Going into yesterday’s game, I thought it was entirely possible the Chiefs would lose. In fact, the Bills were viewed as more or less equal to the Chiefs in terms of talent, so the safe pick in this game was probably Buffalo, given that it was their home opener and they also wanted to make a statement after a blowout loss.
Still, although a loss is just a loss whether you lose by a point or a million, it does matter how you lose, and that’s what stood out most in this game.
Once again, a defense that was supposed to be in the top 10 in the league got carved to pieces. Coverages were routinely blown. Tackling was poor. We had no pressure on the quarterback, and made no plays in the secondary.
After Week 1, I suspected that ILB Derrick Johnson might not yet be fully recovered from his ankle injury. This game pretty much confirms that. He definitely did not show the speed and athleticism that makes him a dynamic player in the middle of his defense. He could not keep up with Buffalo’s running backs and he was horrendous in coverage. Belcher continued to be a huge liability when defending the pass and Flowers looked far from 100 percent.
No one in the ACL crew looked like they had their 2010 spark back. TE Tony Moeaki was never getting separation and only caught one pass on four targets. Jamaal Charles was totally ineffective in the run game and was put on ice, possibly due to a yet undisclosed injury. S Eric Berry was virtually invisible out there. We now have to consider the possibility that some or all three of those players may never fully recover from their bad knees.
Who would have guessed that S Kendrick Lewis would be so missed?
I presume everyone will now pile on Matt Cassel for this loss, but as with last game, I don’t see it. His stat line was 23/42 for 301 yards, 2 TD 1 INT. In a win, this would be considered a pretty good performance. No one on either side of the ball stepped up when called upon.
I’m just going to say it right now, Jon Baldwin may be a bust. We had high expectations for him given that he was lighting it up in camp, but after seeing how the Chiefs D-backs have been playing, anyone on the AA staff could have come out of St. Joe as a training camp sensation. He wasn’t even targeted against the Falcons and did not look good against the Bills.
Baldwin never seems to run his routes with confidence and always expects to be able to outmuscle defenders in jump ball situations with his body skills — except that he doesn’t, and one way or the other, we need him to catch and run, not loiter around on the sideline as if he’s playing some elaborate form of Keep Away. In the second half, it was clear that Cassel was forcing the ball to him in the hopes of making something happen deep downfield. Baldwin was never open, never ready and only reeled in half of the balls thrown his way. He got us 62 yards, but in the worst way. I hope I’m wrong about him.
Dexter McCluster, again, was KC’s only reliable receiver, consistently getting open and catching four passes on five targets. TE Kevin Boss again caught a pretty pass, but I’d be surprised if he doesn’t miss time after getting knocked out cold after a nasty blow to the head (which wasn’t really a penalty, but the refs gave us that one). As has long been the case, WR Dwayne Bowe emerged in the second half as the Chiefs’ only big-play threat, catching eight passes for 102 yards and 2 TDs.
This too, however, has a dark undercurrent to it though, as BJ Kissel pointed out on the Chop Talk postgame podcast. It is currently looking like the Chiefs will have to franchise Bowe again this year, to which he will likely respond by holding out again. The alternative is to pay him big bucks that Pioli doesn’t want to shell out and honestly may be more than he is worth. Still, as Kissel said, “This offense is scary to think about without Dwayne Bowe on this team.”
The offensive line, which was also supposed to be a great strength of this team in 2012, floundered. Cassel was under near-constant pressure and took five sacks. In his short, but illustrious career, this is the first time that Bills DT Kyle Williams has gotten two sacks in one game, and he also drove G Jon Asamoah into Charles for a 5-yard loss. Congratulations, Kyle.
RB Peyton Hillis, who was supposed to be the safe, pounding runner, gave up a critical fumble on the 1-yard line.
But, what killed the Chiefs most in this game was not the poor play of individual players or units, it was the shell-shocked reaction of the entire team to the Bills’ initial success. Early in the second quarter you could see the team as a whole shaking their heads and looking at the scoreboard as if to say, “Well, I guess this just isn’t our game.”
This is unacceptable, and it was by far the most infuriating part of this game. This team seemed to be totally unprepared and they gave up early. That’ll happen in high school. It’ll happen in college. This is unacceptable in the pros.
Special teams gave up another long kickoff return for a touchdown at the worst possible time allowing the Bills to seal the victory in the third quarter. Even my wife, who is still learning the game, correctly pointed out that no one looked focused.
Cassel, the usual scapegoat, was also strip-sacked and was never even close to saving us in the game, but he also scrambled well and showed toughness while getting what little was there. In the end, Cassel, McCluster and Bowe seemed like the only players still interested in playing the game by halftime.
This is where the coach is supposed to come in. Not only did the Chiefs seem unprepared, they looked utterly outcoached on defense. With as bad as DJ has looked against the pass, how could Crennel put him in coverage on TE Scott Chandler – one of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s favorite weapons – in the red zone, allowing him to give up an easy touchdown on virtually the exact same play that Tony G scored with last week?
Comparatively, Brian Daboll’s scheme overall looks like it will get us places this year. I liked some of the matchups he exploited, but I can’t honestly say anything positive about the defense.
After halftime, I was expecting the Chiefs to come back fired up, and, while I knew likely wouldn’t be able to catch up to the Bills, I expected them to at least play like professionals. Instead they came out flatter than before. Crennel, who is known for his friendly, soft-spoken demeanor, was unable to get rally the troops. In that situation, the players didn’t need a friend; they needed leader that would kick them in the ass and tell them to go out and play with pride.
When it was time for the Chiefs to pick a new head coach after the 2011 season, I was one of the few who went against the grain in suggesting that Crennel was not the best choice. In addition to the fact that he had been unsuccessful in the top job before, many of the things that doomed Todd Haley’s tenure in KC – namely blowout losses – were failures on Crennel’s part as well. Getting torched for lopsided losses is as much the defensive coordinator’s fault as it is the head coach’s. Crennel has now presided as DC over two seasons of disgustingly poor defensive play in the opening games.
Although he engineered big wins in the last three games of the season, not much else stands out in his resume other than the fact that he is from the New England system and the players seem to like him.
After the game, Crennel said he didn’t really know how or why the Chiefs got so thoroughly demolished in the game. Paddy quoted him as saying, “I’m gonna say that I thought we would be better. I really thought that we would be better but we’re not so we’ve got to figure out why that is.”
This is very distressing.
Now, because I have just spewed 1,300+ words of negativity, here’s some happy thoughts for anyone still reading:
1.) The Chiefs came back from blowout losses and crucial injuries in the first two weeks of the season last year, and stayed in division contention to the end. So, if you haven’t blacked it out of your memory, you will recall that you felt this bad after Week 2 last year and it got better.
2.) The Chiefs aren’t the only team that has allowed a league-high 75 points so far in the 2012 season. We are tied with the New Orleans Saints and we play them next week.
3.) Kansas City is currently fifth in the league in total offense, fifth in rushing and 11th in passing. So, hey, at least that’s not our biggest problem anymore!
4.) As bad as the Chiefs’ loss today was, the Raiders’ beatdown was worse. They got crushed 13-35 against the Miami Dolphins, considered by many to be the worst team in the league.
5.) Speaking of the ‘Phins, it took the team half of the season to learn Daboll’s complicated offense, but after playing awful in their first seven games, Miami went 6-3 starting in Week 9 (against the Chiefs) with a combined score of 222-131. In other words, don’t worry. The Chiefs are just going to be late bloomers.
6.) Remember that Arizona team that we mowed over in the preseason? Well, they just beat the New England Patriots in Foxborough. If they’re good enough to do that, then we must have something.