KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Christmas season is fast approaching and there was snow on the ground in Green Bay, but there was no magic to be had inside Lambeau Field on Sunday night.
At least, there was no Mahomes Magic for the visiting Kansas City Chiefs, who slipped a full game off the pace in the AFC behind Baltimore and Miami with a 27-19 loss — their third in the last five games.
Only a frigid Love affair between Packers fans and a new gun-slinging quarterback.
Kansas City’s defense had stiffened in the red zone and forced Green Bay to settle for a field goal midway through the fourth quarter.
The Chiefs had spotted another opponent, a double-digit first-half lead, and were slogging through an injury-filled game, but the defense gave Patrick Mahomes and the offense a prime opportunity to move in front.
Kansas City quickly moved the ball to midfield before a Keisean Nixon interception effectively ended any realistic hope for a comeback.
Mahomes’ pass was intended for Skyy Moore on a corner route to the boundary, but the second-year former second-round pick hesitated on his route.
“They probably both weren't on the same page it didn’t look like, but we’ll get that worked out,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said.
Nixon watched Mahomes float the ball toward the sideline and Moore was late to recognize and recover as the fifth-year cornerback, who started his career with Oakland/Las Vegas, easily made the game-changing pick.
“You can’t make that mistake,” said Mahomes — who finished 21 of 33 for 210 yards with a touchdown and that interception, the only turnover of the game. “I saw they were in man coverage. [I] tried to get to one of our man checks. The guy went over the top. I probably should have tried to back shoulder to Skyy. That’s just a mistake on my part that you can’t make in that situation.”
The Chiefs got the ball back for a desperation drive and reached the Packers’ 33-yard line, but an uncalled defensive pass interference when cornerback Carrington Valentine climbed Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s back and grabbed his arm on a deep post left Mahomes to try a Hail Mary on the final play.
The prayer wasn’t answered.
“Obviously, we’re not where we want to be at, but I feel like we’re close,” Mahomes said. “We’re playing a lot of good football teams really well — winning some of those games, losing some of those games. We’re kind of in the go zone now, where we’ve got to kind of get it going through this stretch, and all we can do is learn from this game and be focused on another challenge this week coming to Arrowhead.”
Love, who is the heir apparent to Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers as the starting QB in Green Bay, finished 25 of 36 for 267 yards with three touchdowns, including two to Christian Watson — who left the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent hamstring injury.
“Jordan played great,” Mahomes said. “At the end of the day, you make too many mistakes against a good football team, you lose.”
ANOTHER EARLY DEFICIT: The Chiefs spotted Las Vegas a two-touchdown lead last week but stormed back for a relatively easy win.
Kansas City got down 14-3 early against Green Bay, but the road back proved too bumpy to navigate.
“Against a good football team, we've got to be able to start faster, so on both sides we’ve got to make sure we take care of that,” Reid said. “Whether it was the penalties on offense or whether we weren’t getting off the field on the defensive side, those are things that cost us.”
The Chiefs committed five penalties for 50 yards, had the game's only interception and Mahomes also was sacked a season-high three times, all in the red zone.
NOT DEFENSIVE ENOUGH: Kansas City’s defense hadn’t allowed more than 24 points before giving up 27 on Sunday at Green Bay.
Defensive tackle Chris Jones said it wasn’t good enough.
“You can’t give up 27 points on the road in a hostile environment like this,” Jones, who had two quarterback hits in the loss, said. “It’s tough. It’s going to be tough to win games like this.”
Kansas City gave up 129 rushing and 5.2 yards per carry, while Love racked up 267 yards and three touchdowns through the air.
“We’ve got to at least stop the run or stop the pass,” Jones said. “When you can open up the playbook and be comfortable about it, I think it can put us in a rut.”
ONE TOUGH ‘POP’: Early in the second half, Isaiah Pacheco got tackled with his right knee underneath him as a teammate was blocked into him.
The impact flipped him over backward and could have resulted in a serious knee injury had he not powered up and freed his lower leg.
Kansas City trailed 14-6 at halftime and Pacheco’s injury threatened to put an even bigger damper on the evening.
Instead, he returned after a brief visit with the Chiefs’ medical staff and had three carries for 18 yards the rest of the drive, including a 1-yard touchdown.
Pacheco, who is nicknamed “Pop,” added six more carries for 33 yards on the next drive, which netted another touchdown — a 2-yard dart to tight end Noah Gray.
He finished with 18 carries for 110 yards, his third career 100-yard game, and added three receptions for 13 yards.
Pacheco was ejected on the game’s final drive with 49 seconds left for allegedly throwing a punch at Nixon during a replay-overturned fumble return.
NO ‘TRANQUILLITY’: Kansas City lost its second stud middle linebacker to injury on the opening drive at Green Bay.
The Chiefs already were without Nick Bolton, who led the team in tackles each of his first two seasons, before losing Drue Tranquill on the seventh play of the game.
Tranquill, who took a knee to the head from Green Bay running back A.J. Dillon, has started eight games with Bolton out this season, first with a calf injury in September then after surgery to repair a dislocated wrist in late October.
He leads Kansas City with 72 tackles this season.
Without Bolton or Tranquill available, Jack Cochrane took the reins at middle linebacker, a job that includes getting the defense lined up and communicating with the sideline through the “green dot” helmet.
Cochrane, who has primarily been a special teams player since signing with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent from South Dakota in 2022, had been on the field for 35 defensive snaps in his first two NFL seasons, a span of 26 games.
“We are very fortunate to have Jack,” Jones said. “He’s been in this system for a while and understands the basics of this defense. For him to come in and play a heckuva game for us and a lot of minutes, we asked a lot of him, especially when Drue went down. I think he did pretty well for the situation that he was brought in.”
INJURY BUG BITES SECONDARY: Midway through the third quarter, another collision with Dillon cost the Chiefs another key starter.
Safety Bryan Cook slipped on the fabled “Frozen Tundra” as he tackled Dillon along the Packers’ sideline.
That left Cook’s ankle underneath him as he collided with Dillon and stuck toe-down in the turf, which turned the ankle awkwardly upon impact.
Cook left the game on the back of a cart with tears in his eyes and was ruled out for the rest of the game.
“We’re looking at his ankle now,” Reid said after the game.
Given the nature of the injury, it won't be surprising if Monday's update has Cook out for the season, which would be a bummer for the Chiefs' D.
“Bryan’s been playing so well for us,” Jones said. “He’s been a dominant force on the back end. For him to go down, I’m going to keep him in my prayers. Hopefully, he’ll make a quick recovery.”
UP NEXT: For the sixth time in the last four seasons, the Chiefs will square off with the Buffalo Bills.
Kansas City, which hosts Josh Allen and company at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium for the third consecutive season, is 3-2 in those prior meetings, including 2-0 in postseason matchups.
The Bills won both of the recent regular-season meetings at Arrowhead, but the Chiefs won the AFC Championship Game three seasons ago and the epic AFC Divisional Game — the 13-second game — two seasons ago.
Kansas City won the 2020 meeting in Buffalo.