KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After watching Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell rip through his defense for 179 yards in a 19-13 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton had a short response when asked to go into depth about his team's run defense struggles.
"Le'Veon Bell," Sutton said. "Is that deep enough?"
The patient and elusive Steelers running back seemingly remains impervious to the Chiefs run defense. The Chiefs have lost five games since October 2016, three of them to the Steelers, including last January's divisional playoff game at home. Bell totaled 493 rushing yards in those three games.
Sutton said his team failed in fundamentals and techniques in slowing down Bell and the Steelers run game.
"We definitely have to play better run defense," Sutton said. "We understand that. We got to tackle better. All those things have to happen if we want to improve on defense."
Bell after the game said he saw no new wrinkles from the Chiefs defense. Some argue that Sutton's commitment to man-to-man defense and avoidance of run blitzes matches up poorly against the Steelers. Sutton disputed that notion, putting more emphasis on execution.
"It's like everything, you just have to keep playing your defense," Sutton explained. "We're not going to invent something here to take over the fundamental part of your defense. When you have your chances, you got to do a good job of it."
The Chiefs have little time to shore up their run defense. The team travels to Oakland for a Thursday night meeting with the Raiders. Unlike their recent games with the Steelers, the Chiefs hold a five-game winning streak over the Raiders. They have won seven of eight meetings since Sutton and head coach Andy Reid arrived in Kansas City in 2013.
The Chiefs also carry both a nine-game road winning streak and a 12-game win streak over AFC West opponents into the game.
Oakland counters the Chiefs with its own once-elite running back in Marshawn Lynch. Sutton knows his defense must prove that it can contain Lynch and the Raiders run game.
"Like all great backs, you don't want to be involved in a lot single tackles," Sutton said. "You want multiple people there and that's a big part of this whole thing as you get ready for playing a guy like Marshawn. You need your whole defense."
The Chiefs have little time to dwell on Sunday's home loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers with a road trip to Oakland on Thursday night. Offensive coordinator Matt Nagy said preparations began moments after the end of Sunday's game.
"It was come on right over to the office and get on to the tape," Nagy said. "We were all here doing it getting ready for this game."
Quarterback Alex Smith said he relishes the opportunity to put the Steelers loss quickly behind him and his teammates.
"I think the positive is we get a short week to bounce back, get this taste out of our mouth," Smith said. "There is a positive from it."
The Chiefs have dominated the Raiders in recent seasons, winning seven of eight games since head coach Andy Reid's arrival in Kansas City in 2013. The team's only loss to the Raiders in that span came on a Thursday night road trip in 2014, a 24-20 setback on a rainy Thursday night in Oakland.
The Raiders built a 17-3 lead before Smith rallied the Chiefs with two second-half touchdown passes to Jamaal Charles and Anthony Fasano. Smith finished 20-of-36 passing for 234 yards while Charles rushed for 80 yards. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr delivered one of his better performances against the Chiefs, finishing 18-of-35 for 174 yards and a touchdown. Running back Latavius Murray provided the difference on the ground with 112 yards and two scores.
Now the Chiefs must travel to the West Coast following a physical game against the Steelers. It also comes in the midst of four prime-time games in five weeks that has thrown off the team's regular schedule.
"Coming off a physical game, you know you're going to have another big divisional game and travel," Smith said. "You got all those built-in excuses there to lean."
But Nagy believes his team will be prepared to face the Raiders despite the short preparation.
"Yesterday wasn't our day, but we're not going to let that affect how we play here in the future," Nagy said. "We're going to stick together, there's not going to be any pointing fingers, and we're going to be ready to rock and roll here with Oakland."
The Chiefs lined up against the Steelers without two key wide receivers. The club placed Chris Conley on season-ending injured reserve Saturday with a ruptured Achilles tendon, then Albert Wilson was a late scratch with a sprained knee.
That meant dramatic increases in playing time for backup receivers De'Anthony Thomas and Demarcus Robinson. Both players earned the praise of offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, especially Thomas thanks to a 57-yard touchdown reception.
"He moved around pretty well and you saw with the touchdown catch making a good play and did some good things with the ball in his hands," Nagy said.
Robinson, a second-year receiver from Florida, saw the first substantial playing time in his career. He lined up for 49 of the team's 54 offensive snaps. Nagy said Robinson still has learning to do, especially in adjusting to the speed of the game and improving his timing with quarterback Alex Smith.
"I think what you're going to see with Alex and Demarcus, as these games go by here and we just get more and more practices and games together, I think you're going to see that relationship between the two of them on the football field really grow," Nagy said.
The Chiefs promoted Marcus Kemp from the practice squad in Conley's place on Saturday, and the undrafted rookie free agent saw playing time immediately with eight offensive snaps.
Receiver Tyreek Hill exited the game for a concussion evaluation following a punt return late in the game. That left the Chiefs with a lineup of Robinson, Thomas and Kemp on the field for the team's final drive in a vain comeback attempt.
"When a guy goes down, just like at the end of the game, it's not how we wanted it to end," Nagy said. "But (Hill) goes down and guys have to step up in the most important part of the game. We have trust and confidence in these guys. They come out here and practice every day and see what we're doing and when they're not getting physical reps they're getting a lot of mental reps."
The Chiefs definitely appeared to miss Wilson, who often plays critical roles in the team's motion and play setup. Nagy called Wilson the offense's sparkplug for both his mental preparation and his energetic style.
"Anytime you lose a guy like Albert, it definitely hurts you," Nagy said. "But with that said, the belief and confidence that we have in these other guys is sky high."
It took a long journey for wide receiver Marcus Kemp to make the NFL, and now he wants to prove he deserves to pursue his dream.
"I'm trying to play my best, do everything I can to show the coaches that I deserve to be here, or show the NFL I deserve to be here," Kemp said while a member of the Chiefs' practice squad.
Kemp drew light interest as a high school wide receiver, finding his way to Hawaii. He caught 73 passes for 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior. His size and speed attracted the interest of the Chiefs.
"He's a big, physical player," Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy said. "He's a good route-runner with really good ball skills."
The 6-foot-4, 185-pound Kemp ran a 4.54 40-yard dash during his pro day, and he possesses an agility that belies his lengthy frame.
"I think that for as tall as I am and as long as I am, my agility, it surprises some people, my routes and how quickly I get in or out of them," Kemp said. "I think that's something that I can use. I deceive people with how tall I am. I don't look very fast but I am a little bit quick. I get around some people by surprise."
The Chiefs' receivers group is long on athleticism and short on experience. Albert Wilson and De'Anthony are the longest tenured receivers in their fourth seasons. Kemp says Wilson and Chris Conley help him learn much early as a rookie. But he says the group leans on each other to improve.
"Even the young guys, even the old guys will take critique or take criticism from the young guys because they understand that there is always something that you can learn," Kemp said. "I really feel like this group is special in the way that we help each other."
Nagy said Kemp simply needs experience to make plays at the pro level. He may get that experience sooner rather than later with Kansas City's rash of wide receiver injuries.
"The biggest thing for Marcus is understanding where to go on certain routes versus certain coverages," Nagy said. "Once he gets that down, he can do really good things."
NOTES: WR Albert Wilson was a late scratch Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a sprained knee. The team downgraded Wilson to questionable on Saturday. His availability for Thursday night's game at Oakland remains unclear. ... WR Tyreek Hill exited Sunday's game against the Steelers for evaluation of a concussion. Hill told head coach Andy Reid he felt fine in the locker room after the game. Hill was limited in practice with a hamstring injury last week, but showed no ill effects against the Steelers. ... RB Charcandrick West also left Sunday's game for evaluation, and team officials suspect West's injury to be more severe than Hill. Offensive coordinator Matt Nagy indicated Akeem Hunt would serve as backup to Kareem Hunt if West is out Thursday night against Oakland. The team also re-signed veteran RB C.J. Spiller.
... C Mitch Morse returned to practice on a limited basis last week, but was among the team's inactives against the Steelers. Zach Fulton drew his fourth start in Morse's absence. The Chiefs have just one practice during the short week before Thursday night's game. West and Hunt combined for just eight offensive snaps against Pittsburgh in Week 6. ... RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif missed his second game with sprained knee but head coach Andy Reid said the third-year veteran continues improving. He's availability against Oakland remains doubtful, however.
REPORT CARD VS. STEELERS
--PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus - QB Alex Smith rallied the Chiefs late and had a chance to win the game on his team's final possession, but it proved too little too late. The Chiefs posted just 6 yards of total offense in the first half, with Smith completing 5-of-8 passes for a mere 23 yards with two sacks for 15 yards in losses. That buried the Chiefs into a hole from which they could not emerge. WR De'Anthony Thomas provided one of the lone bright spots, hauling in a 57-yard touchdown pass for the longest offensive play of his four-year career.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: D-plus - Rookie RB Kareem Hunt never found traction against the Steelers defense, mustering a mere 21 yards on nine carries. The Chiefs rushed for minus-2 yards in the first half. Hunt did contribute to the passing game, catching five passes for 89 yards. That allowed him to claim sole possession of the record for most games starting a career with 100 or more yards from scrimmage at six. He previously shared the record of five games with Adrian Peterson.
--PASS DEFENSE: C - QB Ben Roethlisberger bounced back from his atrocious five-interception performance last week against Jacksonville, dinging the Chiefs for 252 yards and a touchdown through the air on 17-of-25 passing. Antonio Brown hauled in eight catches for 155 yards and a touchdown. CB Marcus Peters had another interception, giving him a league-high 18 picks since 2015.
--RUSH DEFENSE: D-minus - RB Le'Veon Bell torched the Chiefs yet again, piling up 179 yards on 32 carries as he systematically dominated the Kansas City defense and drained the clock, allowing the Steelers to possess the ball for more than 36 minutes. The only backhanded compliment the Chiefs' run defense deserves is they only yielded Bell one touchdown.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus - Rookie kicker Harrison Butker provided the bulk of the team's scoring, including field goals from 33 and 46 yards. Special teams also set up Kansas City's first score. The Steelers let punter Dustin Colquitt's free kick following a safety hit the turf, and rookie WR Jehu Chesson chased down the loose ball. Tyreek Hill gave the team a chance to win with a gutsy 32-yard punt return setting up Kansas City's final drive. Colquitt continued his excellent season with a 47.5 net average on four punts, three of which were downed inside the 20 and one at the 1-yard line. Special teams kept the Chiefs in the game as the offense and defense struggled.
--COACHING: D-minus - The Chiefs know exactly what the Pittsburgh Steelers plan to do against them, and for the third-straight matchup, head coach Andy Reid and his staff failed to mount any defense whatsoever. The Chiefs did show some pluck in the second half mounting a comeback. Far outshadowing that grit, however is the reality the Steelers proved the tougher team once again and out-hustled the Chiefs. The Chiefs remain among the class of the AFC, but they cannot achieve their Super Bowl dreams until Reid and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton solve the Le'Veon Bell riddle.