The Kansas City Chiefs contained Derrick Henry, limiting the NFL’s leading rusher to 3.0 yards a carry (86 yards on 29 carries).
That was the only good news against the Tennessee Titans. Everything else seemingly went wrong for the Chiefs in the 27-3 loss to Tennessee.
That Murphy’s Law certainly applies to the overhauled offensive line, which starts five new players this season and had been playing well.
But against the Titans, the Chiefs allowed four sacks, and Patrick Mahomes was hit nine times.
“We came in, knowing that it was a good defensive front,” head coach Andy Reid said, “and you want to stay out of third and longs.”
The breakdowns along the offensive line were reminiscent of Super Bowl LV — when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sacked Mahomes three times and hit him eight times — and prevented the Chiefs from taking advantage of the Titans’ injury-ravaged secondary.
The most worrisome gaffe occurred on a 4th-and-18 play with 8:24 left in the game. Defensive linemen Jeffery Simmons and Denico Autry converged on Mahomes, hitting him and forcing him to exit the contest.
Mahomes cleared concussion protocol, but Reid chose to keep him out for the rest of the game.
“I feel fine now,” Mahomes said. “Y’all saw the hit. I mean, I kind took my time getting up, but I felt fine.”
Mahomes, who has been pressing all year, committed two costly errors. But the offensive line played a role in both.
On the Chiefs’ second possession of the second quarter, Mahomes was picked by linebacker Rashaan Evans for the quarterback’s ninth interception of the season. He forced the throw in part due to interior pressure.
On the next drive and with just 1:56 left in the half, the pocket collapsed, forcing Mahomes to scramble. Safety Kevin Byard hit him, forcing a fumble recovered by safety Matthias Farley.
The offensive line struggled from the get-go.
On the Chiefs’ opening drive, their most consistent lineman Joe Thuney, who was signed to a lucrative five-year, $80 million contract that makes him the second-highest paid guard in the league and has been playing with a broken hand, committed a false start.
Two plays later left tackle Orlando Brown allowed Bud Dupree’s first sack of the year.
Brown, who the Chiefs acquired in a trade before the draft presuming they would sign him to a long-term deal, had his worst game as a Chief.
In the fourth quarter on 3rd and 8, linebacker Ola Adeniyi got past him. Three plays later, he allowed a sack by Harold Landry on a play in which Dupree also beat Mike Remmers, who replaced Lucas Niang in the starting lineup at right tackle, the previous week.
Remmers also committed a costly hands-to-the-face penalty that wiped out a Tyreek Hill catch on the play prior to Mahomes’ fumble.
Rookie right guard Trey Smith, who had been one of the best values in the NFL, also struggled with penalties and protection.
On the Chiefs’ last drive of the third quarter, the sixth-round pick and final selection of the Chiefs’ 2021 draft class, committed a hold on first down. On third down of that drive, he was partly responsible for a sack by Autry, forcing the Chiefs to settle for a 57-yard, field-goal attempt, which Harrison Butker missed.
It was all part of a dismal performance in which the Chiefs were never competitive.
The Chiefs didn’t covert a third down and had the ball for just six minutes and 44 seconds in the first half. They also allowed quarterback Ryan Tannehill to complete his first 11 passes.
With the Chiefs falling to 3-4 and the offensive line having their worst performance since Super Bowl LV, Kansas City is experiencing the kind of adversity that has been rare in the Mahomes Era.
“It’s been kind of rainbows and flowers and awesome for these last few years,” Mahomes said. “But whenever you want to build something substantial and you want to build something great, you’re going to go through parts like this.”