So, last week, I said that game against the Bills was a must-win and we lost it. Not to repeat myself, but this really is a must-win. After this, we visit San Diego, which, minus some lingering special teams flubs, are looking in rare form. If we don’t turn this around now, we’re going to end up 0-3 and we may never get a handle on the thing again.
Which brings us to this game, one in which the Chiefs are considered major dogs. The Lions are good, but not invincible. After watching their Week 1 game against the Bucs, I have some ideas for how to hit them where it hurts after the jump:
1. Forget About Last Week. They need to just forget that debacle ever happened and move on to this game as if they’re still the AFC West champs. I have a feeling this is something the Chiefs are already doing, in fact, I think I can smell the game tape burning from all the way over here in Eastern Europe. While they’re at it, if they could just go ahead and erase my memory of those three hours, that’d be great.
2. Play Like They Have Something to Prove. Now, this may be directly contradictory to my last point, but hear me out. Right now, the Lions are everyone’s hot team that they think will blaze their way to the postseason in glorious fashion. They’re the turn-around team that the Chiefs were last year. Meanwhile, after Week 1, everyone’s already written off KC. In the ESPN Football Today Podcast, wherein I represent Chiefs Nation as the appointed Chiefs Superfan, KC was ranked 31st in the power rankings. You hear that? Second to worst. Just below the Panthers. I can only hope that this young Lions team is letting this get to their heads and are overlooking the Chiefs the way we overlooked the Bills last week. One way or the other, we need to come back with the attitude that we are going to set things right. Champs don’t lose to the Bills and the Lions back-to-back.
3. Stop Crush the Run. Everyone knows that especially after losing Mikell LeShoure for the season, Detroit’s run game is suspect. Javid Best is electric, but he’s not a workhorse. Still, despite all the talk about how prolific a passer Matthew Stafford is, they still lean on the run quite a lot as the young QB learns how to lead. The middle of their O-line looks like it can be exploited. Kelly Gregg, time to show us you’re not a has-been. If we can eliminate the run-game it helps us in two ways: it puts more pressure on their young QB, who still makes mistakes, and it keeps us in the competition. We cannot allow them to chew up the clock on us like all three of our last opponents have done to humiliating efficacy.
4. Time to Step Up, Linebackers. The Lions have a great young tight end in Pettigrew and they are very effective in getting good gains out of screens to Best. Our linebackers need to be disciplined and ready, not biting on play action, and playing smart. Justin Houston/Cameron Sheffield, if you’re going to make a case for getting the starting job, now’s your time.
5. Make Something Happen on Special Teams. The Lions allowed some big returns in their game against the Bucs. I think our talented stable of returners should put us in good field position throughout the game if we can hold on to the ball (I’m looking at you Dexter McCluster, actually I’m not looking at you, but I’m thinking at you).
6. Run It Up the Middle. I know Charles really excels at bouncing runs outside, but the Lions’ OLB’s are crazy fast. They swarm to the ball and smothered every Tampa Bay attempt at a screen pass. I think if we can get the zone blocking going and can spread those monster Detroit D-linemen apart and make holes, speedy McCluster and Charles should be able to zip through for good gains straight up the gut. Again, we don’t need homeruns, we need to keep the ball in our possession and keep ourselves moving downfield.
7. THROW. IT. AWAY. MATT. CASSEL. Because they will come at you, bro.
8. Get Going Early. It’s become abundantly clear that until Baldwin stops breaking himself and gets in the game or Steve Breaston produces something justifying the contract we’re paying him, that we are going to be dependent on the run as our bread and butter. Nothing new. But, we can’t do that if we’re behind. Jamaal Charles averaged 5.6 yards per carry against Buffalo, but it didn’t matter since we were so far behind. Give him the rock early and often, and lets see how tough vaunted Lion’s front seven really is.
9. Play Like Veterans. I suppose I could write after last week, “Play Like Professionals,” since the Chiefs didn’t look like they deserved to be anywhere near a football field Week 1. But, the fact is that we have a fair amount of guys who are at least a few seasons into their careers and they’ve had a taste of success. Detroit has had very little experience winning, and some of their key players are still very green. Even Matthew Stafford — even though it is his third year in the league — because of injuries, this will only be his 15th start at QB in the NFL. Both he and his receivers made mistakes in the first half against the Bucs. It appears that Stafford still has some rookie mistakes up his sleeve, and the Brandons are just the guys to take advantage of them should they arrive.
10. Get Creative. I don’t want to advocate the use or consumption of illegal substances, but honestly Haley and Muir, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. The playcalling last week was predictable to say the least and totally uninspired. I thought the Chiefs’ offence was actually far more inventive – especially in the ways that it used Dexter – in the preseason than in that first game against the Bills. Whatever Haley was smoking all summer, he needs to go back to it. And, I know what some of you are going to say, it reflects poorly on the club, etc. I get it. But really, Haley is so haggard most of the time, if he didn’t have an endless supply of free, clean Chiefsware, he’d be booted from most stadiums as a hobo.
So that’s the best advice I can give at the moment. Let’s hope that it is heeded, and that Chiefs come ready to win. Otherwise, my head might literally explode.