Many Kansas City Chiefs fans subscribe to the idea that games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage. I happen to be one of those fans. And I believe that axiom becomes doubly true when one faces the Baltimore Ravens like the Chiefs do on Sunday at Arrowhead.
To say that the Ravens play physical football is a little bit of an understatement. Smash mouth football is more accurate. Whether it is linebacker Ray Lewis laying a hit on a player, or running back Ray Rice running over a player, power is brought to every aspect of the Ravens game play.
Nowhere does power come into play in the NFL more than in the trenches. The offensive line uses its power to protect the quarterback or open running lanes. The defensive line uses their power to collapse the pocket and corral opposing running backs. It is what occurs at the line of scrimmage that is the first step to either making or destroying a successful offensive play. That’s why the play at the line will either make or break the Chiefs on Sunday.
We’ve been fortunate to have improved line play this year and it shows in the Chiefs’ record. The Chiefs have allowed 13 less sacks this year versus last. Quarterback Matt Cassel has certainly shown his appreciation by improving his passer rating by 27 points from last year.
The improved line play is not restricted to the offensive side of the ball. The improved play has garnered the Chiefs 16 more sacks this season and moved us from 31st in the league versus the rush to 14th. That’s a great improvement considering the only change that’s been made in personnel is the addition of defensive lineman Shaun Smith. Of course I think the best improvement was the addition of Romeo Crennel as Defensive Coordinator.
While the line play has been improved, they have struggled at times. Most obviously against what I consider the most physical team the Chiefs have played this season, the Oakland Raiders. That is what worries me when the Chiefs go to face the Ravens. In their most recent Raiders lost, Cassel was pressured all game and the run game was bottled. Meanwhile, Raiders running back Michael Bush put up 137 yards against the Chiefs. How many would it have been if Darren McFadden had played? If the Raiders can do that then the Ravens should certainly be able to do so.
That’s why the Chiefs need to make sure that they prepare to deal with the power football that they will face when they play the Ravens. How they handle it is up to the coaches and players. What I do know is that our offensive line has to make holes for running back Jamaal Charles and give Matt Cassel time to throw or a loss is in our future. Even though the Ravens defensive weakness lies in defending the pass, I don’t want a hurried Cassel throwing in the general vicinity of the Ravens’ ball-hawking and future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed. That’s just asking for it to be intercepted. It is up to the Chiefs offensive line to make sure Cassel feels comfortable in that pocket.
The defensive line is important as well. The Ravens wide receivers are too talented and experienced to be defended for long. That is why it is integral that the Chiefs pass rush gets pressure on Raven’s quarterback Joe Flacco. By rushing Flacco’s throws it doesn’t give his wide receivers the time to find the holes in the Chiefs’ defense. This is one area where the Ravens are vulnerable. Their offensive line has been hurt by injuries which had them end up 23rd in sacks allowed. If the Chiefs’ defensive line can bottle up Ray Rice and make sure that Chiefs’ linebacker Tamba Hali is facing only one defender then I think the Chiefs have a shot at winning this game.
And that is what it will take if the Chiefs want a chance to win this game. The Chiefs’ lines need to hold fast against the power that the Ravens bring. If they can win that battle, then the Chiefs will have an opportunity and it will be left up to the ball handlers to win the game. (By that I mean the players who carry, throw, and catch the ball. Although, go ahead and insert the obligatory Shaun Smith jokes here.)
What is a must for the war in the trenches to be won is full effort from everyone. I didn’t feel like we, the fans, were getting full effort out of the Chiefs last Sunday. I don’t care what it takes, these are the playoffs now. You give your all or you go home. Anybody not giving their all in this game, in front of a home crowd, should be cut. I mean that. I don’t care who it is. And so my hopes and best wishes go out to the Chiefs as they prepare for war.
Topics: Arrowhead, Baltimore Ravens, Ed Reed, Jamaal Charles, Joe Flacco, Kansas City Chiefs, Matt Cassel, Michael Bush, NFL, Oakland Raiders, Playoffs, Ray Lewis, Ray Rice, Romeo Crennel, Shaun Smith, Tamba Hali