdown pass.

Had Valdis Scantling made the reception, the Chiefs would have improved another very worrying statistic at this stage of the season: They have scored just one goal in the fourth quarter this year, the fewest of any team in the league.

Valdes-Scantling was not available to speak to reporters after the game, but on Tuesday morning, he posted his thoughts on social media. “I’m grateful. I’ll be better. I appreciate the criticism and support. God put me through this because He knew I could handle it. Gratitude for everything that comes with it.”

“The game is definitely not limited to one play,” Watson said of Valdes-Scantling. “I’ve seen Marquez make that play 99 out of 100 times. That was the only one he didn’t do. He’ll make that play for us next week or the next time he’s called.

Injury update: Receiver Mecole Hardman suffered a right thumb injury in the first quarter on a 5-yard reception. He returned to the field late in the third quarter. As the kickoff returner, Hardman was replaced by Toney, who had three excellent returns, producing 58 yards on six opportunities.

(Marquez Valdes Scantling Image: David Yulett/Getty Images)

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