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Defending champion Chiefs look vulnerable as they lose ground in AFC with loss to Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs still can't seem to put together a strong performance on both sides of the ball.

The defending Super Bowl champions suddenly look vulnerable as they've fallen behind three other teams in the race for the AFC's top playoff seed.

The Chiefs started slowly for a second straight week and lost 27-19 to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night for their third defeat in five games.

Kansas City fell a game behind Baltimore and Miami and a half-game behind Jacksonville, which hosts Cincinnati Monday night, in the race for the AFC's best record and lone first-round bye.

Catching up to the other AFC heavyweights could prove challenging.

A defense that has ranked among the league’s best all season kept taking hits Sunday rather than dishing them out. Linebacker Drue Tranquill left with a concussion in the first quarter and safety Bryan Cook was carted off the field with an ankle injury in the second half.

If either player misses substantial time and the defense takes a step back, it will put even more pressure on Mahomes.

The two-time MVP has shown plenty of times he’s capable of carrying that burden. That was evident last week, when the Chiefs rallied from an early 14-0 deficit to win 31-17 at Las Vegas.

But after Kansas City gave up touchdowns on three of Green Bay’s first four possessions, Mahomes couldn’t bring the Chiefs all the way back.

He threw an interception in the fourth quarter with Kansas City trailing by five that set up a field goal for the Packers.

Still, the Chiefs had one more shot.

The Chiefs got the ball back at their own 30 with 1:09 left and no timeouts. Mahomes quickly got his team into Packers territory, but the Chiefs stalled out at the Green Bay 33.

Pass interference wasn’t called on a long incompletion to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. A pass into the end zone on the game’s final play was knocked away.

Mahomes and star tight end Travis Kelce, who had four catches for 81 yards, could use more help. Wide receiver Rashee Rice must build on his breakthrough performance against the Raiders. Isiah Pacheco ran for 110 yards Sunday night but got ejected on the game’s final series.

Another Super Bowl run remains possible for this Chiefs team, but they're hardly a dominant bunch. Instead, coach Andy Reid will have to cover up his roster's shortcomings in the final weeks of the season.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL

Steve Megargee, The Associated Press