Ok, We’ve seen the Chiefs at their best. The defense has piled on the statistics. Charles has quietly put together a stellar season. Alex Smith has protected the football and literally been a game manager. All of these things were fine and dandy while the wins were piling up. After the first loss the holes in the Kansas City Chiefs are beginning to show. My confidence in the team is wavering after what seems like a plateau in the defense’s performance and the apparent regression of the offense. I feel that the Chiefs need a change in philosophy in order to take the next step as a team. The holes in the Chiefs game need to be filled and going all in for every play in every game may be the only way. I want to see the Chiefs sell out and play every game like it were a playoff game.
The Kansas City Chiefs are not built to be unpredictable or flashy. From what I have seen, the team actually just relies on doing three things to win games. Control the ball and win the time of possession battle on offense. The defense must control the line of scrimmage and make plays in the opponents backfield. The third is that the special teams makes big plays. Unfortunately the team has started to fail to effectively do these key things. Getting the team back to these basics is what I believe is the key to future success. In my opinion the team must begin to sell out and achieve these goals at all cost to beat solid opponents like the Broncos, Colts and even the Chargers.
In theory the coaches would like for the offense to make long and methodical drives down the field that chew up the clock and keep the opponent’s offense on the sideline. The team has done this at times but has recently begun to falter. During this season almost every pass by Alex Smith resulting in a large gain has been the result of the receiver using his run after catch ability. Jamaal Charles, Donnie Avery and Dexter McCluster all have the quickness and world class speed to break long gains from short completions in space. Dwayne Bowe has the rare combination of good speed and the physique of a Greek statue that allows him to make catches in traffic and shed tackles to pick up yards after the catch. While Bowe may be having a down year for whatever reason, he still has the talent to be the difference maker in the receiver corp. The problem is that the play calling and/or offensive execution has failed to provide the opportunities for these men to consistently work their magic. When I watch the offense I see what I believe to be far too much wasted time before the pass is thrown. I see a great deal of wasted movement to sell the idea of some form of read option threat. NEWS FLASH!! the opponents aren’t buying it anymore. The Linebackers and safeties are just staying home and making their tackles. Nobody is being fooled and this pseudo play action ploy is doing nothing but allowing defenders extra time to get into the backfield and disrupt the play. Alex Smith spends too much of his time being hurried and harassed by the defensive linemen and outside linebackers. When a quarterback is hurried and has to scramble rather than finish his drop back the receivers will typically finish their route before he can get the ball out. When this happens the receivers will generally begin to either run toward the sideline or back to toward the line of scrimmage to give him an open target. When a receiver does this there is very little chance that they are going to break away for a long gain if they are fortunate enough to make a catch. I encourage you to watch the Chiefs offense and pay special attention to how many fake handoffs and fake dump off passes Smith performs. Their typically to Charles with a few for McCluster and are run with a read option scheme or out of bootlegs and waggle style plays. I’d much rather see the coaches just challenge the offensive line to buckle down their chinstraps and beat the defensive line in the true test of manhood that is run blocking. I don’t care if we have to bring in a third tackle, extra tight ends or Tyson Jackson and Dontari Poe to assist the five guys on the offensive line. We need to establish the run and bully our way down the field. We have a fine running back and even though its clever and cute to get him the ball with tricky pass plays, we need him to do most of his damage in the running game. If we do this the passing game will start to see some benefit from play action and having the opponent’s safety cheating up to stop the run. That’s when you see the big gains from the receiver’s run after the catch. It may not be innovative, its certainly not sexy and it isn’t going to revolutionize the league. The two things that it has going for it is that it is simple and effective.
The defense wants to physically outmatch the offensive line and imposes their will upon the opponent. I have no issue with this philosophy until it just doesn’t work. The Chiefs certainly have a special group on the defensive roster. This squad can line up and essentially beat up an offense while also outpacing them with what have been impressive displays of individual stamina. The defense refused to bite when Peyton Manning did his usual presnap song and dance of audibles and hand signals. They honestly did a fair job of holding the Broncos to a score that kept the Chiefs in the game. The impressive thing is that they managed to do this without reaching Manning for a sack and rarely hurried him. The lesson that I take from this is that if they can hold that offense to 27 points at Denver without pressuring Manning, imagine what they can do if they were to start hitting him. There is a formula that has historically worked on Peyton Manning. That is to pressure him up the middle and hit him…hit him a lot. He does not do nearly as well when he starts getting knocked down. I grow tired of hearing about how revered he is as a player and as a statesman for the NFL. He is fair game as long as he is in uniform and playing for my teams opponent. Beat him up and he is beatable. Phillip Rivers is really no different. Neither of them scrambles and they do not like to be in a physical game. They are both talented at avoiding the rush from the outside pass rushers. They have an excellent sense of when to step up in the pocket as the rusher just passes harmlessly behind them. what they do not do well is move laterally when the rush comes from in front of them. It is often overlooked, but Derek Johnson is an excellent pass rusher. I realize that it can be a gamble to send him on a blitz due to how well he tackles and handles the ball carriers. This is the sort of calculated risk that I am talking about when I say that the Chiefs must sell out. Kansas City needs to get away from the risk averse mindset and call plays like an occasional mike or even a safety blitz. I want to see a quarterback walk off the field after a three-and-out and I want to know that somewhere in his mind is a little bit of desperation and thoughts about what the hell could be coming next and how will their offensive line handle it. On Sunday night Peyton Manning looked comfortable. I don’t want to see another comfortable quarterback for the rest of the season. I want to see the team sell out and punish each and every quarterback we face.
The Chiefs special teams has been very solid all season. I’m afraid that very solid may not be quite enough now though. The Chiefs need all of the points that they can get. Field position is going to be a premium for our offense while it struggles and any return touchdowns would be icing on the cake. We need to decide on the best returner and stop rotating them. Believe it or not the return teams actually do run plays. I’d love to see the play calling become more aggressive and really sell out on getting those big returns or blocking kicks and punts. I just want to see the opponents on their heels in all facets of the game which includes all the different special teams plays. Even the threat of a surprise onside kick would make me happy. I don’t like predictability and would love to see the team mix it up a little bit.
I love a lot of things that the Chiefs have shown this year. They’ve proven to be a tough group both mentally and physically. They have shown themselves to be in excellent physical shape and have appeared to be well prepared on game days. The front office and coaching staff have very nearly been right on target with all of their moves as well. There are so many positives that it makes me feel like I’m needlessly picky about these issues that I’ve described. I think that the changes that I suggest are necessary to take the next step though. I’m tired of being the fan that looks forward to next season. I want to see success now and I think that the true Chiefs fans deserve that for once.
Afterthoughts and tidbits:
If you ever get the chance to read an article explaining the percentage of defensive snaps that Dontari Poe plays please take advantage of the chance. The man is 340 lbs+ and played 100% of the 80 defensive snaps at Mile High. He plays at or near that pace for every game. Most nose tackles only play somewhere in the 70-80% range and come off the field on passing downs. He is a physical freak and continues to amaze me.
The Chiefs made what I feel was a strong signing this week when they added Kyle Love to the defensive line. Love has played on some very good Patriots teams including their last Super Bowl squad. He is capable at defensive end and defensive tackle and still young after just turning 27 earlier this week. Love alongside Allen Bailey, provides excellent depth behind starting defensive ends Tyson Jackson and Mike DeVito.
Sanders Commings showed some promise both on defense and special teams. He brings versatility with his combination of size and speed. Its always nice to have fresh legs to add to the mix at this point in the season.
I thought that Knile Davis looked like a professional running back for the first time last Sunday. It would be very helpful to have him as a trusted option for the offense. There are situations where it may be beneficial to have a powerful back at the coaches disposal.
I look forward to watching today’s game and to hearing from you other Chiefs fans soon.