The sharp knives are out.
With the Chiefs’ back-to-back embarrassments, there is good reason to start pointing fingers. We could talk about Eric Winston, after a stellar game one, getting multiple holding penalties and blocking like a spaghetti strainer. We could talk about Eric Berry, the leader of a porous and confused secondary that once again made a hero out of a clearly mediocre Ryan Fitzpatrick. We could talk about Jamaal Charles (did he really have six carries for three yards?) or Peyton Hillis and his buzz-killing fumble. We could talk about Tyson Jackson, Glenn Dorsey and Dontari Poe getting blown off the line, freeing up massive running lanes. We could talk about our truly laughable special teams return coverage, which may literally be the worst in the entire league. We could also spend hours looking at the coaching staff. The Chiefs look unprepared and tentative and without a true identity to hang their hats on.
The Chiefs are playing like a disembodied marionette, with no connection between their disparate, lifeless parts. We had the same length of preseason as the Falcons and Bills, but those teams both look in mid-season form while we are struggling in literally every phase of the game. And let’s not even talk about the Chargers, who look scary good and are already separating themselves from the rest of the AFC West.
What’s missing from the Chiefs, and uncharacteristically I might add, is plain old toughness. We need Brian Waters-type nastiness out of Hudson, Lilja, Albert, Winston and Asamoah. We need Brandon Flowers to get his swagger back. We need Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson and Eric Berry saying nobody is going to gain yardage on us. We need Baldwin, Bowe and Breaston blocking all the way downfield, fighting cornerbacks for the ball and winning those hand-to-hand battles.
Did you see last week when McCluster got nailed after catching a ball over the middle? He got right back up, and you could see that he was telling everyone on the Bills, “you call that a hit? You gotta bring more than that.” That’s what we need. Did you see Matt Cassel diving head first into the endzone? We need more of that too. Where’s the chest-thumping? Where’s the attitude?
How do you produce this toughness? At this level, when each player is fairly dominant physically, toughness is all attitude. And it starts on our offensive and defensive lines. I want to see dive plays up the middle with our tackles and guards blowing back the Saints line, already suffering from a poor run defense. On defense, I want to see Derrick Johnson charging in behind Poe, Jackson and Dorsey, stuffing running backs behind the line of scrimmage and getting in Drew Brees’ face. And this toughness needs to extend to our special teams coverage units. We need to blow up a few returners, plain and simple.
This week, the Chiefs go up against the New Orleans Saints, who are also 0-2 and will be defending their honor on their home court. To be brutally honest, I’m not expecting us to win this game. Our defense is just horrible right now, and the Saints just have too many offensive weapons. I hope and pray that I am wrong, and will be doing my part, yelling at the TV, to spur the Chiefs on to victory. But what I really want to see is that competitive fire back. There is absolutely no reason, with the talent that we have, that teams should be blowing us out.
If it takes a game where we simplify our offense, defense and special teams and just show some toughness again, then so be it. Because it’s time for the Chiefs to toughen up. If we don’t do that now, we have little hope for 2012. Addicts, what do you think is needed to turn this ship around, and fast?