Sunday’s Game At San Diego Is A Playoff Tune-Up

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The Kansas City Chiefs are just five days away from an opportunity to get Sunday’s foul-tasting, 23-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts out of their mouths. This weekend’s regular season finale with the San Diego Chargers is essentially a playoff game. The Bolts are still in the hunt for the final seed in the AFC playoff picture. The Chiefs can expect their division rival to leave everything on the field in an effort to qualify for the postseason. Kansas City will be traveling once the tournament starts so this game will serve as a measure of what this team can accomplish during the month of January.

Critics are chomping at the bit to cast aspersions on the 11-4 Kansas City Chiefs. There are very real questions about the Chiefs’ ability to beat a good football team so those criticisms aren’t without merit. The Colts exposed the Chiefs, in a complete drubbing, in their own stadium on Sunday afternoon. Kansas City has now lost twice to Peyton Manning, and once to both Philip Rivers and Andrew Luck. Good quarterbacks have been a thorn in this team’s side since the bye week.

The Chargers own a 4-3 record at Qualcomm Stadium in 2013. Winning in that hostile environment on Sunday will prove the Chiefs can have success in either Cincinnati or Indianapolis a week later in the Wildcard Round of the playoffs. Kansas City’s first matchup with San Diego should’ve gone the other way. The Chiefs can run with the Chargers if they play their best football, but it’s tough to say which Chiefs offense will show up on Sunday.

Can we expect the unit that hung 101 combined points on the Redskins and Raiders, the punchless bunch that managed just 17 points in Denver (with two weeks to prepare), or the group that scored on its opening possession against the Colts and never found paydirt again? I think most of Chiefs Kingdom wants to believe that Sunday’s woeful performance against the Colts was an anomaly. Coming into the week, the Chiefs had scored at least 28 points in four straight games. The offense appeared to finally have found rhythm.

Of course, that was before the 21:40 Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense possessed the football on Sunday. Save 1:48 of the first offensive series, they were incorrigible. The offensive line was a sieve (surrendering four sacks on the day). The rest of the offense was no more reliable. Kansas City turned the ball over four times. Alex Smith was responsible for three of them (with two interceptions and a lost fumble). If all that futility weren’t enough, the Chiefs only converted 1 of 8 third down plays. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong on Sunday afternoon.

Alex Smith

Sunday’s loss was disappointing, but there’s a chance it’s not quite as telling as the talking heads would have you to believe. It seems that every NFL team has at least one week per NFL season where they look completely unprepared to play. Ask the Indianapolis Colts. They were a total dud at Lucas Oil Stadium six weeks ago when they were smoked, to the tune of 30 points, by a St. Louis Rams team that was 3-6 at the time. Make no mistake, the Colts played a good football game. They had control for about 58 minutes of the contest, but it was also clear the Chiefs didn’t have their best that day.

While we’re here, let me quickly dispose of this idea that head coach Andy Reid was playing possum with the Colts. I’ve heard this bandied about the watercooler for the past few days and it’s become a rock in my shoe. First off, it’s absurd. Shrinking the playbook, and subsequently your offensive options, so you won’t tip your hand in a more important matchup in the future is asinine.

There’s a good chance Kansas City travels to Cincinnati in the opening round of the playoffs. Both Indianapolis and Cincinnati are 10-5. Cincy has the edge for the #3 seed in the AFC, but that could change come Sunday. The Colts play the lowly Jaguars in Week 17. Cincinnati is set to face the Baltimore Ravens. If Indy wins and Cincy loses they’ll swap spots and the Chiefs will be traveling to the Buckeye State.

There’s nothing to be gained from losing games down the stretch. Teams that make a run in the postseason typically end the regular season with strong performances. Playing it close to the vest to conceal the super secret plays at the back of your offensive playbook comes with far more risk than reward. I can assure you that’s not what happened on Sunday.

The Chiefs were beaten by a better football team (at least in Week 16). Even if Reid’s recipe called for vanilla, it wouldn’t explain away what we saw on Sunday. Conservative scheming and playcalling wouldn’t produce problems with ball security and pass protection. That’s simply a lack of execution on the field.

There’s been talk about Kansas City resting their starters in the Week 17 game with San Diego. After playing their worst game of the season though, I think that’s a horrible idea. This is a statement game for the Chiefs. They need to rinse their mouths out on Sunday and quash the Chargers’ playoff hopes. Two, possibly three, road trips stand between the Chiefs and the Big Apple. Now is as good a time as any to prove they can win a high-stakes game, on the road, against a quality opponent.

To win, Kansas City will need a much better defensive effort. They surrendered 41 points to San Diego in the first game of the series. Safety Eric Berry was the only player to get to Philip Rivers. Needless to say, the Chiefs will need to pressure him to keep him from carving them up again. Safety play was putrid in the last meeting. Quintin Demps and Kendrick Lewis were routinely out of position that day. Short passes turned into long gains and we all remember how Seyi Ajirotutu got behind Demps for the game-winning touchdown.

Offensively, the Chiefs need to have another strong performance on the ground. Jamaal Charles went for 115 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns in Game 1 of the series. Alex Smith had an impressive three touchdown day, but his interception in Chiefs’ territory was costly. San Diego immediately turned the pick into 7 points. That swung momentum back in San Diego’s direction. Kansas City had been leading by four at the time of the turnover.

A win on Sunday would give the Chiefs some momentum heading into the opening round of the playoffs. A loss would shake the confidence of this football team and leave serious doubts about their ability to avoid another one-and-done playoff campaign. I suspect Andy Reid will have this team ready to play. The Chiefs have had to rebound from adversity once this season. In a few days, we’ll know if they can do it again.

Can the Chiefs redeem themselves against the Chargers and dash their postseason ambitions? Can they get back on track and build some confidence for a playoff run? Use the comment section below to post your answers. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.

Have a very Merry Christmas, Addicts! We’ll square up again this time next week!

Follow me on Twitter: @emceereach

Topics: Kansas City Chiefs

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  • tm1946

    Not sure what kind of “tune-up” we should expect. The KC Star is reporting Reid’s history is to rest “certain” starters and will probably do so against SD. If it works and we win in the playoffs, what a genius Reid will be. If something else happens, the second guessing will begin.

    Well, I am not expecting much. SD has only a slim chance for their playoff hopes and must win and our Chiefs have been, sort of, coasting since the 9-0 start.

    But, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

  • DoubleD

    I feel that Indy was the first “must win” of two playoff “tune up” games but that the game in SD would only matter if the Chiefs beat the Colts. With the loss to the Colts, I’m afraid that ship has sailed. I can’t really see the justification in playing starters for more than a half. Yes, a win against SD going into the playoffs would make me feel a little better about the Chiefs playoff prospects but at this point I find it hard to justify going all out and risking injury to any key player. Just me.

  • toperspective

    This game doesn’t matter. The Chiefs are who they are and this game isn’t going to matter. This is an 8-8 quality team who were well coached and had an easy schedule. Get everybody healthy and hope they can get one win in the playoffs.

    • DoubleD

      Stop. The Chiefs are better than an 8-8 team. One can fairly say they’re yet not good enough to be a 13-3 team but they’re definitely made big progress on that front. One or two good offseasons and this team ought to be as potent as Seattle is right now.

      • toperspective

        No doubt there has been big progress but they are a long way from Seattle. They would have to be tremendous off seasons. Much better than 2013. Are the Chiefs better than the Ravens, Dolphins, Chargers, Packers, Rams, Steelers? Those are 8-7 and 7-8 teams. I think the Chiefs belong in that group. Not necessarily better and not necessarily worse. They have an average QB and not much in the way of offensive weapons besides Charles. No elite WR’s and the TE play is abysmal. 2013 has been a terrific year but the Chiefs are not yet an elite team.

  • paul pace

    I really don’t know what I would do if I was Reid. Common sense would dictate to rest your starters which would eliminate any chance of injury to them. Also, it would give the starters some extra time to heal up from the bumps and bruises resulting from the wear and tear of the regular season. On the other hand, it sure would be nice to beat the Chargers at their home which would eliminate any chance they would have to make the playoffs.. Finally, it would be nice for the Chiefs to have a win and end the regular season on a positive note before they get into the playoffs. I guess that is why Reid makes all the big bucks to make these types of decisions.

    • tm1946

      So reasonable it is insane.
      You mean you are not expecting some mystical revamping of everything less than good about the team once the playoffs begin. Many seem to feel some kind hiding by Reid and the “real” Chiefs will show up in the playoffs.

      • paul pace

        No, I doubt very seriously as you do that Reid has been holding back or hiding some magical plays that he has not shown to teams during the regular season. I think the “real Chiefs” have already shown up and we have to expect that in the playoffs you will see the same team you have seen all year. The only question the Chiefs need to answer is do they want to be contenders or pretenders. Hopefully, they will not follow their history and do the one and done show.

    • http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/community/profile/index.jsp?ipid=14872822'defer='defer' defer='defer upperturion

      So the bye week helped us how, against Denver? Weren’t we “well rested?” A team that has played as poorly as this team doesn’t need rest; it needs a swift kick in the a**!! IMO Shaun Smith and Kendrick Lewis don’t need rest … heck they’ve yet to show-up for a gm……………….

      • Stacy D. Smith

        Game, set, match!

  • Jarad

    I traveled up to KC from TX for that Colts game. It was an absolute joke and waste of money! This Chiefs team needs a chaser after that horrible tasting shot! You dont rest starters that didn’t even play like starters! Get some momentum, score some points and keep Rivers out of the playoffs! Please make up for that nightmare week 16 by getting this deserving fan base a playoff victory!!!

  • Stacy D. Smith

    Resting starters is a terrible idea under the circumstances. This team just laid an egg against one of the six best teams in the conference. You want that to be your last performance before heading into another game (a playoff game) with a Top-6 team? That’s madness. Had they won against the Colts, you might have an argument. As it stands, this will be a mistake.

    • Danny W

      The game is absolutely meaningless though. It literally means nothing. We’ve punched our ticket. Winning gains nothing at this point and losing a guy like Charles would absolutely assure an increase in the percentage of a loss exponentially.

      • Stacy D. Smith

        NO NFL game is meaningless. This is another chance to get better and to build some confidence. This is as close to a playoff game as you can get. A road game against a quality opponent? Sounds like the exact situation we’ll be in the week following. Play, win, and gain some momentum.

        • Tony Parker

          I totally agree with you on this one Stacy, momentum is everything. besides the fact that they haven’t been playing like a team that can afford to rest its starters. they got shit to work on…..besides injuries can happen anytime. play the game to win.

  • Chris Tarrants

    Momentum going into the playoffs would be great but if Charles, Bowe, Hali , Smith , or Berry were to get hurt in a meaningless game then Reid would be a punching bag for the next 6 months

    • Stacy D. Smith

      They could get hurt in practice too. Shall we not practice for the next week and a half?

    • Stacy D. Smith

      I just don’t understand how it could ever be considered a meaningless game. Can it improve our seed in the postseason tournament? No. But it can keep a division rival out. It can also help this football team improve and make a statement about playing a high-stakes game on the road this late in the year. Rivers is having a GREAT year. Facing and handling a good quarterback helps this defense build some confidence. Not sure how you can look at all of that and characterize it as “meaningless.”

      • http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/community/profile/index.jsp?ipid=14872822'defer='defer' defer='defer upperturion

        Yeah Stacy, there’s nothing like game-action! All we’ve heard season long was, “we’re gonna address our mistakes and get better…” If ANYONE believes the Indy gm was a ‘lay-down,’ and not a mistake riddled beatdown, they’re sadly mistaken … and easily deceived! The playoffs started last Sunday against the Colts; we get the proverbial, ‘second shot’ this week against the Chargers. Lose this one and it’s proof we are not deserving of playing w/ the big boys!!

        After the 2nd series against SD, I’d rest 2 players; JC and Hali. I’d start Houston and Albert, and sit ‘em the 2nd half. Everyone else that’s healthy PLAYS THE ENTIRE GAME!!! — unless we’re up handily. Rest will hurt this team……mark my words.

  • Calchiefsfan

    There is no way Reid was holding back against the Colts, not with a potential #1 seed and home field advantage on the line. The Chiefs just went flat. Execution, effort, everything just was the worst I’ve seen from them all year. So I’m chalking the Colts game up to just one of those games, an anomaly.

    The only player I would sit this week would be Charles. He needs it, deserves it and if Reid is planning on him carrying the Chiefs through the playoffs, (which I hope he is), then rest him. A win in SD doesn’t matter. What matters is the rest of the team needs to get their act together and no better time than this week against Rivers and the Chargers. This D needs to work on stopping elite QBs. The o line needs to get synced. Smith needs to work on his timing with his receivers. Houston, Fasano and Albert need to get into game shape and get ready for the playoffs. Play everyone except Charles.

    • http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/community/profile/index.jsp?ipid=14872822'defer='defer' defer='defer upperturion

      Totally agree, I’d love to see more Cyrus Gray in action!

  • tomflex

    Hate to disagree but it’s all about getting ready for the playoffs now not going all out and risking injury to key players for a meaningless game. The Chiefs are all ready game planning for Indy and allowing San Diego to get in the playoffs is exactly what the Chiefs want. Play out the scenarios with San Diego in it to see why.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      You really want to go into the postseason with offensive starters whose last outing produced 7 points?

      • http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/community/profile/index.jsp?ipid=14872822'defer='defer' defer='defer upperturion

        Now you see why we’re a perennial loser…. The fans are hype-strung myth believers! Herm said it best, “You play to win the game!!”

        • tomflex

          1. I don’t see how what the fans believe has anything to do with you or the Chiefs being a perennial loser.

          2. Oh well if Herm said it must be right considering all the Superbowls he’s been in.

          3. If your right then explain the 2010 Chiefs choosing not to rest the team the last game against Oakland. Oakland destroyed the Chiefs even though they played the entire game. In the playoffs the Chiefs played the Ravens close for a half, then completely fell apart in the second half….end of season.
          Any other points

          • Stacy D. Smith

            This isn’t the 2010 Chiefs.

          • http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/community/profile/index.jsp?ipid=14872822'defer='defer' defer='defer upperturion

            Maybe you’re right, you don’t play to win the gm….you must have played more NFL gms than Herm, I’m presuming by your glowing arrogance. Oh and, what’s our team record after bye-weeks, Einstein?! Lotta good rest and due-diligence to rest upon there hunh, brain-storm.

      • tomflex

        The Chiefs scored what…51 points the week before but that didn’t help them this week. How many points do they need to score against San Diego to get them ready for the Colts?

        • Stacy D. Smith

          No specific number. A good offensive game is sufficient enough. They had their worst of the year last week.

  • Stacy D. Smith

    Players potentially getting hurt is life in the NFL, folks. Shall we hold Jamaal Charles out of all OTA’s, training camp practices, and preseason games to get him ready for our 2014 campaign? I mean… So he doesn’t get hurt in a meaningless game or activity? Come on.

    This team just laid an egg. You can’t get smoked by a Top 6 AFC team one week, avoid a Top 10 AFC team the next week, and then expect to just turn it on, against another Top 6 AFC team in the Wildcard Round.

    That, to me, would seem like Reid protecting their confidence more than he’d be protecting their bodies.

  • http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/community/profile/index.jsp?ipid=14872822'defer='defer' defer='defer upperturion

    The 2 words I find most relevant in your article are, “exposed,” and “anomaly.” You are oh so right, the Colts are a better football team; they did what Manning and Rivers did, they exposed us. What’s most disheartening for me is how they did it; they did it with toughness! They punched us in the mouth in our house in our final home gm!! The only anomaly I see is, how the hell did we win 11 gms?

    I don’t see how we win another gm this yr… We can’t stop anyone and we can’t stretch the field — it’s a joke that Bowe can’t get deep! And how bout Succup, doing what all of our infamous kickers of old have done — missing critical fg’s……. sheeeeesh

  • Doc

    Sorry Stacy, normally I agree with you 95% of the time. However, this time I will disagree with you. SD will be playing in desperation to get a shot at a playoff spot. We will neither gain nor lose anything in seeding for the playoffs. SD will be bringing it and the way the o-line played last week, well the injury risk is too great. Have you seen the injury list from last week? Look how much the bye week helped Charles. The offense came alive with the week off. By rating them a week gives them a better chance to survive the playoff run. It also allows them to get their minds right for the playoffs by sitting the starters down. If we had a better showing against IND, I would agree with you. This will also give Dorsey/Reid a great opportunity to evaluate the second and third tier players to prepare for the draft. For the theory of using this game as a tuneup game versus the risk of injury, I would rather see us err on the side of caution and have fresh horses for the first week of the playoffs.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      The risk of injury is always there. Mind you, Reid has hinted at only resting certain starters. So what benefit does that serve? An injury could happen to one of the other players who will be on the field. Had we won last week, I might be able to get behind. This team stunk out loud. You really want that to be the last experience they have before playing the biggest game of the season?

  • sidibeke

    Bowe is out with a concussion. The o line better step up, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Hemmingway and Jenkins can do with the opportunity. I’d like to see a little Jamaal, more Knile (see if he can shake the fumblitis a bit), and pressure from 4 on the D side.

    And yes, we should try to win, and I think we can even with sitting a couple of starters some of the game. I’d like to see AS get into a rhythm, get the ball deep a couple of times, get it to Fasano a couple of times and want to see Dex back in action. I also want to see Houston shake the rust off a bit and get back into the sack stat line.

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