Any loss creates handwringing, concern and/or analysis (if you’re unlucky enough to be the Houston Texans or Minnesota Vikings, it also causes habitual quarterback changes). For the Kansas City Chiefs though, we don’t need any handwringing. We’ve lost ONE game. The teams who can say that are a small group: the Seattle Seahawks, the Denver Broncos and the Chiefs. That’s not shabby company, Addicts.
Oh, and that ONE loss came against the team that most pundits say is the best team in the NFL. Playing in their home stadium. With one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game.
The margin between a Chiefs win and a Chiefs loss last Sunday was razor thin – a Donnie Avery drop, an Anthony
Richard Sherman fumble, a Justin Houston rush that was literally less than one second too late, a near decapitation of Tamba Hali that went unpenalized. Just a handful of plays made the difference between winning and losing.
That shouldn’t be surprising. For those of you who played sports in high school or college, think about the very best player on your team. These were the teammates that repeatedly made the clutch play, led the team in scoring and were the team captains. They were the fastest, smartest, most gutsy players on the field or court.
There’s a great chance that none of them played in the NFL. That’s because of the 15,086 collegiate football players who are seniors this year, just 255 will be drafted. That’s just 1.7% of all college players. For the best senior who played on your high school team, the odds are even worse. There are an estimated 316,697 high school seniors playing football this year. Just eight-tenths of one percent of them will get drafted.
That means that even the Sabby Piscitelli’s and Brady Quinn’s of the world are incredible and smart athletes – truly the cream of the crop. And the same applies to NFL coaches, whether an assistant, coordinator or a head coach.
With ten games gone, it’s now time for a few of these elite individuals to rise to the occasion and become difference makers. The remaining six games will determine which playoff pathway the Chiefs take, if any: Wild Card participant or divisional winner? To Andy Reid, Bob Sutton, Doug Pederson and Dave Toub: gentlemen, the time to prove your elite status is now. Every team in the League is getting one layer deeper in the chess match of the 2013 season. With four of the Chiefs remaining six games against divisional opponents, it’s time to make some adjustments. Here are a few suggestions, to get started:
1. Double down on the short-passing game. I know this one may be completely, totally, 100% counterintuitive to most Addicts. Most Addicts want (a) more deep passes, and (b) more Jamaal Charles runs. But the short passing game is what we excel at. Let’s face it, Chiefs fans, our offensive line is good but not great. And Peyton Manning showed us the damage you can do with a two-second release and short completions. Alex Smith loves this approach, as do Dexter McCluster, Jamaal Charles and Donnie Avery. Heck, I bet Eric Fisher loves this approach. Bowe and Fasano can use their big bodies to excel here as well. By doubling down on the short pass, opposing linebackers will play a bit softer, opening up lanes for Charles to run the ball. Additionally, opposing cornerbacks will play tighter coverage, opening up the occasional double move. The short passing game is the least sexiest offensive play in football, but it’s smart and it fits this team perfectly. More short passes.
2. Send Jamaal long. I know, this suggestion contradicts the first one. But the only thing scarier for opposing teams than Jamaal with the ball is Jamaal without the ball. Seeing Jamaal sprint down the field will put fear into the hearts of opposing linebackers and coaches. The Chiefs almost turned one of these into a touchdown last Sunday. Let’s see more of that.
3. Turn Eric Berry into more of a linebacker. When faced with strong tight ends like the Chiefs will face on Sunday in Antonio Gates, Berry has been the primary coverage guy. But I think his best use is as a linebacker, hovering midfield for short passing routes and making the occasional blitz. Berry is an elite tackler and pass rusher and he has a nose for the ball. It seems better to keep him in the mix for every play, rather than assigning him to a receiver.
4. Give Junior Hemingway a chance. Look, depth charts are there for a reason. We all get that. Hemingway is young, probably a little raw on his route precision and hasn’t learned the finer arts of using his body to position himself for receptions. But as a unit, the Chiefs’ receivers are not operating at a high level. Avery was great in the first half of the season but lately, has dropped a few. Bowe seems to actually have lost a step from last year. Hemingway, at minimum, is a change of pace. At maximum, he could be a great one. But he needs repetitions for that. Already, he has shown great downfield blocking skills, no doubt learned from Bowe. He may catalyze this receiver corps over the next six games.
5. Block a punt. Addicts, we were spoiled in the preseason and in the New York Giants game with great punt returns by Dexter McCluster. But opposing punt coverage has been tighter lately. By going for a punt block, opposing teams will be a bit more cautious letting everyone fly down the field, opening up running lanes and perhaps springing McCluster for a long gain.
Addicts, what are your chess moves going into Week 11?!!