Happy Halloween! The Kansas City Chiefs travel to Ralph Wilson Stadium to face the ghastly Buffalo Bills this Sunday. If you are a Bills player, your treat is that you have a chance to upset the team with the biggest bullseye in the entire NFL on their collective backs. If you are a Chiefs player, your trick is that you must believe that you are going into this game with a record of 0-0 to start the second half of the season.
Head coach Andy Reid’s most impressive trick this year may be just that – he’s kept the Chiefs focused on just the game in front of them, despite all of the national hoopla. While that’s difficult for players, it’s absolutely tortuous for us Addicts! As an Addict, it’s, well, addictive to get caught up in discussions about the playoffs, the Broncos, the historic place of this year’s defense, why some commentators just can’t seem to give the Chiefs any respect – the list goes on and I’m as guilty of this chatter as much anybody.
But if the Chiefs can stay focused on the Bills, so can I. Here goes (foreshadow: I fail):
The Bills play Kansas City-style football in many ways. Their running game is strong, with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, who is returning from an ankle injury and may be active Sunday. They have a strong secondary, and a monster of a pass rusher in Mario Williams, who is just ahead of the Chiefs’ Justin Houston and Tamba Hali in the League race in sacks. Williams is joined by stout defensive tackles Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams, creating a formidable pass rush, also like the Chiefs. The Bills receivers are good – Stevie Johnson at wideout and tight end Scott Chandler in particular. Kiko Alonso, the frontrunner for rookie of the year, is a tackling machine, like a raw, less experienced, less honed version of Derrick Johnson.
Thad Lewis, the Bills’ starting quarterback, was promoted from the practice squad earlier this year when original starter E.J. Manuel went down with a sprained LCL. Lewis has been decent a times. Last week, not so much. He was 22-39 again the New Orleans Saints for one touchdown, threw one pick, lost two fumbles and got crushed by four sacks. But like Jason Campbell last week for the Cleveland Browns and Case Keenum for the Houston Texans, Lewis has absolutely nothing to lose this Sunday, going up against the Chiefs.
Oh, and the Bills defense ranks 25th in the League against the run.
How do the Chiefs win this game? Just like we’ve won the previous eight games. Play nasty, opportunistic, aggressive, ball-hawking defense. Run a ball-controlling, risk-averse, clock-eating, short-pass oriented offense. Show athleticism and fast-strike ability on special teams. And win the turnover battle.
In other words, be a team of hard-nosed football players, not a team of prima donnas, head cases or whiners.
National prognosticators and commentators may use this game plan to feed their fire of disrespect towards the Chiefs (see, I’ve already lost my focus on the Bills game). But you know what? Damn them. I admit, after every game thus far (except Jacksonville and the Giants, of course!), a little voice in my head has said, “what’s going on with our offensive line?” Or, “why can’t we complete a downfield pass?” Or, “why did we give up so many big plays on defense?” This last game against Cleveland however — a game we were supposed to win, and by a lot (the last point spread was nine points or so) — made me turn the corner, like many of you have already done.
Despite all of the noise (not crowd noise, commentator noise), the Chiefs just go out and quietly do what they do – play outstanding defense, manage the offense, create positive field advantage on special teams and win the turnover battle. That’s the recipe, and there’s nothing confusing about it.
It’s simple really, and I’ve embraced it. This plan — without frills, trickery or secrecy — is just like the new persona that general manager John Dorsey and Reid have brought to the Chiefs. Unlike former GM Scott Pioli, there’s transparency. The Chiefs talk about the injury report. Players are free to talk candidly. Heck, I bet even the venetian blinds at One Arrowhead Drive are — gasp — open! So they can see the actual field!
Andy Reid and John Dorsey are consistent. They are clear and direct. They embody every cliché in the book: put your nose to the grindstone; play one game at a time; let our play on the field speak for itself; put team first; play fundamental, complementary football. But you know what? It’s all true.
There’s something elegant about lining up against the opposition, when they more or less know what you are going to do, and you do it. Over and over again. Here’s a short quiz to show you how I’m feeling:
Question: How many times will the Chiefs run that screen pass to Jamaal Charles?
Answer: I hope a billion times.
Question: How many times will the Chiefs blitz Eric Berry or Derrick Johnson behind the earth movers known as Dontari Poe, Tyson Jackson and Mike DeVito?
Answer: As many times as they damn well please.
The Chiefs are a throwback. They are not glitzy like the Seattle Seahawks or the San Francisco 49ers. They are not cut in the mold of a star-QB led team, like Aaron Rodgers’ Packers or Tom Brady’s Patriots. They are the antithesis of the NFL’s marketing department’s dream: high-scoring, offensive juggernauts; flamboyant play; and outspoken stars.
We are the Chiefs. We have our own style. That style may be described as boring by some, but for us Addicts, it fits. It’s perfect actually. It’s a heads-down, grind-until-the-end, steamroller approach to football. Other teams will catch on to our model. After all, as much as teams want to find the next Aaron Rodgers, those gems are rare. That approach is a risky one. The Chiefs blueprint is eminently replicable.
Take pride, Addicts, for we are the Chiefs, with the most powerful, balanced and innovative model in the NFL.
Addicts, we once had “Marty Ball” to define our team. What name would you give Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs?!!