Last week I observed that although Kansas City didn’t lead New Orleans until overtime, they enjoyed a substantial advantage in yardage gained. In fact, the one thing the Chiefs have demonstrated week in and week out is that they can gain yards. Look at the stats through the first four weeks:
Against Atlanta, the Chiefs lost 24-42 but outgained the Falcons 393-376. At Buffalo, the Chiefs lost 17-35 but outgained the Bills 422-379. As previously noted, the 27-24 win in the Superdome ended with Kansas City holding a 510-288 advantage in yards. Finally, on Sunday the Chiefs lost a miserable game to the Chargers by 37-20, yet edged San Diego out 353-293.
What does it all mean? Essentially, that Kansas City needs to offer Bill Snyder $10 million plus an additional $10 million to whatever youth mentoring foundation he desires in exchange for teaching professional athletes the same things his college kids already know: how to play special teams and protect the football. Short of this, somebody else needs to come teach the Chiefs how to play special teams and protect the damn football. Oh, and how to create turnovers too.
On the special teams front, the return game was once again anemic on Sunday. Cyrus Gray had a nice 33 yard return and the Chiefs actually averaged 27.3 yards on kickoffs this weekend, but the team has yet to turn a truly exciting play that puts the offense in position to score with a short field. Punt returns remain pathetic, and Javier Arenas has got to get some better blocking.
The turnover issue is past painful, and three lost fumbles and three interceptions against the Chargers piled on to an already large number of giveaways. On the other side of the football, the Chiefs got an interception. This brings their takeaways to two on the season. Two. That’s .5 per game. How do you lose when you outgain your opponent? By going -5 in net turnovers forced on the day. There aren’t enough fingers to point out everyone at fault here.
Finally, this team has to execute in the red zone. Jamaal Charles and Ryan Succop were co-heroes last week, but they shouldn’t have been. I don’t want to see Ryan Succop put up major points because he has to kick six field goals; he needs to score points because he’s kicking PATs. (Note: this wasn’t an issue Sunday, as Kansas City either found the end zone or got stopped before even crossing midfield on every possession save the final.)
The rough thing is, the Chiefs can’t merely improve one of these and hope to win more. The scores they’re posting aren’t just losses, they’re blowouts. This team will not be successful if it can’t at least make the +/- on turnovers a net zero. Yes, Matt Cassel needs to stop gift wrapping balls to the opposition, but Brandon Flowers needs to step up and catch a couple of his own. I’m not happy the running backs drop the football like its hot, but DJ needs to knock out a couple fumbles himself for someone to pounce on. How did the Chargers score on a five yard drive? Because Charles was stripped of the ball and San Diego recovered it at the five yard line. There also has to be at least one decent return every game so that the offense isn’t expected to drive 80 yards if it wants a touchdown. I still believe this team is good enough to recover and have a successful season, but it needs to rectify these issues to stop being so bad.