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Despite 5-0 start, Chiefs face the unthinkable -- no playoffs

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Saturday says Chiefs made McCown look like 'a MVP candidate' (0:42)

Jeff Saturday breaks down the Chiefs' issues on defense against the Jets in a 38-31 loss and how the run game needs to perform better around Alex Smith. (0:42)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The members of the Kansas City Chiefs' defense were gassed in the final minutes of Sunday’s loss against the New York Jets and for good reason. The Chiefs had to defend 85 plays and the unit was on the field for almost 43 minutes, enough work for a game and a half but in one afternoon.

A variety of factors were involved. The Chiefs twice scored on offense on the first play of a drive, sending the defense back on the field.

But mostly the defense had only itself to blame. It allowed the Jets to convert 13 of 20 third-down plays (65 percent), which would wear out the best of defenses.

The Chiefs committed four penalties on New York’s go-ahead touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.

“We’re just not making the plays to get off the field," safety Ron Parker said after the Chiefs allowed a season high in points in their 38-31 loss. “We’re looking at other people to make plays and not ourselves, and that’s killing us right now. We have to do a better job of getting off the field on third down, and until we do that, we’re going to be in trouble.

“I don’t know if guys are out there trying to do too much, but it’s not working."

The Chiefs allowed only 28 points in their two previous games, and while both were defeats, they were hoping that was genuine defensive progress. But their problems popped up again. The final Jets touchdown drive was similar to the penalty-filled scoring drive that the Chiefs had allowed late in their October one-point loss to the Oakland Raiders.

The Chiefs have been unable to sync their game to where both sides of the ball are playing well at the same time. The offense busted out with four touchdowns after scoring 19 points in the two previous games.

“We’re searching, for sure," Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith said. “Everyone has a hand in it. We’ve had some games where I think both sides, offense and defense, really felt like they weren’t holding up their end for each other. We haven’t put them together recently, both sides.

“We’ve been in some close ones, a bunch here lately, and come out on the wrong side. Just keep fighting and try to find a way. Obviously, we know we have a couple of big division games coming up. We’ve got to assess this, and then we’ve got to get ready."

Indeed, their three most recent games have been maddening to the Chiefs. They lost in overtime to the New York Giants after giving up a long pass on a fourth-down play. They were driving toward a potential winning or tying touchdown against the Buffalo Bills and the Jets but failed to score each time.

It’s a problem they have to fix, with no more time to waste. The 6-6 Chiefs have fallen into a tie for first place in the AFC West with the Raiders and the Los Angeles Chargers. As Smith noted, both teams have upcoming games at Arrowhead Stadium: the Raiders next Sunday; the Chargers in Week 15.

If the Chiefs don’t play games that are more complete against both opponents, they’ll face the real prospect of the unthinkable: a season without the playoffs after a 5-0 start.

“We know we’re capable of better," Smith said. “It’s a matter of going out and doing it. These are good teams we’re playing, and I think they’ve all been close coming down to the end. We have to find a way to make a play here at the end to win these."