To quote my wife, “it’s a lot better than last year.”
I don’t know how much condolence I can take in that.
The Kansas City Chiefs lost their their third straight game earlier this evening and drop their second straight at home. Their record is now 9-3 and they’re clearly looking up at the Denver Broncos in second place in the AFC West. Probably worse news, they are most likely out of the running for the No. 1 Seed in the AFC and drop all the way to the No. 5 Seed.
A few things have become painfully clear with this Chiefs team. As with many good articles or bits, they can be broken down in three categories:
The first is, they’re a hell of a lot better than last year. My wife is right in that respect. At this point last season, I wasn’t even watching the fourth quarter of Chiefs games. I’d long since turned off the t.v. and was in the yard working on my “honey do” list. The fact that I am here, pacing a hole in my floor and screaming at the t.v. with seconds left in the game shows how far this team has come.
Secondly, the offense is finally starting to come together. The unfortunate thing is, they have finally found their identity as their defense has lost theirs. The Chiefs posted 435 yards of total offense today on the way to this defeat. That is respectable for a team that nobody thought had any offensive production in them. Had this offense been present in games like the Buffalo Bills game or the Cleveland Browns game, the Chiefs would have won by 42.
Third, Alex Smith is exactly the quarterback he was brought here to be. He is accurate, and when his receivers catch his passes, he scores touchdowns. As I’ve said all season, Smith had to have time to gel in this offense and click with his personnel. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least bit if Chiefs general manager John Dorsey offers Smith a contract extension in the off season for three or four years. I don’t think the franchise is quite ready to commit to Smith as their QB of the future, but I think he’s the guy for the next three or four years.
Finally, the past two weeks is the best any of us have seen this Chiefs offensive line protect Alex Smith and open holes for Jamaal Charles. For the first time in memory, Alex Smith didn’t hit this ground during the game (behind the line of scrimmage) and Charles had nearly 100 yards on the ground. They were moving the defensive line around and pretty much had their way with them. Geoff Schwartz, who should have been starting all season, played well again in his second consecutive start.
The defense that started off so well and was the unit that really put this Chiefs team on the map has completely disappeared. They’ve now gone two games without sacking Peyton Manning and that just won’t get it done against this Broncos team. Most pundits and fans alike were okay with the big plays the Chiefs defense gave up here and there in the beginning of the season because they were constantly going “all in” to get to the QB. The problem now is, they’re not getting to the signal caller, but are still giving up huge plays. This defense is looking more and more like last year’s defense under Romeo “How Many Carries Did JC Have?” Crennel than under the guy everybody was hailing as a hero the first seven weeks of the season, Bob Sutton.
This receiving corps has got to figure out a way to hold onto the ball. Smith put pass after pass right on the money, and the balls continued to fall to the ground in the second half. Having an accurate quarterback does no good if the receivers can’t haul in the catches. They were easily responsible for half of Smith’s 16 incompletions on the game.
Finally, I’ll say that the some of the play calling was a bit iffy at best. Continuing to try and match up one on one with these Denver receivers was just silly. When Manning continued to beat them on pass after pass, you’d think that some adjustments would be made, but they weren’t. For a team that was so good at making second half adjustments on both sides of the ball, that magic seems to have disappeared.
Losing starting left tackle Branden Albert at this point in the season is tough. Nevermind how you think he’s playing (for the record, besides the penalties, I think he’s pretty damn good) the leadership he brings to this young offensive line is irreplaceable. People who know more about football than me say that offensive lines take the longest of any unit on a football team to gel together. That’s evident, as I said they’re just starting to come about. If you think Branden Albert didn’t have anything to do with that gelling, well you’re probably one of those people who doesn’t know more about football than me. Regardless, I hope the injury wasn’t nearly as bad as looked on my big screen t.v.
Marcus Cooper. He’s a sentence all his own. Heralded as the next best thing on this team and displayed as a testament to John Dorsey’s genius for the first nine weeks of this season has had a few rough weeks. Because his play was so stellar during the first half of the season, a lot of people seem to forgotten he’s a rookie who drafted at the very end of the final round and then cut but the team that drafted him. Has he been ugly? You bet. But the kid is learning on a pretty steep curve and had bad weeks against arguably two of the better quarterbacks in the league.
What’s not ugly is the rest of the Chiefs schedule. Yes, barring a freak losing streak by the Broncos, the Chiefs will likely be the No. 5 seed and playing during Wildcard Weekend. Their next four games — despite the fact that three of them are on the road — are very winnable. The Chiefs travel to our nation’s capital to face the Washington Redskins next Sunday. Despite how they look right now on Sunday Night Football I have to remember they’re playing the New York Giants. The bottom line is, the Redskins aren’t that good.
The following week, the Chiefs travel to the black hole, and face the Oakland Raiders. It’s a divisional game, and thus tough by virtue of the fact that they are always a bit grittier, but very winnable for the Chiefs. If they can pick themselves up after this loss and win back to back against the Redskins and Raiders, that will put them in perfect position to return to Arrowhead for their home closer against a very up and down Indianapolis Colts team.
Finally, the team travels to San Diego for the season finale to face the Chargers who are always a threat.
The bottom line is, the sky isn’t falling and the season isn’t over. The Chiefs lost by a total of 17 points in the last three games. They were in every game until the very last two minutes.
Despite what the “Debbie Downers” and “Negative Nellys” on Twitter and other parts of the interweb, the Chiefs season isn’t over. They will make the playoffs and likely win their first game because they’ll be playing the Cincinnati Bengals or the Colts again.
This team has slipped, but isn’t the “Paper Tigers” a lot of national media and even Chiefs fans have said they are. They are contenders who still have some issues and holes to fill.
Let’s not forget that this was still the team that 2-14 last year. I’ll take this every day of the week and twice on Sunday.