The 0-3 start to begin the 2011 Kansas City Chiefs season has got to be one of the worst in franchise history. While the Chiefs were not expected to be 10-6 again in 2011, they were expected to compete in the AFC West.
Injuries have contributed to the 0-3 start as Kansas City has been hit hard by the injury bug in 2011. The Chiefs have lost tight end Tony Moeaki, Pro-Bowl safety Eric Berry and Pro-Bowl running back Jamaal Charles to season-ending injuries. First-round draft pick Jonathan Baldwin has not played all year because he broke his hand this preseason in a locker-room fight with veteran running back Thomas Jones.
While losing three, young, up-and-coming players to injury will put any team in a hole, these injuries have not been the main reason for the Chiefs start in 2011. I will address the true reasons for this awful start after the jump.
Both sides of the ball have contributed to the Chiefs 0-3 start. Offensively, the complete lack of a passing attack beyond 10 yards has kept the Chiefs off schedule and led to a lot of third downs. The Chiefs have been among the worst in the NFL in converting third downs. Defensively, there has been absolutely no pressure placed on opposing teams quarterbacks.
Dwayne Bowe has been and continues to be the Chiefs’ only threat at the receiver position. Baldwin and free agent acquisition Steve Breaston have struggled to become part of the offense. Baldwin has not played at all due to his previously discussed injury, and Breaston only has six catches for 88 yards through the first three weeks of the season.
Having Bowe as the only legitimate wide receiver option has led the Chiefs to average a measly 7.9 yards per reception. YES – that average ranks dead last in the NFL. To put that into perspective in 2010 the Chiefs were ranked 16th in the NFL with a 11.6 yards per reception average.
In the first half of last week’s loss to San Diego, the Chiefs didn’t even try to throw the ball deep. Matt Cassel completed a high percentage of his passes, but the longest play was for four yards. You cannot move the chains when you can’t get more than four yards a play.
Hopefully the Chiefs will get Baldwin back soon and eventually start making Breaston a bigger part of the offense. If Baldwin and Breaston have success, it will limit the amount of double and triple teams that Bowe sees. This would open the field up for Cassel and the Chiefs offense.
The lack of passing attack is not the only problem for the Chiefs offense. The Chiefs have been absolutely atrocious on third down this year. The Chiefs are only converting 27.7% of their third down opportunities.
The most frustrating thing for me as a Chiefs fans is when its 3rd-and-long and Cassel throw a five-yard pass. I understand that you’re not always going to have time to throw the ball where you want to, but there are times (more times than not) when Cassel isn’t even rushed and he still throws a five-or-six-yard pass when the team needs much more than that to convert.
It almost appears that the plays that Muir, Haley, Zorn (or whoever it may be) are calling aren’t even designed for deeper routes. It appears that they want to dink and duck for five yards and hope someone misses the tackle in order to get the first down.
This tells me the coaches either don’t believe the offensive line can protect Cassel long enough to throw the ball downfield or Cassel just doesn’t have the ability to do it. Based on how Cassel played last year I would tend to believe that the offensive line is the main concern here.
The problem with going three-and-out all the time is that it never gives the defense a chance to take a breather and rejuvenate. The Chiefs’ average time of possession this year is 25 minutes compared to opponents’ 35 minutes, which is 31st in the NFL. A lot of the blame for this has to fall on the Chiefs’ lack of ability to convert on third downs.
The offense is not the only culprit to the Chiefs’ awful start. Defensively the Chiefs have been allowing too many yards and points. Most of that is due to the fact that the Chiefs have outright struggled to put pressure on the quarterback this season.
In 2010, Tamba Hali and Wallace Gilberry were able to successfully put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and helped lead the Chiefs to 39 sacks. That total was good for 10th in the NFL last season.
This year, Hali and Gilberry have combined for a total of three sacks. Worse yet, those two are the only Chiefs who have a sack this year. The three sacks the Chiefs defense has ranks them at 30th in the NFL.
In my eyes, the principal reason for the lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks is the Chiefs’ lack of a defensive line. Glenn Dorsey, free agent acquisition Kelly Gregg and Tyson Jackson haven’t done anything this year. The three defensive linemen have combined for a total of one tackle for loss.
A few more losses, and I think it is time for Romeo Crennel to let rookies Allen Bailey and Jerrell Powe have a chance to play. The Chiefs need these two rookies to receive playing time and step up because I’ve basically given up on Jackson and Gregg having any impact on this team.
There is good news for this weekend though. The Chiefs face an 0-3 Minnesota Vikings team that has been unable to maintain any type of lead this season. Hopefully Cassel and Bowe can get in a rhythm early and allow the Chiefs to open up the play book a little more this week. Donovan McNabb is definitely not the quarterback he once was and has struggled so far this year. Hopefully Hali and Gilbery run free in the Minnesota backfield and double the season sack total.
I am taking Chiefs 17-14 in an ugly game over Minnesota. What say you Chiefs Nation?