It’s Tuesday morning again and Chiefs Kingdom is on the right side of another nail-biter. The Kansas City Chiefs hung on to a 1-point, fourth quarter lead for dear life, beating the Houston Texans 17-16. The Chiefs are 7-0 for just the second time in franchise history. When the Cleveland Browns come to town next weekend, Kansas City will be finishing up a three-game home stand at Arrowhead Stadium (where they’ve already won four times). The team has just two more opponents left before the bye week, followed by a highly-anticipated matchup with the Denver Broncos. Andy Reid and his players are on a crash course, with their Rocky Mountain rival, to determine mid-season supremacy in the AFC West.
The excitement in the Kingdom is at an absolute fever pitch. Leave it to a worrisome blogger to find fault with an undefeated team, right? I’ll endure that criticism if it means I can speak openly and honestly about this team. Not all of what I have to say is bad, but I’ll spare you further hand-wringing and get right to it.
I present to you, three more things I think I think about the Kansas City Chiefs:
1. Alex Smith is leaving too many opportunities on the field.
With 14 minutes to play in the game, Alex Smith and the Chiefs’ offense went on a 6-play, 77-yard drive that moved them into a goal-to-go situation at Houston’s 10-yard line. Three plays later, head coach Andy Reid opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 to try and extend their lead. Unfortunately, Kansas City failed to capitalize.
Smith rolled to his right and initially looked for fullback Anthony Sherman, but when he realized his drag route was a yard shy of the goal line, Smith tried to turn up field. Sherman was unable to block either of the two defenders closing in on Smith. He was forced to pull up and attempt a late throw to Sean McGrath. Their pursuit pushed Smith so close to the right boundary it made it impossible for McGrath to make the catch in bounds.
Alex Smith’s indecision cost the Chiefs a touchdown. McGrath had a step on cornerback Johnathan Joseph. Had Smith pulled up sooner, he could’ve completed an easy throw to McGrath for the score. Later in the quarter, Smith made a poor throw on 3rd & 4 that would’ve essentially ended the game. Dwayne Bowe ran a quick slant that put just enough room between he and corner Brice McCain. Smith threw high and slightly behind Bowe. Had the pass been out in front and on the numbers, Kansas City converts the third down play and can run all but 37 seconds off of the clock. The ball was dropped and the Chiefs were forced to punt the ball to Houston with 1:57 on the clock. Smith needs to be a better steward of late-game opportunities the rest of the way.
2. The Chiefs’ defense is still susceptible to the big play.
The Kansas City Chiefs still own the #1 scoring defense in the NFL, but it was apparent on Sunday that they’re still occasionally prone to the big play. Rookie Case Keenum, making his first NFL start, came into a hostile Arrowhead environment and coolly completed 6 passes of 25+ yards (three were 35 yards or longer). The Chiefs surrendered a 27-yard run to Terrelle Pryor and a 39-yard touchdown to Denarius Moore the previous Sunday.
The Chiefs didn’t get much pressure on Case Keenum in the first half of Sunday’s game. Keenum extended plays, where the Chiefs were able to pressure him, by sliding around in the pocket and with rollouts. He was sacked five times on the day, but not until well into the third quarter. It wasn’t until defensive coordinator Bob Sutton made significant halftime adjustments that the team had success with pressuring Keenum. If not for the overload blitzes dominating the left side of Houston’s offensive line, Keenum might’ve continued to carve the Chiefs’ defense up.
Sutton’s defensive scheme relies heavily upon press coverage. As good as Kansas City’s secondary is, they’re going to be beaten every now and again. Especially when the front seven aren’t getting pressure on the quarterback. The best defensivebacks in the league are vulnerable when they’re forced to cover someone for 6-7 seconds. That kind of window gives quarterbacks twice as much time, as they would normally have, to find an open man. Everyone in the organization should thank their lucky stars that Sutton resolved the issue with the pass rush at the half.
3. Reid & Smith have invited Dwayne Bowe to the offensive party.
Bowe recorded 5 catches for 66 yards in Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans (both season-highs). It’s clear that Reid wants to get the seven-year wideout more involved in the offense. Alex Smith targeted him on his first four passing attempts. Bowe’s number was called five more times as the game wore on. The extra work helped him lead all Chiefs’ receivers in receptions for the first time this season.
Coming into Week 7, Bowe was averaging just over 3 receptions per game. He’s only been targeted 43 times all season (a hair over 6 per contest). Unsurprisingly, his 2nd and 3rd best performances of 2013 came in the games where he was targeted most. Smith threw to Bowe 7 times in the game against the Dallas Cowboys (he caught 4 balls for 56 yards). He was thrown to 8 times in the matchup with the New York Giants (4 catches for 58 yards).
Productivity for Bowe requires reps in this offense. Throw him the ball and he’ll get his numbers. The next two weeks provide an excellent opportunity for Smith to get even more comfortable with Bowe. The Chiefs will need chemistry between the two heading into the back half of the season. Kansas City’s Week 11 game with the Denver Broncos is excellent incentive for them to try and become one of the more respected quarterback-wide receiver tandems in the AFC.
If Reid and the Chiefs can keep these things in mind, they’ll have a chance to continue their torrid run through the AFC. They have a game on the Denver Broncos and essentially control their own destiny. The team can’t look ahead though, they have a quirky Cleveland Browns team coming to town. It’s tough to say which Cleveland team will show up at Arrowhead on Sunday. Will it be the Cleveland Browns that took down the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals? Will it be the team that’s only managed to score an average of 15 points per game the past two weeks? The Chiefs will soon find out.
You suffered through my thoughts and now I’d like to hear yours. Use the comment section below to weigh in on my shortlist or to create a list of your own. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.
Until next time, Addicts!