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NFL Preview - Kansas City (9-3) at Washington (3-9)
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - Andy Reid is still the toast of the town in Kansas City despite the fact his Chiefs are mired in a three-game losing streak following a sizzling 9-0 start.
The Chiefs now see themselves one game behind the Denver Broncos for the AFC West lead and shoot for a sweep of the NFC East Sunday against the struggling Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.
Reid certainly has plenty of experience against the Redskins thanks to 14 years as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and has already beaten his former team and both the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants. Those three wins came in succession from Sept. 15-29.
Kansas City's latest setback was Sunday against Peyton Manning and the Broncos in a 35-28 setback. The Chiefs had a 21-14 lead at halftime, but two Manning touchdown passes in the third quarter was all the difference. Denver actually notched 28 straight points until KC running back Jamaal Charles made it a one score game on a one-yard TD run with 6:32 to go.
Manning and the Broncos racked up 535 yards of offense and the future Hall of Fame quarterback passed for 403 yards with five TD strikes and two interceptions. Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker burned the Chiefs' secondary for 174 yards and four touchdown receptions, while Demaryius Thomas had 106 yards on just three receptions.
The Chiefs still impressed with 452 yards of offense, but it wasn't enough to stop the current slide.
"I mentioned to the team that this isn't college football. This isn't the end of the season. It's not the national championship game that you're playing, it's two good football teams playing each other," Reid said. "We came up short and now it's important that we get ourselves back and ready to go and finish the season like we're capable of doing. I know our guys, coaches and players will do that."
Alex Smith tried to go head-to-head with Manning and passed for 293 yards with two TD passes and an interception. Smith has thrown seven TD passes to just two picks in the last three games, and talked about the possibility of still winning the AFC West.
"We just have to continue to fight. I think this team has that kind of character," Smith said. "We just have to keep plugging along. There's still everything we want in front of us. It was a tough loss (and there's) no time to point fingers or do any of that. (We just have) to continue to do what we've been doing and get better.
"Not to say that we still can't win the division, there still are a lot of games left. Those things are out of our control at this point. We have to focus in on what we have to do and that is to win ballgames. There certainly are two other ways to get into the playoffs with the wildcard spots. We're sitting pretty good with that."
Denver (10-2), Kansas City (9-3) and New England (9-3) have the best records in the AFC at this point.
The Chiefs are 4-1 on the road and will play three of their last four games of the season away from Arrowhead Stadium.
Washington's 2013 season has been a forgettable one and the Redskins were officially eliminated from playoff contention after Sunday's 24-17 loss to the New York Giants.
The Redskins were hoping for plenty of success this season after storming back to win the NFC East in 2012. However, things took a turn for the worse and now they're sporting a lowly 3-9 record.
"It's extremely disappointing," Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said. "We had our expectations as to what we thought our season would be coming into the year. Now, we're just playing for pride. That doesn't feel good on the first day of December."
The Redskins, who won seven in a row after a 3-6 start last season and reached the playoffs, have dropped four straight and will complete a stretch of three straight games at home versus Kansas City. In the loss to the Giants, Robert Griffin III completed 24-of-32 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown, and also ran for 88 yards on 12 rushes. Griffin, who had just one incompletion (16- of-17) in the first half, posted more rushing yards than Alfred Morris. The young running back had 26 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.
Washington gave up 10 points in the fourth quarter to squelch a 17-14 lead, as Giants running back Andre Brown had a one-yard TD run and Josh Brown connected on a 39-yard field goal to close out the scoring.
Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, whose job status could be in jeopardy at season's end, was asked on how his approach changes now that his team is out of the playoffs for the fifth time in six years.
"No difference. Obviously you're disappointed because your goal is to get to the playoffs and we all know if you get to the playoffs you've got an opportunity to win and win a Super Bowl, so that's your first goal," Shanahan said. "But if you are eliminated you still want to go out and play some good football. You'd sure like to win games. Everybody is very competitive, very motivated, and people that aren't motivated even though they're out of it usually don't last."
The 'Skins' defense appeared motivated until the fourth quarter versus New York. Linebacker Brian Orakpo had two sacks for his eighth multi-sack game and has at least one full sack in the last four games. Safety Brandon Meriweather registered his second interception of the season and cornerback Josh Wilson had a sack of Eli Manning.
Washington has struggled in eight lifetime meetings with Kansas City, losing the last five matchups and seven of eight overall. The Chiefs recorded a 14-6 win in the last meeting on Oct. 18, 2009 in Landover. Washington's only win in this series was a 27-12 triumph back on Sept. 18, 1983.
Reid is 17-11 lifetime against the Redskins and Shanahan sports an 18-15 mark in matchups with the Chiefs.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Griffin has been the polar opposite of last season in many ways, and the main reason for this year's decline is the knee issue and lack of protection. RG3 made a miraculous comeback from a devastating knee injury and he may have been rushed back too quickly. He has thrown for 3,039 yards with 15 TDs and 11 interceptions, while passing for 3,200 yards, 20 TDs with five INTs in 2012.
RG3 has been sacked 33 times already, as opposed to 30 times last season. His 88 rushing yards Sunday were the most since he had 89 against New York last Oct. 21. Griffin became the fifth QB in NFL history to post 3,000 passing yards in each of his first two seasons.
Opposing players have noticed Griffin's decline this season. Giants defensive back Antrel Rolle is one of them.
"A lot of teams have been getting after him a whole lot better this year for whatever reason. I don't know if it's he can't escape the way he used to escape or his line isn't holding up," Rolle said. "I just know he has been getting hit. He's been getting sacked a whole lot more than we're used to seeing."
Rolle then said Griffin still has a "cannon for an arm," but isn't as elusive as he was during his rookie campaign. Griffin's 88 yards may say otherwise and the Chiefs still have to prepare for him and Morris. Morris helped the Redskins run for 139 yards and the team leads the NFL: with 1,805 yards on the ground with an average of 150.4 per game. Washington has rushed for at least 100 yards in 11 consecutive games, two shy of matching the team's longest streak of the Mike Shanahan era (13).
The Chiefs are 21st in rushing yards allowed (117.2), passing yards allowed (249.0) and total yards allowed (366.2). They have totaled 37 sacks on the season and are led by Justin Houston's 11 sacks. Houston did not play against the Broncos because of an elbow injury, but Reid said his stud OLB is on the mend and could make a return this week.
Kansas City's other OLB Tamba Hali shook off a balky ankle to face the Broncos and finished with two tackles. Hali wasn't much of a factor against Denver and neither was any other player on a defense that allowed 500-plus yards.
Chiefs safety Kendrick Lewis wasn't pleased with Sunday's effort.
"It hurts," Lewis said. "It hurts; it hurts deep. It burns. It's good that we're feeling this. We feel it; we just have to come back out next week and put together a solid game, as far as everywhere, offense defense and special teams."
Fellow safety Quintin Demps agreed.
"We're going to respond well," Demps said. "I know we have nothing but fighters, no quitters; we're going to stay together. It's a long season; like coach Reid says, it's not the NCAA, it's the NFL. We're going to stay together and we're going to play together. We have to go back to the drawing board, look at the film , evaluate each other, evaluate ourselves, be critical and kind of put it behind us and finish the season strong."
Don't expect the Chiefs to play down to Washington's level because they're in the hunt for a division title and any loss from here is vital. The Chiefs will halt their current slide against a downtrodden Redskins unit, and expect another scoring outburst in a winning effort.
Kansas City is averaging 33 points in the last two games and is ninth in the NFL with 24.8 ppg this season.
Shanahan may have said the Redskins are still playing for pride, but life has been drained from a team now on the outside looking in.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Chiefs 31, Redskins 21
12/05 15:10:15 ET