Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

Chiefs’ Secondary Concerns


Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

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.

Tags: Kansas City Chiefs

  • http://twitter.com/2_Ring_Circus david schroeder

    I like your enthusiasm and I hope you’re right because we need this one bad! The schedule’s gonna be tough the next few weeks. I’m optimistic we’ll get rolling as we continue to get healthy. Bad as it was there were some positives from week 1. And it’s not like the Falcons are slouches or anything. That’s gonna be a damn good team this season.

  • Calchiefsfan

    The problem is injuries are a part of it and there are very few teams that command the depth to weather major injuries. Just look at our own division. Oakland is dead if, (when), McFadden goes down, the Chargers, Gates and we know what happens to Denver without Manning. They go from Superbowl contenders to last place.

    Fortunately none of the Chiefs injuries are too serious, a game or two. You’re right Dave, if Flowers and Hali had played it’s a whole different ball game. Maybe not a victory but not a butt whooping either.

    The thing that has me most concerned about the Chiefs at this point is that they gave up, quit. Romeo has to fix that. When they get down they have to keep fighting. Not panic and push too hard like Cassel did against the Falcons late in the game, just settle down and keep playing hard. I think their youth has something to do with that. Too much emotion and not enough maturity. Cassel does have the age and experience now. He’s the one that needs to keep everyone focused. This kind of maturity and leadership would help Cassel make up for his other deficiencies.

  • Cody Davenport

    this guy obviously doesnt pay attention to the game..
    charles did more than a good enough job to “handle the load” or did you miss the 46-yard scamper? and tony g wasnt even trying to dunk the ball, matt ryan handed him the ball and it would’ve been disrespectful of tony to not do it. and dont shit on our RB’s like that, charles and Hillis are more than enough to carry the load

    • BigGil

      I think the RB comment was meant sarcastically, and the Tony G. comment acknowledged that the dunk wasn’t meant disrespectfully and obviously meant a lot to Tony if he made sure to run and retrieve it after the dunk in order to keep it as a memento of his last Arrowhead TD & Dunk

    • http://www.facebook.com/dave.toan Dave Toan

      Don’t worry Cody – top to bottom, I believe Kansas City has the best set of running backs in the league (Draughn had a pretty good game too). I just cringe when I see quarterbacks take off on designed runs in the NFL – particularly my quarterback. I think Hillis (or Charles. Or Draughn. Or even Eachus) was more than capable of punching that touchdown in, but there’s probably a reason Daboll is offensive coordinator and I’m not.

  • ArrowFan

    Hall wouldn’t be able to return kicks with the blocking going on for kickoff returns.

  • Tommy G

    Are there any decent FA corners available? I believe Andre’ Goodman is there…he may not be a long term answer but he is certainly more serviceable than Reeves, or J. Brown for that matter.

  • iowaskcchiefsfan

    The D couldn’t make a stop against the Falcons. They were missing 4 starters,
    Hali-Our #1 pass rusher. His backup Sheffield was hindered by a groin injury, so we were playing our #2 LOLB. Studebaker’s weakest part of his game is pass-rushing. Andy is very good at stopping the run, coverage, and having a nose for the football. Our #1 CB, Flowers was missing as was his backup J. Brown. Reeves is our 5th CB. Our starting FS, Lewis, who was replaced ablely by Elam. His absence means that the Chiefs can’t use the formations that evolve Lewis and Elam at Safeties, with Berry at Rover. Toribio was outplaying Poe at NT before he hurt his ankle. Bailey the Chiefs best pass-rushing was missing with a bad ankle. D.J. was playing with a sore ankle.
    We will have Hali back from suspention, Flowers from his ankle, maybe Toribo, Bailey, and soon Lewis. The D will be a lot stronger with the return of Hali the #1 pass rusher and our #1 CB, Flowers.
    The Bills will be missing their #1 RB Fred Jackson and #2 WR David Nelson. Stevie Johnson has a sore groin. Chandler is a big target, but Berry will find him a lot easier to cover than Gonzo. Fitzpatrick isn’t the QB that Ryan is.