Sunday’s Game Will Answer The Chiefs’ Biggest Question

Can the Chiefs score points?

Of all their successes over the last three years, the one thing the Chiefs have never been is a scoring machine. Last year, the injury-riddled Chiefs were 31st in the league for scoring with a miserable 13.2 points per game, which was actually a worse performance than the team’s 4-12 season in 2009. Believe it or not, the Chiefs’ total point differential in that failed campaign was only slightly worse than last season at -130 vs. -126.

Even when the Chiefs were healthy and on fire in 2010 they weren’t exactly blowing teams away. Our point differential was just +40, meaning we were scoring just 2.5 more points per game than our collective opponents. It is no secret that this needs to change.

Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

Overall, the Chiefs are built to control the ball and play stout defense. But, again, we haven’t done the best job of that: last year the Chiefs averaged 310.9 yards per game while allowing 333.3. During the triumphant 2010 season, this indicator wasn’t radically different at 349.7 to 330.2 – gaining 20 more yards than your opponent does not a domination make.

Still, the Chiefs have found success in the recipe of playing everyone close, controlling the ball and wearing down opposing defenses to eventual 4th-quarter victories. In short, get a little bit ahead and hold on for dear life. But, the other issue with the Chiefs possession-based style is that the Chiefs absolutely must score at the end of their long drives. This recipe can work if the Chiefs are able to play offense efficiently enough to rack up points while chewing up clock and have a defense that is consistent enough to thwart opposing offenses in doing the same. As long as the Chiefs are leaving points on the field with stalled drives, red zone inefficiency and turnovers, the team has to rely on the opponent being just as ineffective.

Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

Last year, the Chiefs were dead last in red zone efficiency at 33.33 percent. Given that statistic and the fact that the Chiefs had a -126 point differential, it is truly miraculous that this team won 7 games.

The good news is that the Chiefs are now finally built to be the kind of team that they’ve been trying to be. Jamaal Charles is clearly the most dynamic player on offense, but he’s a boom-and-bust runner. He’ll gain 25, then get stuffed in the backfield. Then he’ll get you 6 yards only to get stuck for two consecutive 1.5-yard gains. He’ll give you magic, but he won’t always keep the ball moving. That’s why Peyton Hillis is such an important addition. His power allows him to be a much more consistent 1st-down runner. The development of Dexter McCluster as a reliable slot receiver provides another move-the-chains weapon to keep the ball in Kansas City hands.

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

But, they still need to put it in the end zone.

In the preseason, the Chiefs looked good running the ball and have been overall effective moving down field. But, they still haven’t shown the ability to keep up in scoring. And, when experimenting with throwing the ball heavily against the Seahawks, they showed that they will have a hard time catching up in games if they get behind by more than one touchdown.

Therefore, Atlanta is going to be the perfect test for whether the Chiefs can put points on the board. Not only do the Falcons have two good receivers that are constant downfield threats, but the Chiefs are likely to be without their pass defense players. It’s looking like CB Brandon Flowers and S Kendrick Lewis will be out with injuries and Tamba Hali will be serving his one-game suspension.

Honestly, I think the Chiefs should hold out Lewis and Flowers – it is absolutely not worth it for them to aggravate their injuries to a point where they could potentially be lost for extended time. But, without them, the onus is going to be on the offense to keep up with Atlanta’s deadly air attack.

This matchup will tell us a lot about the 2012 Chiefs. It’s a test.

Let the games begin.

Topics: Ball Control, Defense, Dexter McCluster, Game Plan, Matt Cassel, Offense, Passing Game, Peyton Hillis, Possession, Slot Receiver, Strategy

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  • Danny W

    Good write up NAC.
    Do you have any predictions on how we will do against the Falcons?

    • NicholasAlanClayton

      Thanks. I have a bad feeling about this one. Overall, I think the Chiefs are going to be more successful than the Falcons this year, but that’s not what is going to determine who wins this game. Games are decided by decisive matchups and this game is going to be all about Atlanta’s pass offense against our pass defense, and I think they will win that one if we are without Flowers, Lewis, Hali and possibly DJ. On the other hand, I look forward to seeing our offense in action, and honestly, if they put 28 points on the board and we still lose this game I’ll be satisfied, because at least they will have shown that they are able to get into the endzone. They’ll be getting their defensive stars back soon, and if that’s the only reason they lose this game then it’s nothing to worry about going forward.

      • Danny W

        If we score 28 win or lose I’ll be pumped myself. That said I do think we lose this one probably by two scores. I hope we come out and rock the place and win but you’re right the match ups just aren’t there.

        • NicholasAlanClayton

          We were pretty close in our guesses. Satisfied?

          • Danny W

            Am I satisfied in being right? No, I’m really not. My ego doesn’t require that kind of told you so mentality or anything.
            Am I satisfied about how the Chiefs kept up in the first half? Well kind of. I thought Cassel was surprising in the first half and I liked that a lot. I am confused on why we couldn’t even look at Baldwin once thats for sure. I am also confused on some of the defensive thinking. Sheffield or Jones may have been able to get there if Studebaker couldn’t, Eric Berry was shadowing the running back on several plays, while we were getting roasted by Jones on his side, and on a third and long play he rushed three once and they got a moment shift type first down. When the shots would pan out you could see our safeties at least thirty yards down the field.
            When it’s mid third quarter and you still haven’t made them punt yet it’s time to pin your ears back and hit Ryan. If I’m the coach and they’re throwing all over my defensive backs I would risk blitzing a whole lot by then because what do you have to lose. I would like to see them lose a little more aggressively than rushing three and putting the safeties in prevent.
            Are you satisfied?

  • Calchiefsfan

    Nice article Nick and I agree 100%. I believe that we will need to score 35 points to win this game. I just don’t see how our D will be able to contain the Falcons if we are without Hali and Flowers. Their new OC has said he wants to throw the ball down field more and with Jones and White, Ryan should be able to do just that.
    I like what Daboll has done but it was pretty clear in the Seattle game that Cassel and his receivers don’t have their timing down yet, (except for McCluster). Let’s hope that Bowe and Cassel continue the chemistry they’ve developed over the last 3 years. It looks like our running game is going to be quite possibly the best in the NFL.
    I think by the end of the season KC could be one of the best teams in the NFL. With a new OC and young NT’s it will take us half a season or so to get clicking on all cylinders.
    My feeling is if we can go 4-4 the first half we can finish 10-6, (beating Denver twice), and win the AFC West, imho.

  • http://www.facebook.com/OregonTrailMan Mark Bellware

    Nice job, a whole lot is the Flowers Berry Punch in the mouth. DJ can turn a game inside out. Now… that leaves Matt Cassel, lets hope he is not a hassle to our defense who has its bona fides intact. May our run game keep them fresh, and hungry!

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