Week 12 begins and for the first time in their 2013 campaign, the Kansas City Chiefs are looking to rebound from a loss. The team fell to the Denver Broncos 27-17 before a national television audience on “Sunday Night Football.” I think every reasonable fan of the Chiefs knew this day would come. It’s the way Kansas City lost that will leave Chiefs Kingdom and perhaps the team temporarily disheartened.
The most troublesome part about the loss is the way the Chiefs’ offense repeatedly shot itself in the foot. Kansas City committed four offensive penalties for 30 yards on Sunday night in Denver. A few of them snuffed out promising drives. It didn’t help that Kansas City also struggled in the red zone. Late in the first quarter, fullback Anthony Sherman caught a pass from Alex Smith, gained 2 yards on his way upfield, and fumbled the football. Denver recovered and Kansas City lost a chance to either score a go-ahead touchdown or tie the game at 3.
The Chiefs wilted again in the red zone in a second quarter drive where they had 1st-and-2 from the Denver 2-yard line. They gained only one of those two yards in three tries. Ryan Succop ultimately had to settle for a 20-yard field goal. Some have criticized Reid for not going for it on 4th-and-1. I’m not sure that was the right decision. The Chiefs were already down two possessions. If they’d failed to convert there, Denver would’ve had a chance to blow the game wide open.
We finally know what this offensive unit is currently made of. They’re capable of scoring enough points to be a complement to this defense. They’re also far too inconsistent and not quite good enough to overcome their own blunders. The Chiefs got away with that the first half of the season. The final six games will require the brand of mistake-free football they’ve been preaching since the offseason began.
I’m sure I sound like a broken record, but Kansas City has to stop leaving points on the field. Let me be clear: I don’t expect Alex Smith to develop a skillset he doesn’t already have. I’m not expecting Reid’s offensive philosophy to morph into an Air Coryell scheme. The team simply needs to do more of what they can do, more often.
It all begins with the Chiefs’ run offense. Kansas City ran the ball 25 times for 144 yards against Denver (5.8 yards per carry). They weren’t in much of a position for more carries (as they trailed for most of the game), but that success makes a compelling case for establishing the run earlier. Jamaal Charles had a grand total of three carries in the Chiefs’ first three offensive series.
Knile Davis made a pair of positive plays. Given more of an opportunity, he could make a bigger contribution and help lighten Charles’ load. I can’t help but think that the limited number of touches are rooted in the fear that he may not have overcome his collegiate fumbling issue. To date, Davis has touched the ball 24 times without event.
Getting back to basics is likely to correct the rest of what’s wrong with Kansas City’s offense. Catching and securing the football are two vital aspects of the game where the team has had consistent trouble. The team is 9th in the NFL in drops (with 20). Donnie Avery and Anthony Sherman both have fumbles inside of the opponents’ 20-yard line.
There are other areas where the Chiefs need improvement. Kansas City’s scoring to start the second halves of games has been deplorable. They average roughly 3.5 third quarter points in 2013. The third frame has statistically been their least-productive quarter of offensive football.
To Reid’s credit, the offense seemed to take more chances in the passing game, but that may be explained away by trailing Denver by two possessions. Successful throws down the field in the SNF game may relax Smith’s risk-aversion a bit. If he can learn to trust his receivers to catch the deep ball, he might be more inclined to throw it. I’ve been critical of Smith, but it should be noted that he played well on Sunday. His performance earned a +1.6 grade from Pro Football Focus.
The 4-6 San Diego Chargers are headed to Arrowhead on Sunday. Despite having dropped three straight, San Diego can score. They’ve bested the Chiefs’ season scoring average five times this year. It’s hard to say which Chargers team will show up on Sunday, but the Chiefs need to be prepared to get out of the gates quickly.
It’s not time for anyone to panic, but the problems with Kansas City’s offense are now inescapable. Sunday was a glaring reminder that this unit will need to improve for this team to win in December and January. We’re unlikely to see sweeping change this late in the year, but a few small changes could go a mighty long way.
What say you, Addicts? Is it too late in the season to expect any real change from this offense? Are the problems strictly personnel-based? Will a renewed focus on fundamentals make a constructive difference? Use the comment section below to chime in. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.
Until next time, Addicts!