Happy Red Friday to all you Chiefs fans out there! As the weather has gotten colder across the US, the Chiefs have been getting hotter, with 4 straight wins putting them in good shape for a playoff spot. After a tough stretch to open the season, they passed with flying colors and now hold their playoff destiny in their hands going into their matchup with the Seattle Seahawks this weekend. The Seahawks have cooled off from their championship season in 2013, and currently have the same record as the Chiefs. You can read my prediction for the game here (which I wrote back in May and still believe will happen).
In this post, I wanted to focus on something more pertinent to this year’s team: the Chiefs’ ability to finish. Quite simply, this refers to their ability to either uphold a second half lead, or find a way to come back and win games. The 2013 Chiefs were great at holding leads thanks to Jamaal Charles and their formerly great offensive line, but they were unable to come from behind, and had problems protecting leads (especially in the playoff loss to the Colts). This year’s team has shown some instances of being a better finishing team, which I will detail below:
First, the 2014 Chiefs have been excellent at holding a second half lead. Against Miami, the Chiefs held a slim 21-15 lead going into the 4th quarter, but their defense held on as the offense put up two more touchdowns. Against the Chargers, the Chiefs’ defense held the Chargers and their high-powered offense to only 2 field goals in the second half, then watched as Cairos Santos kicked the game-winning field goal with 21 seconds left. Against the Rams, Jets and Bills, the Chiefs’ defense limited those three teams to a combined 3 points in the second half. The Chiefs have not allowed a second half touchdown since their throttling of the Patriots on Monday Night Football, and the scores they allowed that night were in garbage time with the game basically over. The Chiefs are outscoring opponents 119-63 in the second half, which on average is 13 points scored versus 7 points allowed per game. Taking away those garbage time touchdowns that the Patriots scored and that number drops to 5 points allowed per game in the second half. Put in another way, the Chiefs are outscoring their opponents in the second half by 6 points per game. Pretty good for a defense missing numerous starters for multiple games this season (DJ, Eric Berry, Mike DeVito, etc.).
Second, the Chiefs have shown the ability to come from behind and win games. Most notable is the win this past week against Buffalo, when they were down by 10 points heading into the 4th quarter and rallied to win. In their history, the Chiefs have come from behind and won facing a deficit larger than 10 points only 29 times. This was their largest come-from-behind win since 2012 when the Chiefs overcame an 18-point deficit to beat the Saints, and is the largest comeback win for Andy Reid and Alex Smith in their short time with Kansas City. The Chiefs also came from behind to beat the Chargers, who held leads of 7-0, 14-10 and 14-13; and against St. Louis, who briefly held a 7-0 lead. On the other hand, the Chiefs have only blown a lead a few times. They were briefly beating Denver 10-7, and held leads of 10-3, 17-13 and 17-16 against San Francisco.
The Chiefs have been dominant in the second half thanks to their passing defense, which allows the fewest yards per game in the NFL and has the fifth-most sacks (28). They still have not allowed a rushing touchdown (every other team has allowed at least 4). And they have made big plays when needed, such as Ron Parker battling down 3 passes late in the game against Buffalo.
The Chiefs’ ability to maintain their second half dominance has been crucial to their success this season. Since the Chiefs still have to play Seattle, Arizona, Denver, San Diego and Pittsburgh (all potential playoff teams), the Chiefs will need to continue their trend of finishing games by maintaining second half leads and overcoming any deficits.
Let’s be Loud and Proud this Sunday and cheer the Chiefs to victory over the defending NFL champs!