While listening to 810 Radio this morning on my way into work, I heard an intriguing stat. Teams that have faced the Oakland Raiders this season have gone 2-9 the following week. More about that and the most recent qualifier in that category a little later.
Speaking of recent qualifiers, I’d say last Sunday’s victory over the Broncos probably met the “tough to watch, but we’ll take the win” criteria. San Diego’s unexpected loss also helped inch the Chiefs a little closer to qualifying for the post season – not a bad day any way you look at it. My feelings about how the Chiefs performed against the Broncos are actually fairly positive. While there were mistakes and missed opportunities, I firmly believe the Chiefs did exactly what they needed to do – play their game. Specifically, as long as they could shut down Kyle Orton and Denver’s passing attack, nothing else really mattered. Ugly execution perhaps, but undeniably effective.
Ready for this week’s DVOA stats? Let’s see if the Denver game tells us anything new about what kind of team the Chiefs are as they head into San Diego for a divisional showdown, right after the jump.
If you’d like to learn more about DVOA analysis, just link to Football Outsiders for a thorough rundown on their methodology and for complete coverage of all 32 NFL teams. Great site.
Other stats of interest:
To be honest, there is not a lot of new information here. In a manner of speaking, the Chiefs are pretty much the same team that they have been for the past few weeks but if I had to call it one way or the other, I would probably say that the Chiefs are becoming a better team in some pretty important ways. Moreover, there’s a lot to be said for consistency, especially when it results in wins. Still, I think there are some things going on here that are worth noting.
First off, the Chiefs seem to be showing signs that they are getting the defense turned around, perhaps most notably with the front seven’s ability to disrupt the pass. At the same time, in order to do that, they apparently need to sacrifice some of their ability to deny the run. What this perhaps suggests is that right now the Chiefs defensive line must either sell out to the pass or sell out to the run, that they lack the ability to play both with consistent levels of effectiveness.
Ideally, we want to see our team excel in both phases of defense, but it is important to keep this all in perspective. Very few NFL offenses excel in both phases of the game and so possessing the ability to tailor your defense to play well in either one phase or the other, week-to-week, in a manner dictated by your opponent’s offensive strengths and weaknesses, should put you in a position to at least compete and is by no means the end of the world. Not saying improvement is irrelevant or unnecessary. I’m just saying.
Secondly, we now own the best offensive line in the NFL when it comes to run blocking. It is good to see that our pass blocking is also upper tier. To this I say, play to your strengths. Attack, attack, attack with the run and then attack some more with the pass. I think if we can just get a couple more guys involved (I’m looking at you Dexter and Verran), we just might have the makings of an offensive juggernaut. And not a second too soon I might add.
This week’s matchup:
When you dig into it, you find that the Charger offense is built very similar to the Bronco offense that we just faced. Namely, strong in the pass, average to marginal with the run. San Diego’s defense is considerably better than Denver’s though and honestly a lot better than Kansas City’s defense as well. Keep in mind however that San Diego’s defense is primarily one that is designed to take away the pass and forces you to beat them with the run.
When viewed from this perspective, the results of that first Monday Night matchup makes considerable sense. In fact, Oakland’s method of victory last Sunday also makes considerable sense. Put simply, the formula for success against the Chargers appears to come from playing hard-nosed, physical football, keeping mistakes to a minimum, and running the ball.
It seems to me that we must defend them in about the same way that we did Denver except do a far better job of getting to Rivers than we did with Orton. Against the run, we definitely need to tighten up but probably need to accept that success can still be found by adopting a bend but don’t break philosophy as far as stopping the run is concerned. San Diego’s biggest area of exposure however lies with their special teams and poor performance in that department has accounted for multiple Charger losses this season. The Chiefs special teams must be ready to step up and capitalize if/when those opportunities present themselves.
I also believe a big part of this game will be decided in the trenches. KC’s OL ranks 1st in run blocking against SD’s 16th ranked defensive front. KC’s OL ranks 9th in pass protection and will face the 2nd best defensive front at disrupting the pass. On the flip side, SD’s OL ranks 12th in run blocking while KC’s defensive front ranks 22nd. SD’s OL ranks 17th in pass protection while KC’s defensive front ranks 23rd in disrupting the pass. Do the math and you realize that the Chiefs should, on offense, focus on running the ball, and on the other side of the ball, respect the run, but mostly defend against the pass. Sound familiar?
I’ll close by returning to the stat I mentioned in my opening paragraph. Teams that have faced the Raiders this season, have ended up 2-9 the following week. My gut tells me the reason for this is because Oakland plays a very physical brand of football and leaves opponents bruised and battered in their wake. For this reason, I believe the Chiefs must fly at the Chargers with another hard, physical game and do it right out of the gate. Through this approach, I believe they will send an Arrow straight into the fatigued hearts of the Chargers and walk away as division winners as the California sun sets over the Pacific.
Sunny San Diego, the place where Charger “fans” are apt to justify their lack of team support on the basis that the sun and surf offer too many other worthy distractions to bother investing much time, money, or emotion into their local NFL franchise. As the sun sets in San Diego following their loss to Kansas City, I will think to myself, how fitting.