The Kansas City Chiefs may be coming off an emotional victory over the Carolina Panthers but don’t be surprised if we see the return of the stumbling, bumbling Chiefs today when the team travels to Cleveland to take on the Browns.
The entire Chiefs organization should be proud of the way they handled last week’s tragic events. They should be further proud of the way the players and coaches responded on the field. KC played its best game of the season last week in the face of some pretty serious distractions and it was impressive.
Good feelings aside, the Chiefs are still a bad football team. They may have played well last week but they were also playing an equally bad, three-win Carolina Panthers team. The Chiefs played near flawless football, at home and they still weren’t able to run away with things.
Now to be fair, the Panthers played a pretty good game too and in the NFL, no wins come easy. Still, last week’s game showed us how little room for error the Chiefs have and why, when they do commit errors, the NFL’s better teams usually blow them out and blow them out fast.
The Chiefs offense has been suspect all season and last week was no different. Brady Quinn had the best game of his career. He threw only four incompletions but he still only passed for 201 yards. The fact that making it to 200 yards is a performance of note for a Chiefs QB shows just how bad the situation is at the signal caller position in KC.
And let’s not pretend Quinn was going up against one of the NFL’s elite defenses here. Carolina is eighth in he NFL vs. the pass but probably only because teams find it so easy to run on them. The Panthers are 25th in the NFL in that department, giving up an averaged of 128 yards per game.
Actually, Carolina isn’t much unlike the Chiefs. KC sports the ninth best pass defense but is 26th in the league at stopping the run, giving up an average of 129.3 yards per game.
The Panthers were the perfect opponent for the Chiefs to get a win against. The team was soft against the run and struggled to generate a pass rush on Brady Quinn. This enabled to the Chiefs to play to their strengths. They managed not to turn the ball over and that was likely the difference in the contest.
Things likely won’t be so easy today in Cleveland. For one, the Chiefs have been turning the ball over at a near historic rate. Last week’s game was probably more of an aberration and so a return to the norm can be expected today.
Cleveland’s defense is much stouter than Carolina’s, though their rankings are deceiving. Their 24th ranked pass defense doesn’t indicate that the team was without starting CB Joe Haden for the four games of the season due to a suspension. The Browns lost all four of those games. In fact, in games without Joe Haden this season, the Browns have a record of 0-5.
In games with Haden?
The Browns have been in almost every game they’ve played this season and have gone 4-3 following an 0-5 start. They sport wins over the Bengals, Steelers, Chargers and Raiders.
The big factor in the game will likely be the offenses. The Browns feature a rookie in Brandon Weeden and a stable of receivers that leaves a lot to be desired. Weeden has a terrific arm and one speedy receiver in Josh Gordon that could burn the Chiefs if he gets behind the defense.
Still, Weeden and Gordon are both rookies and the Browns QB is still having trouble with interceptions. The team’s most consistent weapon is RB Trent Richardson. Richardson doesn’t hit a ton of home runs a la Jamaal Charles but he is a bruiser that helps Cleveland move the chains. The Browns struggle at times to find the end zone but Richardson consistently helps them get into field goal range.
For the Chiefs, the key on offense will be much the same as it is for the Browns. Run the ball with Jamaal Charles and limit mistakes by Brady Quinn. Since Cleveland’s defensive back field is a little stronger than they appear now that Haden is back on the field, KC would be wise to lean on their rushing attack. The Browns have a stout offensive line up the middle but their defense doesn’t feature a ton of speed. If the Chiefs can get Charles the ball on the edge he should be able to outrun the Cleveland defense for a few big gains.
The trick for the Chiefs will be holding on to the football. If they return to their bumbling ways and start turning the ball over, the Cleveland offense will feed Richardson and take advantage.
This is a winnable game for the Chiefs but not an easy one. Today we’ll find out if the Chiefs really do have a renewed sense of focus or if last week’s game was merely a flash in the pan by the NFL’s worst team.