The Kansas City Chiefs look to star in their very own David and Goliath story this Monday Night when they travel to New England to take on the heavily, heavily favored Patriots.
The Chiefs will pretty much have to play a perfect football game while hoping the Patriots have one of their worst games of the season. That might be a pessimistic view but considering the Chiefs are coming off back to back home losses to the Dolphins and Broncos and are going into this game with Tyler Palko as their starting QB, I’ve not been given a lot of reason for optimism.
Still, this is the NFL and the difference between really bad teams and really good teams can close quite quickly in certain circumstanced.
Here are five KC players who will need to be on top of their game if their team hopes to compete with the explosive Patriots.
He isn’t a player but what Todd Haley does this week will be just as important a factor in the Chiefs having a shot to win as what the players do on the field.
The Kansas City offense has been struggling mightily, despite having weapons in the passing game and a fairly productive back in Jackie Battle. The offensive-minded Haley had better be pulling out something special for this game because there isn’t a chance in hell his offense will suddenly wake up under the direction of Tyler Palko.
Haley told reporters this week that he doesn’t foresee major offensive changes this week with Palko under center instead of Cassel. In fact, both Haley and Patriots coach Bill Belichick have said this week that they don’t expect KC to run a much different offense on Monday night.
Hopefully Haley isn’t being entirely honest. There isn’t time to develop an entirely new offense for Palko but there should definitely be a change in philosophy moving from Cassel to Palko. Regardless of how similar their drop backs are, the fact that Palko is left handed is not the only difference between these two QB’s.
More importantly, what the Chiefs were doing with Cassel wasn’t working. I doubt it will work with Palko.
A change, even if it is subtle, could make a big impact on the KC offense as the Patriots will have to adjust in game. The Chiefs would be foolish to trot the same old dog and pony show into Gillette Stadium Monday Night.
How the Chiefs approach this game is entirely up to Haley. Hopefully he comes up with something more imaginative than run with Jones for a loss, poorly designed screen for an incompletion, draw for not enough yards with McCluster, punt. If he doesn’t, it could be a long and embarrassing night for the Chiefs.
Battle has been the only consistent runner the Chiefs have had all season. Yet Todd Haley continues to give the ball to Dexter McCluster and Thomas Jones.
To be fair, McCluster is averaging the same yards per-carry as Battle at 4.6. Despite that, I think most would agree that McCluster is getting the ball way too much. A lot of his yards have come on draw plays on third and long when the defense was hanging back. In fact, Battle has three runs of 20 yards or more while McCluster only has two.
For some strange reason, the Chiefs never seem to let Battle get into a rhythm. Take last week for example. Battle got the first touch from scrimmage and gained five yards. On the very next play, the Chiefs yanked Battle and brought in Jones for a loss of two yards, putting themselves in a third and long situation instead of a third and short or third and medium. What was the point of bringing in Jones for the second play of the game? Was Battle gassed after that long five yard run? Part of KC’s problem this season is that they never seem to get a flow going on offense. Perhaps if they stopped yanking productive players for unproductive players on a snap by snap basis, that would change.
If the Chiefs are going to run the ball with Battle then need to commit to giving him enough carries to get something going. Battle seems to be one of those runners that gets stronger as the game goes on. He wears down defense with a punishing running style and eventually starts pushing that pile farther and farther. He may not make as many guys miss as McCluster but he also won’t get tackled with one arm. The fact of the matter is, McCluster does a lot of dancing and doesn’t get very far and he fumbles too much.
If the Chiefs want to stay in this game, they need to free Battle and see what he can do. Enough with the musical running backs.
If the Chiefs play well in this game, Javier Arenas very well could be the difference maker. Arenas is a weapon. The Chiefs will need him to be on the field more often than usual in his nickel CB roll. He’ll need to play well there to help the defense handle New England’s multiple WR sets. Arenas is also extremely valuable as a pass rusher. He does a nice job of rushing the passer on corner blitzes. The Chiefs need all the help they can get in the pass rush department so sending Arenas after Brady during a few well chosen blitzes could pay big dividends. Lastly, Arenas does a very nice job in the return game. He still has yet to break one in his career but he’s come close. Monday would be a great time for his first TD.
The ball hawking free safety has really begun to shine in his second season. Lewis is not the strongest in run support and needs to improve his tackling technique but when the ball is in the air, he demonstrates great instincts and awareness. The Pats figure to put the ball in the air deep a few times. Most of those throws will likely be away from Lewis, but if Brady does try to test him, Kendrick needs to make him pay by coming up with a pick.
Bowe has cooled in recent weeks but the Chiefs really need him to step up this week against what has been a soft Patriots secondary.
Bowe also has a chance to prove that his inconsistencies had more to do with the guy throwing him the ball than anything else. Unfortunately for Bowe, the new signal caller could be more inconsistent than the last one.
Alright, Addicts. Those are the five players I will be watching. Who will you be keeping an eye on Monday night?