“In the game of life,
nothing is less important,
than the score at halftime.”
Last Saturday, two days after San Diego beat Denver, in a post called, “The Weekly Donnybrook: The Weigh-In,” I suggested that the Chargers had shown the rest of the league the blueprint for how to handle a hungry Manning. Upon further review, the answer may be more pointed, in that you simply can not score too fast to beat them, because that plays right into their hands in that, they appear able to score at will and in an instant. However, this piece is more about the Chiefs than the Broncos, and it looks like the Chiefs have rediscovered that old bug-a-boo of their own — scoring too fast.
As I sat and watched the Chiefs pulverize the Raiders on Sunday, I could count the number of times (5, equalling the number of times JC scored) I was reminded of another wonderful Chiefs offensive juggernaut: the 2003 Priest Holmes led Chiefs. As RB Jamaal Charles took one screen pass after another and turned them into his own little endzone river-dances, I couldn’t help but be impressed by, 1) the way he so adeptly pulled the ball in (sometimes with only one hand), 2) carefully following his blockers, 3) making the perfect cuts to the promised land and 4) keeping his jersey Tidey clean.
It might as well have been Priest Holmes tugging the payload and for the most part of the game… but make no mistake… I was thrilled.
However, doubt began to creep in during the third quarter. The Oakland Raiders had somehow whittled the score down to 34-31 and the final outcome of this contest, came into question again.
Wow, as a fan you have to be ecstatic about such an outcome. I recall being totally “ecstatic” 10 years ago too, every time Trent Green and Tony G connected or Priest did one of his high steps into the end zone… and it almost always led to another victory. However, the 2003 Chiefs defense was so bad, they could do nothing in the playoffs.
Now, ecstasy has turned to reservation.
Yes, this 2013 team can win many of these “battles”… but can they win the big one’s that are coming on the near horizon? For now, although I reserve final judgement at some future point in time, it appears that for now… they can not.
That is, unless, they can learn to control the tempo of games.
On Sunday, the Raiders not only won the time of “Possession Chess Match” (34:07 to 25:53) but they also won “Pigskin Jenga”… aka; the total yardage game (461 to 384). Why is that important if the Chiefs come out on top? There’s a simple answer to that: do you know of a defensive player who can play dominant defense for 60 straight minutes. No? Me either.
If you’ve ever run wind sprints you can further grasp the level of difficulty when it comes to asking the most premiere athletes in the world to go all out for more than 30 minutes per game.
Athletes need rest intervals.
This is likely the reason that the Denver Broncos defense isn’t flourishing this year. How’s the New Orleans Saints defense doing lately? The last three teams the Saints have faced are averaging 25 points per game against them and the Saints are one of the fastest “fastbreak” teams in the league (and also happen to be 1-2 in those games).
Good teams can pull off the “defensive dominance streak” for several games in a row if they’re a truly a good defense but, it doesn’t look like you can sit back and tout old worn out adages anymore… like, “Defense wins championships.”
Do you think the 2012 Super Bowl Champion Ravens were a top ten defense? Think again, they were #17.
What the Ravens defense could do is assert themselves in a timely manner. And their offense proved the same. That’s why they won the Super Bowl.
Should we hope the Chiefs could do the same the rest of the way out this season? Yes, if Justin Houston returns to form and Bob Sutton calls for more disruptive blitzes.
Saying the Chiefs “score too fast” is a bit like saying I’m out of money because I made the money too quickly. That might be true, if you’re young and don’t know how to handle wealth and success.
So, what does that mean?
1) Do you think the Chiefs defensive players began to believe the hype about their own defense in the first half of the season? Yes, me too.
2) Do you think there have there been games in which the defense has let up, or not been as focused in the last half of the season, because the offense is now excelling? Yes, me too.
3) Do you think the games against Manning, Rivers and Manning had some of the defensive players head’s spinning and not understanding what was happening to them? Yes, me too.
Remember the Chiefs are still one of the youngest teams in the league and consequently, still learning as they go.
While I believe it’s possible for a team, like the Chiefs, to “score too fast” I also believe that it’s totally related to their own defense’s ability to make a stop on the following drives of opponents and yes, that includes stops via turnovers.
The disconcerting aspect of Sunday’s game with the Raiders is that the defense didn’t win the game by holding them from making first downs… as much as they did by making a turnover.
Why would that bother me? Because the “turnover” can’t be counted upon. Yes, the Chiefs are leading the league in the turnover/takeway category but, Bob Sutton doesn’t sit on the sideline and call plays that are designed to create a turnover. There are no such plays.
The Chiefs can stress turnovers all they want in practice but turnovers are one of the least predictable parts of the pro game.
It took the Chiefs all of 12 seconds to score their first TD against the Raiders. However, it does sound a little crazy to say, “Hey Jamaal, we don’t want you to score so fast. We don’t need you to be that good right out of the box. We want to march downfield and score a little slower.”
If that’s what is needed to even things out between the Chiefs offense and defense, JC is not your man. And I’m not your fan.
However, when you think about the on-going success of a team like the New England Patriots, it’s their ability to sustain drives by using the run and the pass. Yes, we all know how good Mr. Tom Brady is but, it’s the overall design of the Pats offense to run the ball successfully, in order to make sure their passing game can do whatever they want, whenever they want. Can you count the number of times in the past ten years that the Chiefs have had a better record than the Patriots? That’s because the Pats are able to approach every season with a balanced running/passing game no matter how hard their schedule is.
And that design allows them to dictate the tempo of a game. Usually. I think it’s great that the Chiefs are able to get JC out in space and create an offense that now appears able to score at will. However, it’s a long way from being able to execute a Marty-ball approach and ram the ball up the middle all day long if needed, when needed, like at the end of games in which they’re leading. Or, during the middle of games in which their opponent is running a fast break offense (ie, Manning, Brees, Rivers… and other teams the Chiefs can expect to meet in the playoffs).
Yes, Jamaal Charles has been having success running up the middle this season but, unless Chiefs fans want to see JC on crutches really soon then the Chiefs need to get someone like Knile Davis going and then trust him with more carries. A lot more carries. Jamaal Charles has 631 touches in the past 30 games. Right now, he seems superhuman but, we all must realize, he is not.
Last weekend, the Dallas Cowboys who were backed up to their own end zone by the Rodgers-less Packers and decided to allow the Pack to score with 1:30 left on the clock… figuring they could then score again themselves to win the game. However, that didn’t happen. The same scenario played out at the end of Super Bowl XXXII 15 years ago with similar results.
It’s not so much about scoring quickly — or slowly — as it is about controlling the tempo of the game. So, what has the biggest effects on the “tempo” of a game? One answer is adjustments.
When the Chiefs faced the Broncos the first time this year, the Chiefs didn’t make the proper adjustments to keep that game under control. Then again, between that time and two weeks later the Chiefs didn’t make the right adjustments to win vs. the Broncos even on their own home field.
Another tempo “cause and effect” is execution. The Chiefs didn’t execute when they had the chance. If you can’t execute your plan, then there’s little hope that you can control the most important aspects of a game: when someone is going to score… you and them included.
Consequently, another huge determiner of whether or not a team has the wherewithal to dictate the tempo of a game is… ability… or lack thereof.
If this season has taught us anything, it’s that the Chiefs are talented. They have… ability.
So, it may also be a question of… consistency… and which brings us back to doe (doe-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-doe).
One of the tenets that this piece is based upon, is that, if a team has a fast paced-high scoring offense, it places an extra burden upon that team’s defense.
The 1999 St. Louis Rams offense (the Greatest Show on Turf) was fantastic and had a defense to match. The Rams defense was 4th in the league that year in points allowed with 15.1.
So, there are no rules against an excellent offense existing on the same team with an excellent defense. We’ve seen both kinds of performances from the Chiefs this season… just not on the same weekend.
Chalk it up to youth? Could it be the new offense took more time for Chiefs players to adapt to while the defense has the disadvantage of becoming familiar to other teams now that the season is 88% complete?
When you win 9 games in a row there is something about it that makes you think, “Team of Destiny.” However, this may simply not be the Chiefs season. Patrick Allen, in his post called, “Chiefs May Not Win Another Game” has stated,
“The Chiefs have a real chance to accomplish something very special in the playoffs…but first they have to grow up. It is time for Andy Reid’s team to go from a cute story to a legitimate Super Bowl threat. They failed to do it during their three game losing streak. Thankfully, they get another chance to prove themselves in their next three games.”
Allen points to maturity — while I call it an issue of youth. Tomato- Tomatoe.
What that means in practical terms is… when the offense begins to have success, the defense must keep the pedal to the metal and when the defense is having success then the offense needs to keep the pedal to the metal.
Getting an interception and then fumbling the ball away in the next few plays or making an interception and then giving up an interception… these are all signs of immaturity.
Staying focused on executing the very next task immediately following the excitement of one of your teammates “making a play” is the kind of focus needed for these youthful Chiefs.
Are the Chiefs a team who “score too fast?” No, in fact, I say bring it on. However, if you look to the evidence that shows Chiefs defensive players appear to be letting up following a Chiefs score, instead of going back onto the field focused and deliberate to take a kill shot by going for a 3 and out.. you might also answer, yes.
What I see is a team that’s capable of dominating on both sides of the football. Here’s hoping that the double-dominance begins this weekend at the expense of the Indianapolis Colts.
~ ~ ~
If everything seems under control,
you’re just not going fast enough.
~ Mario Andretti
What do you think Addict fans? More speed?