Well-rounded. That was supposed to be the perfect description of the Chiefs. The offense could throw deep to Dwayne Bowe, quick release to Dexter McCluster, pound it up the middle with Peyton Hillis, and sprint around end with Jamaal Charles. The defense was designed to hit quarterbacks hard with its outside linebackers, lock down on receivers with Brandon Flowers and Stanford Routt, stuff anything up the middle with Derrick Johnson, and cover any gaps with Eric Berry. And while the offense has enough weapons to compensate for injuries (or suspensions), it’s apparent the defense doesn’t. When backup pieces are plugged in, this well-rounded battleship begins leaking like a sieve. And after the first 15 minutes it was obvious to anyone watching that the deep ball is where some major spot welding is needed. Immediately. The secondary has become my primary concern.
Up 34-17 with 60 seconds left in the 3rd quarter, I remarked, “damn – they’re still throwing.” At this stage in the game, there was no thought given to running down the clock a bit. Atlanta still respected Kansas City’s offense enough to pursue the strategy most likely to score points, regardless of the time implications. That was slinging the ball downfield. With 10:44 left in the 4th quarter, the Falcons kicked a field goal to go up 40-17. At this point they had attempted 31 passes with 18 rushes. Factor in that three runs were QB scrambles, and the ratio becomes 34 called passes to 15 runs. The Falcons had good running backs, but zero respect for Kansas City’s coverage units. Additionally, the Falcons have a shifty beast in Jacquizz Rodgers; yet when they did run, it was almost completely between the tackles with the bigger Michael Turner. Assuming the Falcons did their due diligence in scouting, the coaching staff thought they could exploit Dontari Poe but not the outside linebackers. This proved incorrect, as they were held to 3.7 yards/rush. This drops to just under 3 yards/rush once you discount QB scrambles. That’s some good to complement the bad and ugly.
Derrick Johnson and Jacques Reeves were burned the most on throws. I don’t worry about DJ’s poor performance in coverage. Although Antonio Gates may give him a couple fits, he should only get faster through the season as the ankle sprain heals. I’ve been down on the depth in the secondary all summer, and Reeves did nothing to assuage these concerns. ESPN reported last week that Flowers looked ready to play in the opener, and I’m betting on his return this Sunday. Crennel isn’t releasing any information on Kendrick Lewis, and I’m not getting my hopes up for his return. However, with Tamba Hali creating pressure in the backfield and Flowers (hopefully) providing the coverage Reeves obviously couldn’t, a rematch with the Falcons would not result in the same outcome.
So where does that leave the team going forward? Minus the season opener last year, the Bills were the Chiefs of the East – a potential playoff team whose overwhelming injury situation (in their case, particularly the offensive line) paved the way to a losing season. Similar to the Chiefs, the Bills have already been hit with injuries again. Primary running back Fred Jackson and #2 wide receiver David Nelson are out. So what game plan will the Bills bring? Harvard Fitzpatrick tossing to Stevie Johnson and Scott Chandler doesn’t compare with Matt Ryan harnessing his three headed monster of Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, and Roddy White. I consider Johnson more jackass than major threat, Chandler a mediocre starting tight end, and know Fitzpatrick doesn’t have the arm of Matt Ryan. Anticipate a lot of work from C.J. Spiller, who offers the same game-breaking ability as Jacquizz Rodgers but not a lot of bulk. This portends an entirely different game plan that plays in Kansas City’s strengths – anticipate at least one screen blown up by Berry. There’s no way last year’s egg is repeated in the decrepit structure Buffalo fans call a stadium. Kansas City will continue putting up points, and the defensive match up provides all the advantages missing from the first game. Don’t expect to see the Chiefs dip below .500 again.
A few other observations from Sunday’s game:
It sounded like the fans were loud – real loud. On consecutive first quarter plays, an audible by Ryan almost got a delay of game when he couldn’t communicate because of the noise, and Atlanta was tagged with a false start as the clock almost ran down again. You know how Peyton Manning calls his plays after walking up to the line of scrimmage? Yeah, I’m excited for the Donkeys to visit Arrowhead too.
Turner had 1340 yards last year and 32 yards last Sunday. Matt Ryan had the team’s longest run (11 yards). More statistics demonstrating how effective Kansas City was in bottling up the run.
The camera caught Daboll giggling after the designed quarterback draw for Cassell that resulted in a touchdown. Matt had a couple good runs. If only we had a decent running back to handle that load instead…
Dexter McCluster recorded the best tackle in the NFL, flying through the air to grab a defender’s ankles as he was standing up to return an interception.
Lost amid the lopsided score were the facts Kansas City was better at converting third downs and outgained the Falcons in yardage. Four plays – the three turnovers and a 77-yard Rodgers kick return – were what decided the game.
Tony Gonzalez made a point to run down the ball he caught for a touchdown after dunking it. I don’t think the dunk was in poor taste, and it’s obvious that ball meant a lot to him. Also, I predicted we’d see him dunk in the Super Bowl this year, and I’m not backing off that assertion.
I’m starting to see why Kansas City was trying out another kicker this summer.
Should Devon Wylie be the return man? Even if Javier Arenas is better, the depth at secondary makes me feel more comfortable with a wide receiver waiting deep to receive just in case. And watching him through the preseason plus this game, I’m not convinced he’s better. Can McCluster return kicks too?
It’s good to see passion, but the pushing and jawing definitely went overboard at the end of several special teams plays, and only got worse towards the end. Dirty Birds.
I’ll be in Buffalo for the game this weekend. Look for me on tv – I’ll be clustered with the small group of Chiefs fans who moved to the front rows on the 50 yard line because the stadium vacated after Kansas City went up 44-3 in the third quarter.