Last night, we all watched the Kansas City Chiefs blow a late, fourth quarter lead to lose to the San Francisco 49ers 15-13. While it was a low scoring game and the only touchdown scored was by the Chiefs’ newly tooled, prolific special teams, there were some positives to the game. They weren’t many, but they were there. However, this is about why the Chiefs lost, not what they did right.
Yesterday, I posted the five things I thought the Chiefs had to do in order to beat the 49ers. As you go through this post, my original comments are in plain type, and my follow up thoughts to last night’s game are in bold.
1. Hold the line!
The New Orleans Saints had perhaps one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season. Despite the hiring of Rob Ryan as the new defensive coordinator in the off season, and the switch to the 3-4 from the 4-3, I don’t think they got much better. That is not true for the 49ers. The 49ers defense is good. It’s scary good. They have all-pros at most positions, especially the D-Line in Aldon Smith and linebackers Patrick Willis and the aforementioned Bowman. If the Chiefs expect to move the ball as well as they did last week, the O-line will have to create a barrier around Alex Smith and not allow any penetration by Aldon Smith (no relation.) If any of the 49er defenders set up camp in the Chiefs’ backfield, it could make for a long night.
While the buildup to the game were the comments made by Alex Smith’s former teammate NaVarro Bowman, regarding hitting Smith, each and every 49er defender took it to heart. The 49er defense found all three Chiefs’ quarterbacks on seven separate occasions. Alex Smith went down, Chase Daniel went down, and probably the most disheartening, on what could have been the game winning drive, Tyler Bray went down on third and long. The Chiefs’ offensive line struggled against every form and string the 49ers threw at them. The starters struggled against the “1’s” and the “2’s.” The backups struggled against every one. As one commenter in the live thread put it last night, if our line continues to struggle like this, the Chiefs won’t even be able to beat Jacksonville in week one. A grim thought, indeed.
Key #1: Not Achieved
2. Control the pistol!
While preseason playbooks tend to be quite vanilla, 49er’s head coach doesn’t have much to hide from the Chiefs considering his playoff winning quarterback now calls Kansas City home. I expect to see Colin Kaepernick run plays out of the “pistol” formation and try to fool the Chiefs’ defense with the run option that formation lends itself to. Andy Reid took special care in hiring Chris Ault (the Pistoleer if you will) to come in and not only coach the Chiefs’ offense in running the Pistol, but the defense in stopping it. Chiefs’ defenders will need to “stay at home” and ensure they contain the explosive #7 wearing Niner’s red and gold on Friday night.
Perhaps one of the biggest shockers of the night was that 49er starting signal caller, Colin Kaepernick, only played one series. His numbers were…less than stellar 1/3 with -3 yards. One of those incompletions was a huge overthrow of a wide open receiver that would have been a touchdown. The point here is, the Chiefs didn’t have to worry much about “Kap” running wild on them. However, they did lose containment on a couple of the other 49er QB’s later in the game. Specifically, they allowed Colt McCoy to scramble for a first on a third and long play. It was one play, and not even run out of the “Pistol,” but it exposed the Chiefs’ defense a bit. On the night, the 49ers’ QBs were able to rush for 53 total yards against a defense that held up pretty well in most other respects. Not encouraging.
Key #2: Achieved
3. Will the real D-Bowe please stand up?
With limited action last week against the Saints, I can see why the only Chief WR to catch a pass was Dexter McCluster. However, with an expected larger showing of the “1’s” on offense and defense in preseason Week 2, I expect some other Chiefs receivers to get in the mix. This means the man that Reid and Dorsey were praised for re-signing, #82, Dwayne Bowe. While Bowe threw a couple of blocks last week to help JC get a first down and then a touchdown, I want him to do what he gets paid a lot of money to do, and that’s catch passes and score touchdowns himself. We’ll see if Alex Smith is able to get him the ball this week.
The Chiefs have played two preseason games and the starting, or even second team wide receivers have hardly earned a stat. Andy Reid kept his starting offense on the field for the entire first half. The guy Andy Reid and John Dorsey were praised so highly for re-signing in the off season, Dwayne Bowe was only targeted once – and he didn’t catch that pass. While Dwayne can’t catch the pass unless it’s thrown to him, I don’t know what else is going on.
Alex Smith appeared to be looking down field a lot more last night, which led to some of his sacks. Perhaps he was looking for the “Show” and couldn’t find him open. Chiefs fans have been waiting for the prolific receiver to really establish a connection with the revolving door of QBs over the last few years. Thus far, it still hasn’t materialized. Until it does, things may not be that different in Kansas City.
Key #3: Not Achieved
4. Hold on to the damn ball!
This not only means don’t fumble (I’m talking to you Tyler Bray and Knile Davis) but also catch it when it hits you in the hand…ahem…Travis Kelce…ahem. Drops have traditionally been a problem for the Chiefs. Alex Smith is the most accurate passer in the league at 70 plus percent last year. No other QB has come close. If he’s putting the ball where it needs to be, the receivers need to catch it. It’s as simple as that.
This point was two-fold. The first was not fumble the ball. The Chiefs did not turn over the football the entire game. That was actual a larger win, than most realize considering how many blind side hits the signal callers took, unsuspectingly. In addition, considering how many runs and fighting for extra yards was going on by the Chiefs’ running backs (and how much the fumble prone Knile Davis played last night) it’s quite surprising that there wasn’t.
On the flip side of the coin, there were several drops by Chiefs’ receivers. Baldwin had a colossal drop that hit him right between the numbers. Cyrus Gray had one that slipped through his fingers, as he turned up field before he had secured the ball. Finally, rookie, Travis Kelce has thus far showed he’s been a camp hero, but hasn’t translated that to the game field. Even though Smith wasn’t as crisp and accurate as he was last week, the Chiefs have to hold onto the ball.
Key #4: Not Achieved
5. Backups need to step up…
Last week against the New Orleans Saints, the Chiefs’ first team and special teams outscored the Saints 10-0 in the first quarter. If the final whistle had blown then, the Chiefs would have come away with the “W.” The problem is, games are 60 minutes, not 15. Therefore, the guys fighting for a spot on the final 53 man roster need to fight a bit harder and close the game out, since they’re the ones on the field for the last quarter. It’s that simple. If you think you belong on this team, prove it.
In addition to this, while it has not been “confirmed nor denied,” there’s a pretty good chance that Jamaal Charles doesn’t play in tonight’s game. That’s okay. Charles has nothing to prove, as it’s only preseason and I think even though we’d like to see him torch the 49ers defense, we’d rather him rest his foot. That being said, backups Knile Davis, Shaun Draughn, Cyrus Gray and even the long shot, Jordan Roberts need to bring their “A” game to Arrowhead and show they can carry the running back load, if they are called upon.
The final point was the backups. There were some ups and downs here. I was actually pleasantly surprised with Knile Davis as a primary backup to Charles. I think with more practice and coaching, he could really turn into a force for the Chiefs. He’s a patient runner who waits for his blocks to form before he makes his move, but when he sees that crease, he can move. Another reserve offensive player that impressed me was receiver, Jamar Newsome. I thought he made some good catches that didn’t come from good throws. With a bit more experience, he could mature into a decent threat as well. Other than that, I didn’t see a lot else from the Chiefs’ reserves on the offensive side of the ball.
The defense, on the other hand, has me very encouraged. Despite the game winning touchdown given up by Neiko Thorpe, I thought the Chiefs’ defensive backups played just as stoutly as the starters. The defensive line was getting great push up front. They even made it to the quarterback on occasion. In fact, of the Chiefs’ four team sacks, three were by the guys fighting for a roster spot. That encourages me.
Key #5: Achieved
While the Chiefs’ record in the preseason is now 0-2, I still find myself optimistic about this team. The team didn’t meet the goals we set for them, and lost another one, but like I said at the beginning, there were several upsides to the game.
I try to not get too down and concerned about preseason. As I’ve said multiple times, these games are sometimes nothing more than nationally televised scrimmages. They are about trying out different personnel in different scenarios and seeing how they all perform together. Still, fans would like to see progress and a win would be nice. Perhaps they’ll turn that corner next week when the team faces the Pittsburgh Steelers behind the Iron Curtain.
See you then, Addicts!