The Chiefs are the runaway league leaders in turnovers through the first five weeks of the season. The defense is giving up more points than just about anybody, even after holding the Ravens to nine last week. The rush defense has been weak, the pass offense ineffective.
If not for a franchise-record, 18-point rally to beat New Orleans — another team in turmoil — in overtime, the Chiefs would be winless through the first five games of the season.
Then there’s the trouble away from the field: Fans purchasing banners to fly over the stadium asking for the general manager to be fired, and Winston laying into those who cheered when Cassel was hurt, comments that quickly went viral and cast the organization in a negative light. Even team Chairman Clark Hunt rushed to the defense of the fans this week.
Bulldozed by the Kansas City Chiefs’ running game in the first half prior to a halftime adjustment that salvaged a 9-6 victory, the Ravens’ defense was particularly susceptible to the zone-stretch play.
As star running back Jamaal Charles rumbled for 125 yards in the first half before defensive coordinator Dean Pees shifted the Ravens’ defensive alignment to widen out the defensive linemen and walk up the linebackers to press the line of scrimmages, offensive guards Jeff Allen and Jon Asamoah kept getting to the second level to block Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
That’s not how the Ravens’ defense is supposed to work with Lewis not usually taking on that many hefty blockers. Nose guards Ma’ake Kemoeatu and Terrence Cody are supposed to wall off blockers to allow Lewis to flow freely to the football.
“I used to think somebody was always chasing me,” Charles said. “Or I’d hear dogs barking. One dog was on a leash, but it always barked like it was a crazy dog. I was like, I’ve got to run past this one as fast as I can. I was always scared. Ever since then, I’ve tried to act like I’m running away from people chasing after me.”
The only place where people chase Charles now is on the football field — and he is an elusive prey. Through the first five weeks of the 2012 season, he has rushed 103 times for a league-leading 551 yards, including a 91-yard touchdown — the longest run from scrimmage in team history — that helped the Chiefs to their only victory, a 27-24 win in overtime in New Orleans.
With backup Brady Quinn prepared to make his first start in almost three years, the visiting Chiefs look to avoid a third consecutive loss while trying to hand the rested Buccaneers a fourth straight defeat Sunday.
After winning three of its final five games to salvage a 7-9 record last year and with key contributors Jamal Charles, Matt Cassel and Eric Berry healthy to open this season, Kansas City expected to start strong in 2012. However, the Chiefs have committed a league-high 19 turnovers in their 1-4 start, Cassel has a meager 66.2 passer rating and the defense has allowed 29.0 points per contest.
“This team needs to do more things to win,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “That’s what we’re going to work on, try to get this team to do more of the right things so that we can win.”
Things hit a low late in last Sunday’s 9-6 loss to Baltimore when a portion of the Chiefs’ home crowd cheered as Cassel laid on the ground after a hit from Ravens’ defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Kansas City offensive lineman Eric Winston called the cheering “100-percent sickening,” but it demonstrated the frustration of one of the NFL’s most loyal fan bases.