Since December 22 of last year, the Chiefs have lost 5 straight games, including the playoff game against Indianapolis. Looking even further back to the BYE week (November 10), the Chiefs have lost 7 of their past 9 regular season games. After starting the 2013 season 9-0, these numbers are disheartening for Chiefs fans.
So how can the Chiefs end their losing ways and beat the Dolphins this week? Below are a few ways, and hopefully the Chiefs will get their first win of 2014:
First, control the line. On defense, this means getting after Miami QB Ryan Tannehill and disrupting his timing. This will be former Chief Branden Albert’s first game against KC, and he will have his hands full since Justin Houston and Tamba Hali are healthy. The Chiefs have 5 sacks so far this season and will hopefully increase that total on Sunday. The Dolphins lost starting running back Knowshon Moreno to a dislocated elbow last week, which is good news for Chiefs fans as he has had some decent games against KC while playing for the Broncos. The Dolphins brought back Daniel Miller (who they cut back in August) to replace Moreno.
On offense, controlling the line means that Knile Davis must step up (again) as Jamaal Charles has been listed as questionable to play this week after suffering a high ankle sprain last week (and rookie RB De’Anthony Thomas will not be playing). Against the Broncos last Sunday, the Chiefs offensive line looked much better than in Week 1 against the Titans, in part because they had to change their game plan after Charles left early in the game. Rather than rely on screen passes and Charles’ speed, the Chiefs moved to more of a power running game, with Davis running vertical routes. Assuming Charles doesn’t play or is limited in action, the Chiefs will need to employ more of that. Also, the Chiefs will need Davis to assist in the blocking game. Alex Smith has been sacked 6 times so far this season, and has thrown 3 interceptions. Smith is normally a smart QB who knows when to run to get yards and when to throw the ball away, but the Chiefs’ inexperienced O-Line can use all the help it can get to protect Smith. The Chiefs have allowed 32 QB pressures, most in the NFL, and asking Davis to help block will be crucial to their success.
In addition, controlling the line will help the Chiefs control the game clock, which they did fabulously against Denver, allowing them to hold the ball for 36 minutes and giving them a chance to stay close. The Dolphins do not pose the same threat that Denver does, but controlling the clock will keep the Chiefs’ shaky secondary off the field.
Second, forcing turnovers will help the Chiefs get their first win of the season. The Chiefs have forced ZERO turnovers after 2 games. Last season, they had a turnover differential of +4 after two games (they currently are at -3), and forcing turnovers was a huge reason for their success in 2013. Ryan Tannehill has thrown 3 interceptions so far this season, and the Chiefs defensive line will need to get in his face and force him into bad throws, especially since Eric Berry will not be playing.
Third, the kicking game needs to improve. Cairos Santos is 2 for 4 on field goals but has looked shaky, with one of his makes bouncing in off the uprights. I still have faith in him and expect him to improve as the season goes on.
Finally, the Chiefs need to earn their money, by which I mean several players have signed contract extensions in recent seasons (Dwayne Bowe, Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles, Tamba Hali) but are not producing at the levels they were before signing their extensions. Bowe had 3 catches for 40 yards against the Broncos but those numbers are too low for a #1 WR. Smith has three interceptions after only throwing 7 all of last season, and he has only thrown one touchdown pass so far in 2014. Charles has only 23 rushing and 5 receiving yards before his injury against the Broncos. And Hali has one sack but has not been much of a presence yet. Those 4 need to step it up this week and prove their worth.
This game looks like a decent match up for the Chiefs and I am excited to see how they play in South Beach. Go Chiefs!