Fourth-Down Decision Pivotal in KC Loss to Packers

Fourth-Down Decision Pivotal in KC Loss to Packers

By Matt Derrick

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For a moment it wasn’t clear if Chiefs head coach Andy Reid planned to punt or leave his offense on the field. His team faced a fourth-and-3 on its own 40-yard line with 5:13 to play against the Green Bay Packers.

But Reid sent his punt team on the field, and his offense never saw the ball again in a 31-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers. The Chiefs fell to 5-3 with the loss, their third setback in four games at Arrowhead Stadium this season.

“You can be questioned either way with it,” Reid said. “I chose to do what I did there and thought it was the right thing to do at that time. It didn’t necessarily pay off the way that I was hoping.”

The Chiefs had played an uneven second half up to that point. The defense had allowed scores on all three Packers drives in the second half, but the Chiefs were coming fresh off a 10-play, 70-yard scoring drive on their previous possession to tie the game at 24-24. The Packers responded with a two-play scoring drive, capped off with a 67-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Aaron Jones.

Quarterback Matt Moore faced a third-and-8 at the Kansas City 24-yard line starting the drive, finding tight end Travis Kelce for a 9-yard gain. Running back Damien Williams rushed for 7 yards in two carries, bringing up a third-and-3 from the 40-yard line. Moore again looked for Kelce but couldn’t connect.

Kelce took the blame for the third down failure. He finished the game with four catches on eight targets for 63 yards and a touchdown, but missed also had a second touchdown catch go through his hands.

“I just got to be better for Matty Moore there at the end, coming back to the ball, better for my teammates,” Kelce said. “I’m just disgusted with how I played.

Moore wanted to try again, but understands he missed his opportunity on third down.

“You want to convert and stay on there, especially with how the game was going,” Moore said. “I think we all knew that was a crucial situation, and we came up short. Obviously that’s something we’ll look at. We needed that one to stay on the field there for sure.”

But after the Chiefs showed a moment of indecision on fourth down, Reid sent out Dustin Colquitt to punt. The head coach steadfastly maintains that he basis his fourth-down decisions based as much on the flow of the game as the analytics of the situation.

“Some of it’s feel, some of it’s momentum and all those things you look at,” Reid said.

The Chiefs are an offensive team, but with the game on the line Reid leaned on his defense.

“Our defense had been playing well throughout the night,” Reid said. “I had confidence in them that we’d get the ball back with good field position.”

It briefly looked as if Reid had made the perfect call. Colquitt’s boot landed inside the 20-yard line and rolled down the 2-yard line where cornerback Rashad Fenton downed it. The Chiefs defense had held the Packers’ running backs to just 13 rushes for 58 yards on the night thus far, and the Packers had to pound the ball.

The Packers used running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams for seven-straight run plays, grinding out 31 yards, including a 4-yard run by Jones on a third-and-2 conversion from the 10-yard line.

Linebacker Anthony Hitchens felt frustrated the defense couldn’t come up with a play when it needed to the most.

“We all know they’re going to run the ball, and we got them to third down and we couldn’t get off the field,” Hitchens said.

The Chiefs defense had played solidly to the point, albeit yielding two back-breaking catches for 117 yards to Jones out of the backfield that led to two scores. After giving up 131 yards to the Packers in the first quarter, the Chiefs held them to just 243 yards the remainder of the game.

But injuries appeared to take their toll late, especially up front. The Chiefs started the game without Frank Clark and Chris Jones on the defensive line, then lost Alex Okafor in the second half. That left the Chiefs with just five defensive lineman at the end of the game.

“We got to get the numbers back up, get guys healthy back in there,” Reid said. “We never use that as an excuse, but as you get the numbers up you can keep your rotation going. In the fourth quarter that helps you out.”

On the final decisive play, the Packers faced third-and-5 from their own 33-yard line following the 2-minute warning. Green Bay went with an empty backfield, putting the game in the hands of Rodgers. He found Jones for a short pass to the right, and Jones took it 8 yards for the first down.

Hitchens said the formation didn’t surprise him, but the Chiefs still couldn’t stop it.

“If I was a coach I’d do the same thing,” Hitchens said. “Put your trust in Aaron Rodgers and their guys to get it done. That’s what they did.”

The end of this game shares some similarities with the Chiefs’ 31-24 loss to Houston at Arrowhead Stadium two weeks ago. The Chiefs faced a much-less favorable fourth-and-13 from their own 22-yard line with 5:12 left in the game. Again Reid chose to punt, the Chiefs failed to get a stop on fourth-and-3 at the 2-minute warning, and they never saw the ball again.

Reid said too many mistakes hurt the Chiefs Sunday night.

“They come back and get you a little bit,” Reid said. “It’s all part of the game. We can all do better so we make up the difference. We had opportunities to make up the difference, we didn’t take care of it.”


Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for and a contributor for Sports Radio 810 WHB. Follow him on Twitter @mattderrick.