Sometimes it’s all in your head.
I won’t be remiss and hang two humiliating losses all on a lack of confidence, but there’s a significant psychological aspect to NFL games. Confidence begets confidence in this league. It’s a vital ingredient in the recipe for playing good football. Teams that lack confidence give up easily and fall victim to unforced errors. This Chiefs team knows that well after having done both in the opening two games of the season.
At the risk of sounding like an after-school special, I’m going to restate the obvious.
“Confidence is important.”
Stop shrugging your shoulders and consider the evidence:
Exhibit A: Jamaal Charles
In Sunday’s post-game press conference, Charles expressed prior concerns about the lingering effects of his 2011 ACL injury. “I didn’t trust myself (until Sunday),’’ Charles said. After racking up 288 yards from scrimmage and 1 touchdown, he’ll have faith in spades that his surgically-repaired knee is reliable. There had been whispers that the injury may have spoiled Charles’ world-class speed. He was caught from behind on a 46-yard run by Atlanta Falcons Safety Thomas DeCoud (though I explained this away — see item #2). There were no more whispers after Charles ripped off the longest run in franchise history on Sunday (91 yards). If Jamaal is convinced that he can continue to be a homerun hitter for this offense, everything else goes up from there.
Exhibit B: Ryan Succop
In the Chiefs’ opener, Succop missed what would’ve been a game-tying 40-yard field goal to start the third quarter. The miss lead to a string of unfortunate events and a total loss of momentum for Kansas City. What a difference two weeks can make in the NFL. 2009′s Mr. Irrelevant broke a franchise record by making six field goals on Sunday (including the game-winner). Succop also drained a 43-yard field goal to send the game to overtime. Those two high-pressure kicks are exactly what this struggling Special Teams unit needs.
Exhibit C: Justin Houston
Houston is one of only a few defensive players who’s actually shown up each week. His confidence has grown exponentially since late last season. The former Georgia Bulldog has been playing a self-assured brand of football the whole month of September. He’s the one wheel on a shaky Kansas City defense that doesn’t need oil. As we all know, confidence is contagious. His tenacity helped to spark a defensive lockdown of the Saints’ offense late in Sunday’s game. Drew Brees was rattled and made uncharacteristic mistakes as a result of having been dumped thrice by Houston. Justin Houston’s performance on Sunday raised the level of play around him. The result was a stunning defensive effort in the fourth quarter where Brees didn’t complete a single pass and the Saints offense had just one positive play (a 2-yard gain by Sproles).
Beating the Saints in front of a near-capacity Superdome crowd ought to build some confidence for this team. Confidence won’t be a panacea for all that ails the Chiefs though. They still need to play disciplined mistake-free football on a consistent basis. Confidence is a start though. If the Chiefs believe they can compete week in and week out, they’ll do a better job of staying in games. They’ll still have to execute, but it should help them get off to better starts. A lead would help this team psychologically, if nothing else. Regularly playing from behind takes a mental toll on a football team (through 3 games Kansas City still hasn’t held a lead).
So which team are we going to see on Sunday when the Bolts come to town? The resilient squad that refused to say die in Sunday’s game in the Big Easy, or the team that wilted down the stretch in the Atlanta and Buffalo games? San Diego got thumped by the Falcons in the late afternoon game on Sunday. They’ll be looking to get back on track, but they’ll also be coming to the unwelcoming atmosphere of Arrowhead Stadium. What better place for this team to be full of renewed confidence? If Kansas City wins the opening toss they should receive and look to strike first blood. Crennel needs to keep team morale high and ride the wave of this momentum. The Kansas City Chiefs proved Sunday that they can compete with any team in the NFL if they really want to. Hopefully we’ll continue to see evidence of that on the field.
Sunday will tell. Let’s reconvene next week to discuss. In the meantime, I’m wondering if Jamaal Charles, Justin Houston, and Ryan Succop will sweep the AFC honors this week? Offensive Player of the Week, Defensive Player of the Week, and Special Teams Player of the Week, for the win!!!
Until then, Addicts!