EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (TNS) — Watching a team that once talked convincingly about a Super Bowl attempt to talk through their franchise's most embarrassing loss in years is to see a mix of robotic habit, stubborn denial and just a touch of angry defiance.
Nobody can tell you how to handle professional shame, same way nobody can tell you how to grieve, so maybe the reactions in the minutes immediately following a truly dreadful performance are worth nothing beyond the curiosity.
There is no explaining this one away, either. No yeah but, no brushing off, no bit of irrational confidence that can make the Chiefs' 12-9 overtime loss to the mismanaged, quitting, could've-fired-their-overmatched-coach-by-now Giants feel anything other than humiliating.
Travis Kelce was angry: "Guys have to get called out."
Andy Reid was fatherly: "The important thing is that everybody sticks together and keeps working."
Kareem Hunt was mechanical: "We just have to be better."
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif was tactical: "The only way you improve and get out of that hole is to look at yourself in the mirror, and be critical of your work."
A carpet bombing of defense mechanisms, in other words, and now the team that was once 5-0 and the darling of the league is 6-4 and stumbling for answers. This was the worst regular season loss in recent memory, worse than anything that 2012 team did, because that 2012 team was garbage from start to miserable finish.
At the very least, this Chiefs team was supposed to raise some optimism before another predictable playoff loss, but maybe losing to one of the worst teams in the league is a fine way to save everyone the trouble.
Beating the Giants is not supposed to be a challenge. Hasn't been for anyone else lately. The Chiefs just biffed a basic act, like pouring coffee into cereal or wrecking the car on the way out of the garage.
There was no redeeming quality about what the Chiefs just did. This was wretched, unacceptable, bad enough to rethink everything about what they're capable of.
They have now lost once while scoring 30, and once while giving up 12. Fatal flaws remain with the defense, particularly against the run, but also with a coordinator who leaves Phil Gaines alone down the sideline with the game on the line two snaps in a row.
Derrick Johnson appears done as an effective run stopper and wasn't even on the field for stretches against the Giants. The defensive line isn't getting enough push, all of the effective pass rushers are either out or playing hurt, and their inability to cope with Eric Berry's injury shows up in different ways every week.
But at least this week, the offense deserves the swiftest kicks. The Giants gave up 82 points the last two weeks, but the Chiefs managed just nine in nearly 70 minutes. Smith made some non-competitive throws, some awful reads, and a few times did both on the same play. Once, he decided to throw deep to Ross Travis (who was well-covered) into the wind on third-and-2. On third down in the red zone, Travis Kelce broke open, but Smith didn't see him, instead throwing into Demetrius Harris' feet.
The offensive line was awful. They got beat far too often, and at other times were incoherent in execution. Geoff Schwartz, the former Chiefs lineman and brother of right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, pointed out that at least twice the Chiefs line was blocking with a run but the play call was a pass so linemen were downfield.
Reid is paid more than nearly every coach in the league, and he appears without answers. This should have been the NFL's version of a layup. He is famously reliable off a bye, and the Giants have been stunningly ineffective. Smith's struggles do not justify Reid managing just nine points.
His biggest mistake may have been a swinging gate call in the fourth quarter that called for tight end Travis Kelce to throw deep (into the wind). The Giants were not even a little fooled on the play. Kelce may have even thrown into double coverage, though at that point, what difference does it make?
The NFL built itself largely on parity, on the Any Given Sunday thing, but this was an unacceptable performance for any team good enough for trust. To be so good through five, and so bad through the next five defies logic.
In their first two games, the Chiefs beat teams that are now 15-1 against everybody else. Today, with two weeks to prepare, they lost to a team that is 1-8 against everybody else.
The Chiefs are still that team from the first five games, at least technically. Same players. Same coaches. Same system. Maybe they can get some of that back over the next six. Two years ago, they started 1-5 and ended up winning a playoff game. Stranger things have happened.
But losing like this, against an awful team that played poorly, with all the motivation that should've been there after a 1-3 stretch, coming off a bye, well, that's the kind of showing you see from a fraud.
Sam Mellinger is a columnist for The Kansas City Star.