On its surface, this Sunday’s game against the New York Giants has all of the elements of an upset. Yes, that’s right – a trap game for the Kansas City Chiefs, as my colleague Stacy Smith wrote about earlier this week. It’s a must-read for Addicts – if you haven’t read it yet, please do!
Who would have thought it possible – the formerly 2-14 Chiefs a four-point favorite over a Giants team just two years removed from being Super Bowl champions?
The Chiefs are 3-0, coming off of a huge road win at Philadelphia and with confidence at an all time high. The Giants are 0-3 and on the heels of their worst loss in the Tom Coughlin era, a 38-0 thrashing by the Carolina Panthers. For the season, the Chiefs defense is giving up just 11.3 points per game, tied for second in the NFL. The New York Giants defense comes in at a League worst 38.3 points per game. The Chiefs are +9 in the turnover department; the Giants are -9. The Chiefs lead the NFL with 15 quarterback sacks. The Giants are tied for last with just three. After the Panthers debacle, Giants defensive captain Justin Tuck simply stated, “We are a desperate football team right now.”
Oh, and the game is at Arrowhead. Gee, Addicts, what could possibly go wrong?!!
In years past, we know exactly what could go wrong. The options are plentiful: (a) the defense gives up a long run or pass for a touchdown; (b) the offense goes three-and-out repeatedly through a combination of mind-numbing play calling and offensive ineptitude; (c) the Chiefs turn over the ball; or of course, (d) many or all of the above.
Why should this Sunday be any different than Sundays past? Will the New York Giants in fact, be Giants, or will they be giant-killers, knocking the Chiefs down to size? After all, the Giants still have Super Bowl talent in quarterback Eli Manning, receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, and defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Tuck. They are desperate, angry, have nothing to lose and everything to gain, and know a thing or two about playing well when the pressure is on.
How do you prevent a trap game? Stacy says to stay humble and be sure to cover Cruz. Natasha Sims, Arrowhead Addict’s senior copy editor, had two prescient tweets during last Sunday’s exhilarating win over the Eagles that offers two more nuggets of wisdom:
“…I forgot how great it was to have a defensive team. I mean, the Trent Green years were a blast, but those 90s D. The best.”
“…Alex Smith makes the OL look better because he doesn’t make stupid mistakes and turnover the ball.”*
That’s how you prevent a trap game. Do what you do well, but even more aggressively.
*Oy, senior copy editor and a glaring error in my own tweet. Facepalm. –NS
If I’m head coach Andy Reid and I win the coin toss, I would defer. I want Bob Sutton’s defense on the field first, with lockdown corners Brandon Flowers and Sean Smith on Cruz and Nicks, respectively, safety Eric Berry roaming the middle and eight guys in and around the box. Why? The Giants offensive line is porous. Center David Baas and rookie right tackle Justin Pugh both got schooled last week versus Carolina. Left tackle Will Beatty may be an even weaker link on the offensive line, which gave up seven sacks to the Panthers.
The Chiefs defense needs to do what they do, but better. Don’t just be aggressive, be more aggressive, like the high flying ‘90s pass rush of Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith. Don’t just lock down their wide receivers, lock them down more, like the old tandem of Albert Lewis and Dale Carter. Don’t just hit ‘em hard, from all over the field. Hit ‘em harder, like the glory days of Kevin Ross. Each defensive starter needs to dominate their matchups from the first defensive snap and set the tone for the day.
On offense, we need to do what we already do well — run a patient, turnover-free, mistake-free, clock-eating West Coast offense — but better. The Giants were defenseless against the run last week. Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams rushed 23 times for 120 yards, at 5.2 yards per carry. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton ran seven times for 45 yards, or 6.4 yards per carry. The Chiefs should both pound the ball with Jamaal Charles and Cyrus Gray, but also let Alex Smith loose on some designed runs, just like Newton did. I want to see Smith being even more cautious this week, checking down, taking the underneath routes to Donnie Avery. I know some fans want more flash, but for this trap game, I think we keep the offense doing exactly what they’ve been doing, just more of it.
Finally, we have to keep doing what we’ve been doing with turnover differential, but do it better and early. Turnover differential is one my favorite statistics, because it is one of the few stats that combines the impact of the offense, defense and special teams — the offense can’t make any, the defense needs to force them and special teams has to do both. You don’t get to +9 in turnovers with an offense making turnovers.
If we do all of these things, and do them early — play an overly-aggressive defense and an overly-conservative offense and keep winning the turnover differential— then I think we build momentum early, get Arrowhead Stadium rocking and avoid the trap game.
Addicts, what’s your recipe to avoid an upset?!