I had forgotten that the Chiefs can play good football.
But, as much as playing well and getting a win for a change felt good, it matters very little how the team plays in the remaining four games. 2012 will go down as a miserable lost season.
Obviously, what was merely an ugly season on the field to this point turned much, much darker this weekend with Jovan Belcher’s shocking and depressing murder-suicide. Clearly, that tragedy outweighs anything that happened in the game itself.
Still, this game showed that when this team manages to not commit perilous mistakes, it is a force to be reckoned with. But, the major factors in this win were extremely unexpected. I did not think that today I would be preparing to heap praise on the likes of OC Brian Daboll, WR Jonathan Baldwin and QB Brady Quinn.
Quinn played what was easily the best game of his career going 19/23 for 201 yards, two touchdowns and a QB rating of 132.1. Seriously. Yes, that Brady Quinn. Going into this game, his 2012 stat line was: 402 yards on 81 attempts for 0 TDs, 4 INTs.
While Baldwin only touched the ball twice, they were two of the most important plays of the game. He set up the team’s first touchdown on an opening drive in nearly two years with a big 34-yard catch-and-run. Then, late in the third quarter he used his big frame to box out the corner on a quick slant for a touchdown that all but sealed the game for the Chiefs.
This was also far and away the best showing of HC Romeo Crennel and Daboll. Gone were the head-scratching play calls, the ludicrously conservative decision-making, the wasted timeouts, and general dysfunction. Finally, these two were aggressive and they rolled with what was working – Jamaal Charles and Quinn, who was apparently possessed by a devilishly efficient quarterback demon shortly before the game.
It also bears noting that while Carolina is just 3-9 this year, their defense is ranked eighth against the pass and has allowed the 12th fewest touchdowns in the league. Amazingly, the Chiefs offense was able win the day despite the fact that QB Cam Newton had about as good of a game as possible, finishing with 310 total yards and three passing touchdowns.
While the Chiefs pass defense took a serious hit when CB Brandon Flowers went down with a hamstring injury, the front seven played reasonably well overall. OLB Justin Houston was great as usual. DE Tyson Jackson built on last week’s strong performance and is making a strong case for being kept on the roster, although surely he’d have to take another pay cut to do so. NT Dontari Poe appears to be continuing to progress and some guy named Tysyn Hartman lead the team with six tackles.
This win begs the question, what will the Chiefs do if the team somehow wins out and ends the season 6-10? Let me be on the record as saying that nothing, absolutely nothing can excuse the way this team played for most of this season. Even if Quinn continues to impress, GM Scott Pioli can’t claim that starting the guy was his plan all along. And, the team absolutely needs to draft a QB in the first round this year no matter what.
Pioli and Crennel should be forever commended for holding this team together through this tragic week and especially for confronting Belcher in the parking lot in an attempt to keep him from harming anyone else or himself. Still, what was true on Friday is true today — Pioli has failed in key areas of his duties and this team does not currently have a professionally competitive coaching staff.
With remaining games against the Browns, Raiders, Colts and Broncos, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if this team manages to make a run. But what will that mean? Last year, Crennel got his job by winning two of the team’s last three games after a long disappointing stretch. But, this team is capable of far more than just-below-.500 seasons and doubling down on this current crew would send the message that a 6-10 season was a success.
However, I’m also not in the camp of people hoping this team will be so putrid through the next month that it will earn the dubious honor of holding the 1st overall pick in the Draft. It appears so far to be a weak QB draft, and guys like Geno Smith will be within reach for Kansas City pretty much no matter how the pick order shakes out. If it takes a RG3-type deal to get the guy that the Chiefs think they need, I’m all for it, but I don’t think it will be necessary.
This season has been a mess, and the team had shown poor mental toughness through 11 weeks of football. But leave it to the Chiefs to shock and surprise you in a game just when you thought you knew what you think about them.