Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes went 11 starts without suffering a September loss.
The wait for a second was much shorter.
The Chiefs turned the ball over four times — FOUR! – in a 30-24 loss Sunday to the Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium, their second loss in as many weeks.
Or significant concern?
For the first time in his career, Mahomes will carry a losing record into a game when the Chiefs travel to play Philadelphia next week.
Let’s dissect how it unfolded.
1. Is the late-game magic gone?
A team that found someway, somehow to win football games last year received a warning from its quarterback in the offseason.
Don’t tempt fate.
But the Chiefs have again found themselves in late-and-close situations — this year with a different outcome awaiting.
The late-game magic that sparked seven straight wins by one possession last season is absent from 2021. A game-winning drive stalled. The late defensive stop never materialized.
All that’s left are losses in back-to-back weeks.
Undone by …
At one point Sunday, the Chiefs had forced the Chargers to punt twice, and their own punter, Tommy Townsend, had yet to see the field.
And the Chiefs trailed 14 points.
A habit unexplored by Patrick Mahomes-led teams has trickled into Kansas City. The Chiefs turned the ball over four times, including on their first three drives Sunday — a Mahomes interception on a deflection, a Tyreek Hill fumble and another Clyde Edwards-Helaire fumble.
Grouped with the turnover to end the game in Baltimore last week, the Chiefs had turned the ball over on four straight possessions.
Even so, they held the ball in a tie game with 2 minutes to play. The result? You guessed it. Another turnover.
The Chiefs lost the turnover battle 4-0 on Sunday.
That’s, uh, not a recipe for winning games.
3. Red zone defense
Look, the defensive complications don’t all rest on one issue, but the thing most adversely affecting the output is the Chiefs’ inability to get stops in the red zone.
A year after the Chiefs were the worst red zone defense in football, they have opened the 2021 season on an even worse note.
The Chargers scored on their four of their five trips to the red zone — all four of those with relative ease.
The Chiefs have now allowed touchdowns on 12 of their opponents’ 13 trips inside the 20-yard line.
They did offer some resistance once — and what initially appeared to be good timing, holding the Chargers to a game-tying field goal instead of a go-ahead touchdown with 2:14 to play.
But the Chiefs followed with yet another turnover.
4. The run game
Call it stubborn. Call it sticktoitiveness. Whatever the adjective, the Chiefs appear dead set on getting their run game going this season.
On Sunday, it finally went.
Edwards-Helaire fumbled early — for the second straight game — but otherwise had his most productive game of the season. By far. He carried the ball 17 times for 100 yards and caught a screen for his first first touchdown of 2021.
The fumble issue, though, cannot be ignored. Edwards-Helaire went his first 246 career touches without a fumble. He’s now fumbled in back-to-back games.
Maybe be coincidence (but perhaps not), the Chiefs opened with a more balanced rotation in their backfield — Jerick McKinnon got three snaps on the opening drive and Darrel Williams two — but rode Edwards-Helaire over the middle quarters.
We’ll know the exact snap counts Monday — which our own Herbie Teope will break down in this here publication — but it was obvious the Chiefs rotated their running backs more than past games. Here’s the numbers you’ll use for reference — in the first two weeks, Edwards-Helaire played 69% of the snaps, with Williams at 24% and McKinnon at 7%.
5. Jody Forston
Let’s take a moment to appreciate the Jody Fortson story.
He signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent out of Division II Valdosta State. In the ensuing training camp, he promptly moved to tight end for the first time in a decade because it presented his best chance to make the team. Didn’t work, though. He was cut. A year later, he moved back to wide receiver, only to be cut again.
Alas, he turned in a performance so consistent in this year’s training camp that the Chiefs had no choice but to keep him around. A dream come true, he called it.
Only getting started, though. Fortson caught his first career touchdown Sunday, outstretching his arms to high point a pass from Mahomes in the red zone.