KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Maybe the Chiefs should have petitioned the NFL to avoid noon kickoffs.

They might be 2-0.

Kansas City got out of the gate like a beat-up Pinto trying to find first gear on Sunday, the second straight slow start for a team that can ill afford to dig out of holes.

And unlike the previous week, when the Chiefs managed the biggest comeback in franchise history to beat the San Diego Chargers, they were unable to come all the way back in a 19-12 loss to the Houston Texans.

“Way too many mistakes against a good football team to come out on the right end,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Monday, echoing comments he made after the game.

“Any time you have three fumbles, you have about a 25 percent chance to win the game, so you’re putting yourself in a bind there.”

It wasn’t just the fumbles that put them in a bind, though.

The Chiefs dropped a bunch of passes, quarterback Alex Smith threw several more behind his intended targets, and penalty flags piled up like dirty laundry at the end of the week.

“Listen, offensively, we have to pick it up,” Reid said. “We did some things I think were uncharacteristic between dropped balls and penalties and missed assignments. That’s not the way we normally operate, so we have to put an end to that.”

Which of course is easier said than done.

One thing that might get the Chiefs off to a faster start against the New York Jets this Sunday? The return of four-time Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles, their biggest difference-maker on offense.

Charles has been practicing for several weeks after surgery to repair his torn right ACL last season, but he has been inactive for the first two games.

Reid said that Charles told him last week that he wasn’t quite ready to get on the field, but there is a chance he could play against the Jets.

“I thought he practiced better last week,” Reid said. “I wouldn’t rule it out. I just don’t have enough information to put that out there (that he will play).”

The Chiefs have survived with Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West splitting the load, and in fact thrived with them much of last season.

But neither of those running backs gives the Chiefs the same kind of game-breaking threat as Charles, someone who can take any pass or handoff to the end zone.

Asked what would convince Reid to play him Sunday, the coach replied: “You make sure he’s safe. You surely don’t want to take a step backward. He’s a pretty good player and you can rush yourselves, but we’re not playing tiddlywinks here. It’s a violent sport. You want to make sure he’s fully recovered.”

Or at least recovered enough to help an offense out of its doldrums.

The Chiefs are averaging just 116 yards total offense in the first half of their first two games, and managed just a pair of field goals. They’re averaging 236 yards and 16.5 points in the second half.

The biggest reason for the big difference is that Kansas City has had no choice but to ditch its conservative play-calling and open things up.

The Chiefs have been in double-digit holes in the second half of each of their first two games, forcing Smith to go no-huddle and begin chucking the ball.

He met the challenge against San Diego. He came up short against Houston.

“Absolutely zero rhythm and production going in that first half. It was not enough,” Smith said. “You can’t settle for field goals in a game like this. You’ve got to find a way to get in the end zone.”

The solution to the slow starts is anybody’s guess, but unearthing one ultimately is why Reid is paid so handsomely.

And it had better happen soon. The schedule doesn’t get any easier with the Steelers looming on the road after a visit from the Jets.

“We’ve got to play better football,” Reid said. “The margin between winning and losing is so small in this league — you do stupid things it’s going to be tough to come out on the right side of the score.”


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