The Chiefs perfect season is no more. The most anticipated game of the NFL season ended up being a frustrating one for KC fans as penalties and an overall “play it safe” approach cost the Chiefs a chance at beating Peyton Manning and the Broncos on the road.
The Chiefs were basically the same team that they’ve been all season. Their defense played well overall against the best offense in the NFL, and their offense was (once again) mediocre. I don’t know that this game “exposed” the Chiefs as many doubters in the national media predicted, and I certainly don’t think KC fans should walk away from this game thinking that the Chiefs can’t hang with Denver in Arrowhead in two weeks.
What we did learn about the Chiefs is that it appears that they won’t deviate from their regular game plan, ever. The Chiefs were basically playing with house money in this game. They were playing on the road with a one game lead on a team that most people thought was better than them. They were playing a team that scores a lot of points. However, the Chiefs played it safe at every turn instead of taking risks and trying to make something happen. They kicked a field goal on 4th and goal from the one yard line when they were down in the first half. They punted the ball at midfield in the 4th quarter while down 14 points to the best regular season QB in NFL history. Finally, they basically played it safe defensively all night by only rushing their front four on the majority of defensive plays (more on that in a minute).
The other thing that helped define this game was the way it was officiated. I’m not going to go down the road that some Chiefs fans have and say that the game was officiated unfairly or one-sided. However, the way that the officials called the game was not defensive friendly. Since this was a battle of a high powered offense against an elite defense that favored the offensive team, and that was Denver. It became clear early on that the refs weren’t going to allow the DBs to be very physical with the WRs. Most of the calls fit the NFL rules, but in other games you see a lot of those plays not get called. The Chiefs were left with the lose/lose scenario of letting the Denver WRs run free and having Manning pick them apart, or jamming them at the line and risking a penalty.
With the DBs forced to lay off the WRs it allowed Manning to get the ball out quick and negate the front four pass rush of KC. When Manning is getting the ball out that fast, there is almost no way for an edge rusher to get there in time. That is why I was hoping that in the 2nd half Bob Sutton would dial up more blitzes. Yes, that can be risky against Peyton Manning, but when you’re already losing and the refs aren’t letting your DBs knock the WRs off their routes you have to do SOMETHING to knock Manning out of his rhythm. The Chiefs just didn’t do it.
Consequently, the Broncos were able to put up enough points to get the job done.
The other HUGE turning point in this game was the Anthony Sherman fumble that came right after the Chiefs had forced a turnover deep in Denver’s territory. Not capitalizing on that mistake AND then giving up a big play that eventually lead to a Denver TD could have possibly been a 14 point swing in Denver’s favor. The Chiefs were playing catch up the rest of the night and Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense just weren’t up to the task.
The bright side is that KC still held the Broncos to their lowest point total of the year and there is still reason to believe that in Arrowhead the Chiefs will be better able to rattle Manning with the home crowd on their side.
Although this was a frustrating game in a lot of ways for KC fans, I think that KC did at least prove that they aren’t “frauds”. They’re just a good football team that still has things it needs to improve on. Here’s to hoping they can do that over the next two weeks before they see this same team again.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!