The Chiefs were just two plays away from winning this one. But, it appears they gave up. On the plays, the gam, and the season.
It looks like they quit.
I first noticed the quitters phenomena in college. I was attending Northern Arizona University working on a coaching degree and was naturally involved in intramural team sports. While playing volleyball I noticed that as some teams fell behind by six or more points, they’d give up. Their motivation to do this appeared to be to move on to the next game, a game they hoped they could be competitive in. Since that time I’ve seen this phenomena in almost every sport and almost every level of competition.
Todd Haley said recently that the Chiefs seem to play better when their backs are up against the wall. So, it begs the question, what kind of effort are the Chiefs players giving when their backs are not up against the proverbial wall?
In the case of the Chiefs, I’m not sure if they’re giving up so they can move on to the next game… or if they’re giving up so they can move on to the next season.
It’s not so much that the players have consciously given up as… they’re just not giving their best effort. However, for all practical purposes, there’s no difference.
This phenomena is most observable in the Bills, Lions and Dolphins games when they fell behind. However, this trend can also be seen in the Broncos game.
Two plays stick out from Sunday’s game that exemplify their giving less than their best effort and yes, it cost them the game.
8:48 left in the 1st quarter- Denver’s ball on the Chiefs 30-yard line, 2nd and 7, no score
The Broncos call a running play (surprise) designed to go up the middle between their center and right guard. It is initially blocked well which opens a wide hole for Knowshon Moreno to run through but Derrick Johnson sniffs it out and does a good job of darting to fill the gap and meeting the fullback there.
Moreno takes the hand off and, seeing the hole closing, uses his quick feet to bounce it towards the right sideline. Tyson Jackson is tied up, not held, but kept from breaking free soon enough to get close to Moreno. Next, it’s up to Andy Studebaker to box Moreno in but, Moreno gets to the outside easily and Studebaker’s lunging dive barely touches Moreno.
Moreno breaks into the open field but just as he’s gaining momentum, Brandon Flowers dives at Moreno’s legs and Moreno jumps over Flowers who whiffs and misses him completely. Jovan Belcher appears on the scene after Moreno has run by him and Belcher is not fast enough to keep up. Moreno runs up the sideline for a 24 yard gain before being forced out of bounds by Jon McGraw at the six-yard line. Jon McGraw started the play on the opposite side of the field so he came a long way to make the play. Further than Belcher.
Two plays later the Broncos score a TD on a Tim Tebow run up the middle. Tebow’s run looks like a ball of cookie dough in a pinball machine, barely oozing by the bumpers. Chiefs tacklers looked like they had pinball flipper bats for arms incapable of grabbing and clutching.
Aside from Derrick Johnson, who fulfilled his duties on this play, it appeared as if half of the Chiefs defense blew it. Tyson Jackson didn’t set the edge or force Moreno back up the middle… and he didn’t tackle him either. Andy Studebaker got suckered inside and could hardly lay a hand on Moreno. Studebaker’s lateral agility is below average, and it shows on this play. The usually dependable Brandon Flowers played a bad game and his attempt to tackle Moreno was poor. Moreno is not an Olympic high jumper but Flowers made him look like one. Belcher was so late on the play that he was a total non-factor. You could nickname him the X-Factor. Belcher eventually landed on top of everyone after the tackle was made. While I appreciate Jon McGraw tackling Moreno and pushing him out of bounds I couldn’t help but think about what a healthy Eric Berry would have been capable of doing on that play, much closer to the line of scrimmage.
Jackson, Studebaker, Belcher and Flowers all looked like they were giving less than their best effort. What’s the antonym of inspiring?
Since this play was a 2nd and 7, had the Chiefs held the Broncos on that down, then the crowd would have been given the chance to make some noise as they often do on 3rd downs and perhaps even force Tim Tebow to make a play using his arm. Getting the crowd involved early would have been a big help.
On this day, it wasn’t to be. Did the Chiefs give up on that play? Did the Chiefs give up after that? We can’t say for sure but there seems to be a pattern. If the Chiefs fall behind… a little bit, it can become… a lot, very quickly.
6:52 left in the 4th quarter- Denver’s ball on their own 43 yard line, 3rd and 10, Broncos up 10-7
The Chiefs kept themselves in this game and with 6:52 left in the 4th quarter they are one 3rd down stop away from getting the ball back and driving down the field to tie the game or take the lead. Tebow is in the shotgun and prior to the snap Brandon Flowers is turned toward Brandon Carr calling out directions.
Denver wide-out Eric Decker is lined up to the right side but, fairly tight to the line of scrimmage. Flowers is five yards off the line and back pedals ahead of Decker as he comes off the ball. The Chiefs rush four including Justin Houston from the left side. The Broncos keep extra players back for protection but don’t really need it as Tebow is never pressured. Not just on this play… but the whole game. The Chiefs have extra linebackers who could blitz but it’s not called on this play and Decker runs an out-and-up pattern and uses his speed to get separation. Tebow takes three steps back, looks to his left for a second then unleashes a long pass down the right side line outside of the numbers and for the first time in this life, his pass doesn’t look like a punt.
At the moment that the ball is going to be released the Chiefs have no one closer than three yards to Tebow. Houston is the closest but someone comes over to help double team him at the last second. Amon Gordon puts his hand in the air but there’s no way he could block this high arching pass that goes from the Broncos 35 to the Chiefs 18, covering 47 yards in the air. Glenn Dorsey and Tamba Hali are nowhere near Tim Tebow when the ball is released.
As the ball approaches Eric Decker, he has clearly beaten Brandon Flowers by two to three yards. Reshard Langford comes over to help but he’s too late too. Flowers appears to give up on the play before, and then again after the ball is caught. No one touches Decker and the ball lands right in his hands without him breaking stride. Touchdown Broncos. Flowers may have thought he had help deep from Langford and that he was going to pass Decker off to Langford at some point in Decker’s route but Flowers clearly had no one else to cover and no run responsibility. Consequently, Flowers allowing Decker to run by him is inexplicable. Flowers giving up on the play is even more pronounced when you watch the play on tape. Once Decker catches the ball, Flowers clearly stops running down the field… completely. It reminds me of baseball players who don’t run out their ground outs or pop ups.
With the Broncos now ahead 17-7, at that point, the Chiefs had only mounted 1 TD drive all day so, when the Chiefs were faced with having to mount two scoring drives in the last 6 minutes of the game, it just wasn’t going to happen. And it didn’t. Cassel gets hurt. Palko drives for three. We all walk to our cars.
Should Brandon Flowers be given a free pass (no pun intended) on this one, because he’d been forced to “play the run” the whole game? No. The Broncos had already attempted to go long in this game, and he should have known that this is exactly what they’d be doing again. Besides that, it’s his job. Plus, if he’d played bump and run at the line of scrimmage on this play, the play would have gone differently. This is the same Brandon Flowers who played Vincent Jackson so brilliantly just two weeks previously.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda. The point being, Brandon Flowers didn’t give his best effort on that play. He gave up in the middle of the play. And, it cost the Chiefs the winning touchdown.
And the game.
And probably the season.
We can only hope it didn’t cost them their coach.
Maybe the Chiefs could start their own Quitters Anonymous group.
Let’s start this Q/A meeting by going around the circle and introducing ourselves. Who’ll begin? “Hello, my name is Brandon, and I’m a quitter.”