The Chiefs largely fought a good game against the Denver Broncos, but came up just short in a few key areas.
The most glaring shortcoming in the game was at wide receiver, and I think it solidified that position as the team’s top need after this season is over.
With six games left to play, WR Dwayne Bowe leads the group with an uninspiring 37 catches for 426 yards. Donnie Avery is the only other Chiefs receiver with more than 400 yards and Dexter McCluster is the only one in the group that has broken 30 catches on the year.
True, HC Andy Reid’s West Coast offence involves a lot of high-percentage plays to running backs and tight ends, but the Chiefs saw in Denver that they really need consistency among their wideouts to keep up in shootouts.
At the moment, Bowe is putting on the sort of show everyone feared – give him financial security and watch the effort disappear. In the Bronco’s game, he fought just hard enough for QB Alex Smith to force it to him every now and then, but he’s not doing enough. Thirty-seven catches on 72 targets from a QB with renowned accuracy. Enough said.
Avery, the team’s only true speed receiver is able to get open but makes more critical drops than big plays.
McCluster is a guy I’ve always wanted to like more than his play warranted. In his 3rd season, he has the look of a career #4 receiver.
After those three, the Chiefs have developmental prospects Junior Hemmingway, A.J. Jenkins and Kyle Williams — a 7th-round pick and two castaways from a 49ers team that is short on receiving options.
It’s popular to blame the quarterback when the passing game falters and Alex Smith’s statline certainly warranted
skepticism last week – 46.7% completion percentage and a QBR of 25.5. But, PFF had him graded positively and said, “the biggest shame was that his receivers (four drops, three of them critical) couldn’t make the catches to give Smith that stat to go with his excellent throws.”
Going into this game, the Chiefs’ game plan of wicked defense and stable offense was enough to get a “W” every week. But QB Peyton Manning showed what elite quarterbacks can do to good defenses. He was getting the ball out of his hands in just over 2 seconds. It doesn’t matter how good your pass rush is if the QB is able to get the ball out that quickly. They just won’t get there in time. If the team also has a plethora for receiving options, then you can’t count on your secondary to have absolutely everyone covered – especially in the man-to-man schemes that DC Bob Sutton likes to run.
There are two pieces of good news in all of this. The first is that with the Chiefs assuredly picking towards the end of the first round, they’ll have lots of good value picks at wide receiver. There’s even a good chance that a guy like Texas A&M’s Mike Evans or Clemson’s Sammy Watkins will be available.
The other silver lining in this is what it says about where the team is in terms of development. Bad teams go into the draft looking to build the foundation of the franchise in the first couple of rounds. Good teams are looking to tack on weapons for their next playoff run.
The Chiefs are finally in the latter camp.