KANSAS CITY — The raw statistics suggest the Kansas City Chiefs have one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
The eye test? Not much better.
That was especially evident in a 38-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night, when the Chiefs gave up more than 315 yards passing and four total touchdowns to Josh Allen in losing the rematch of last season's AFC Championship Game.
Yet there is one problem on defense that is compounded by its partner problem on offense: turnovers. The Chiefs gave away the ball four times against the Bills — Patrick Mahomes threw two picks, one returned for a touchdown, and they lost a pair of fumbles — while their much-maligned defense failed to generate a single turnover of its own.
That dropped the Chiefs to minus-7 in turnover differential, better only than lowly Jacksonville in the entire NFL.
"It starts with me. Three of them were on me," Mahomes said. "It's something that I've not usually done in my career, but I have to reevaluate where I'm at, what decisions I'm making. We kind of hurt ourselves."
Indeed, Mahomes already has thrown six interceptions this season, the same number as last season and one more than the Super Bowl championship season in 2019. His pick percentage has gone from a league-low 1.0 percent last season to 3.1 percent and twice he's thrown two interceptions in a game; he's thrown at least two just four other times in his career.
"Turnovers are a huge deal in this league. Turnover margin usually decides games," Mahomes said.
It's not just Mahomes, though. Clyde Edwards-Helaire's fumble in Baltimore cost the Chiefs (2-3) a chance to kick a winning field goal, and Byron Pringle has fumbled the ball on kickoff returns in each of the past two games.
"They've got to stop for us to be competitive. And that's my responsibility," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, "so I've got to make sure the team plays the right way. Right now, we're not playing the right way."
That includes on defense, where the Chiefs have picked off just three passes and forced one fumble this season. They had 22 takeaways last season and 23 during their championship year but are on pace for less than 14 so far.
"We have just got to find a way to stop the bleeding," safety Tyrann Mathieu said. "If you look back we don't have a turnover the last three weeks. That is a big part of this game too, getting the ball back to your offense."
Harrison Butker is just about the only sure thing for Kansas City right now. The kicker is 5-for-5 on field-goal attempts after hitting both tries against Buffalo, and he is perfect on 19 extra-point attempts. He also hit a perfect pop-up kickoff late in the game the Chiefs covered perfectly and nearly resulted in a turnover.
Just about everything needs help, but a lot of it could be solved with better communication. At least two blown coverages Sunday night were tied to miscommunication in the secondary and resulted in long pass plays, and on offense, Mahomes seemed out of sync with his wide receivers.
"Most of their explosive pass plays were guys running wide open down the field. Obviously, we don't practice that. Our coaches don't teach that," Mathieu said. "You've got to find a way to dig deep, man. Every team we play wants to beat us. They want to beat us bad. I think we have to understand that coming into these kind of games."
Running back Darrel Williams ran five times for 27 yards, helping to give the Chiefs offense some balance. He'll be counted upon even more now Edwards-Helaire is out for the foreseeable future with a left knee injury.
Defensive end Frank Clark has been dealing with a hamstring injury and off-the-field legal trouble in California. When he's been on the field, things haven't been any better. Despite carrying a salary-cap hit of $25.8 million — the highest in the NFL for a non-quarterback — he had just two tackles and a costly roughing-the-passer penalty against Buffalo.
Zero — not only is that the number of turnovers the Chiefs forced Sunday night, it also was their sack total.
The Chiefs have had one of the toughest five-game stretches to start a season in recent history. The road gets a bit easier beginning with a trip Sunday to Washington.