As we all now know, the Chiefs suffered their second loss (in a row) to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. To tie a bow on this week and move forward to the Week 13 Showdown with the Denver Broncos, I’d like to look back at our Five Keys to Victory and see how the Chiefs did. As always, my original comments are in normal type and my follow up comments are in bold.
Key #1: Hold on to the Passing Momentum
Last week we saw more passing beyond five yards from the Chiefs in one game than we saw all season. While quarterback Alex Smith did have a little trouble hitting some of his receivers and when he did hit them those receivers had a little trouble hanging onto the ball, that doesn’t negate the fact that head coach Andy Reid is opening the last few pages of the play book. Smith and company will need to take some shots and keep this “spotty” Chargers defense on its heels.
The Chiefs passing game was the best we’ve seen it all season. With Smith getting near the 300 yard passing mark and finding the end zone with three different receivers, there is definitely something build on with this game. He opened up the playbook and took quite a few deep shots, connecting on most of them.
Key #1: Achieved
Key #2: Use What Got You Here
Despite the writings of some crackpot journalists out of Denver, it’s no accident that the Chiefs are 9-1 at this point in the season. They got here by playing stout defense and relying on Jamaal Charles to carry the lion’s share of offense. They seem to have gotten away from that in recent weeks and frankly, they need to return to their roots. Setting up Charles to run and then using that show “play action” are sure fire ways to get this defense to over commit. It’s what got the Chiefs to this point and it’s what they should go back to.
Jamaal Charles did exactly what Jamaal Charles should do. He ran and scored touchdowns. Charles had his second 100 yard rushing game of the season and found the end zone twice. The hope is, the momentum carries forward to the match up with the Broncos on Sunday afternoon.
Key #3: Put Rivers on His Back
Nothing flashy. Nothing crazy. The Chiefs need to rush — and get to — the Chargers quarterback today. Rivers is one of the best signal callers in the league — statistically speaking — and will find the weaknesses in the Chiefs secondary if he’s allowed to hang out in the pocket all day. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton had better call up some of his genius from the first part of the season to defeat the blocking schemes and get H2Poe (Houston, Hali and Poe) to the quarterback.
Yeah, about that. The Chiefs pass rush has pulled a Houdini in the last few weeks. Granted, the best pass rush duo in the league in Houston and Hali were both sidelined in the first half with injuries, but the rest of the team was unable to take up the slack. The team was able to end its sack drought late in the fourth quarter, but on the following play Phillip Rivers threw the game winning touchdown, so I’m not really sure it counts.
Key #3: NOT Achieved
Key #4: Control the Chargers Runners
This is a new concept for Chargers running back Ryan Matthews. I don’t think the kid has every played this late into the season because he’s usually out with an injury by week three or four. That being said, he’s having a pretty good year and shouldn’t be overlooked. If you add in Danny Woodhead, who can move all over the field, the Chiefs could have their hands full with the Chargers rushing attack. Without their run stopping anchor, Mike Devito who’s out with a knee sprain, the defensive line will really need to bone up and work to stop the run. Tyson Jackson, we’re looking at you.
While the Chiefs held the Chargers to a respectable 114 yards on the ground, the two primary Chargers rushers gashed the Chiefs in the screen-passing game for another 54 yards and a touchdown. These plays were tough for the Chiefs defense to stop, especially Danny Woodhead.
Key #4: NOT Achieved
Key #5: Arrowhead Magic
One of the most magical games I’ve ever seen was against the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football Halloween night in 2011. It was the infamous “Monday Night Miracle” where Rivers fumbled a snap and the Chargers lost the game the game when they certainly had a victory sewn up. Though the teams now have different personnel and head coaches, Arrowhead Stadium remains the same. It’s a magical place that doesn’t really like division rivals upstaging its team. I expect a little of that magic this afternoon.
The Arrowhead crowd was in the game from the beginning and you even caused a couple of false start penalties. However, in the end, there was no “Sunday Magic” and the version of Rivers going nuts on the sideline was in joy and not in defeat.
Key #5: NOT Achieved
While the offense was finally able to gain some traction, scoring a season high 38 points, the defense just couldn’t get anything going in the absence of their star linebackers, Houston and Hali. Only completing two of the five keys, it really is no wonder the Chiefs lost, even if it was in the last minute.