The Kansas City Chiefs will open their 2012 regular season this Sunday, when the Atlanta Falcons, a team with Super Bowl aspirations, visits Arrowhead Stadium. The game will be an early litmus test for a Chiefs team entering the season with high expectations. Romeo Crennel’s squad faces a challenging schedule out of the gate and a win over the favored Falcons will go a long way toward setting the tone for what many hope will be a magical season in the City of Fountains.
The Falcons are going to be tough to take down, but here are five keys to victory for this week’s game.
1. Run Wild
The Kansas City Chiefs have plenty of talented receivers and weapons but their first key to victory in every game this season will be to run the football with success. The return of Jamaal Charles and the addition of Peyton Hillis should make the KC run game formidable. We saw flashes of what this team can do on the ground during the preseason and trust me, we ain’t seen nothing yet.
The Chiefs need to win this game, and if they give the Falcons a heavy dose of Charles and Hillis, they’ll have a darn good shot to come out victorious.
2. Ground the Falcons
If the Chiefs want to win this game then they need to let the Atlanta Falcons run the football with Michael Turner. There is no getting around it: the KC secondary is going to be outmatched against Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. If Tamba Hali was playing and applying pressure I might feel differently but with a banged up Flowers and a rusty Eric Berry, the Chiefs need to play things conservatively in the defensive backfield. Matt Ryan is too good of a QB and he will smoke the Chiefs if given the chance.
No, the Chiefs need to make running the football enticing to Atlanta. They can allow Michael Turner to get his yards. The Falcons will move the football. The Chiefs just need to avoid giving up the big play.
When the Chiefs beat the Packers last year, they sold out to stop the pass. Ryan Grant ran the ball 12 times for 66 yards, good for a 5.5 yards-per-carry average, well above his usual 4.3. Crennel has employed a similar strategy against other pass-happy teams.
Forcing the other team to run when their strength is passing slows down the game an enables Crennel’s D to bend and not break. The Falcons are way more balanced than most pass heavy teams but the Chiefs have enough talent and speed to contain the running game. They just can’t let Jones and White beat them.
If both teams are running the ball, the score should stay low and close and I think that favors the home team.
3. Target the Big Fellas
It is no secret that Matt Cassel often struggles throwing to the outside. The Chiefs now have two very good pass catching tight ends at their disposal in Tony Moeaki and Kevin Boss. Cassel is comfortable and relatively accurate when throwing over the middle. If Daboll can establish the run, he’ll be able to dial up some play action fakes and eat the Falcons alive using his big fellas.
4. Cassel to Hillis
Peyton Hillis is an excellent pass catcher. I anticipate we will see him lining up at full back a lot in this game. There is a reason the Chiefs didn’t keep a true fullback on their roster.
The thing is, Hillis IS a true fullback. He played the position before moving to HB. A Hillis/Charles backfield is a high problem. Either one could realistically get the ball, either one could be a decoy and both could be slipping out on screens in the event of a play fake. Cassel can hand it to Hillis. Fake it to Hillis and give it to Charles. Hillis can lead block. Hillis can be pretending to lead block when in actuality, he is a receiver on the play.
You get the idea. The KC offense is designed to let Cassel dump it off so his weapons can do their thing. Hillis’ ability to catch and run is a big weapon. KC needs to use it.
5. Nobody Likes Rotten Berrys
Everyone is excited to have Eric Berry back but Berry didn’t look like Berry in the preseason. Athletically he looked 100% to me, but mentally it was pretty clear that the year away from football hurt him. The Chiefs need Berry to shake off the rust and get back to work. I think for Eric, that means relaxing and not trying to do too much. If Berry starts pressing, he is going to find himself out of position and the Falcons are going to find themselves in the endzone.
If Berry can play mistake-free football, the results will take care of themselves.
And those results could be a Chiefs victory.
All right, Addicts. Those are my 5 keys to victory. What are yours?