Chiefs @ Broncos: Navigating The Funhouse
When trying to figure out what, if anything we can take from the shellacking the Kansas city Chiefs suffered at the hands of the Denver Broncos on Sunday, we must realize we are walking into a house of mirrors of which nearly nothing that we see is real.
Sunday’s game got so out of hand so fast that almost everything that happened after the first quarter is utterly irrelevant. Thus I am going to proceed into the fun house that was the Chiefs/Broncos game with extreme caution, taking care to not run into my own reflection while trying to walk down a hallway that isn’t really there. I’ll do my best to guide you all along, pointing out what is real and what is simply smoke and mirrors.
Reality: The Chiefs were out-coached.
This probably goes without saying here but it needs to be reiterated. I mentioned earlier in the week, when I picked the Broncos to beat the Chiefs, that I thought Kansas City was walking into an ambush. I was worried about what the Broncos coaching staff was going to cook up during their off week. Their team was 2-6 and their coach was in danger of losing his job and they were likely to bust out a game plan that the Chiefs weren’t ready for.
I mentioned that I was worried about KC’s bend but don’t break defense giving up too many yards, allowing Denver to move up and down the field and keep the game close. Many of you pointed out that Denver’s problem was their lack of a running game often stalled their drives when they got into the redzone. The Broncos obviously realized this and instead came out firing the ball deep with a game plan designed to get their receivers behind the KC secondary. It was a master stroke by McDaniels. Denver came so hard and so fast that by the time the Chiefs figured out what was going on they were already down three touchdowns.
Denver’s strength is the passing game and McDaniels decided to go all in early and try to get a lead he knew the Chiefs offense wouldn’t be able to overcome. It is a strategy the Broncos likely won’t be able to implement again this season because teams will now be extremely cautious in guarding against it but it was the perfect post bye week game plan and Denver executed it to perfection.
Smoke and Mirrors: The Chiefs injuries at safety are the reason for this debacle.
No way. I’m not saying the Chiefs weren’t drastically hurt by having practice squad players at safety but make no mistake, injuries aren’t the reason the Chiefs lost.
The Chiefs are built to stop the run and to bend but not break on defense. No one expected the Broncos to come out running five wide receivers on streak routes on every single play. The Chiefs just weren’t ready for what the Broncos brought and Kendrick Lewis and John McGraw would have been just as clueless as the rest of the Chiefs secondary.
It also isn’t like the coverage was terrible on every play. There were a number of plays where Kyle Orton made absolutely fantastic throws and a whole host of other plays where Denver receivers made spectacular catches.
It was a perfect storm of nearly flawless execution by Denver combined with an unprepared Chiefs team.
Smoke and Mirrors: Matt Cassel had an excellent day throwing the football.
Sure, it is cool that Matt Cassel threw for 469 yards but don’t take that as a sign that he is morphing into an elite QB.
Let’s look at his numbers from the first quarter:
In the first quarter, Cassel was 4 of 6 for 64 yards. He had completions of 12 yards, 18 yards, 18 yards and 16 yards. He had two incompletions and he was sacked once for a loss of 8 yards. The score at the end of the first quarter was 21-0 in favor of the Broncos.
Cassel would go on to attempt a grand total of 53 passes in the game, 47 of which came after the end of the first period. He would throw for a grand total of 469 yards, 405 of which would come after the end of the first period.
You see, the game was basically over after the first quarter. Tailing by three touchdowns, the Chiefs opened the second quarter with the ball. Cassel threw a pass for 7 yards, threw an incompletion and was then sacked, which forced Ryan Succop to attempt a 51-yard field goal which he missed. This set the Broncos up with excellent field position and they promptly scored, going up 28-0.
At this point Denver was playing not to blow their lead. There are those of you that have pointed out that Denver continued to blitz and this didn’t resort to a prevent defense. This is true in many instances but that doesn’t legitimize Cassel’s passing yards. Don’t think for a second that the Denver secondary didn’t start changing the way they covered the Chiefs receivers. They didn’t take chances, they backed off a bit and allowed Cassl all the underneath passes his heart desired. Then, when the Chiefs got into the redzone, what happened?
The Broncos sacked Cassel, caused a fumble and returned it for a touchdown.
Cassel looked about the same to me yesterday as he always looks. He showed he is capable of making some really nice throws and some really terrible throws. He completed a nice deep pass to Verran Tucker and he also had a couple of bad overthrows. He held on to the ball too long on more than one occasion and took sacks when he was out of the pocket and had time to throw the ball away.
In short, three quarters of garbage time does not a good quarterback make.
Smoke and Mirrors: The Chiefs lost because they couldn’t generate any pressure.
Pft! Pressure? Who had time to generate pressure? Early on, Kyle Orton was getting the ball out so fast I missed entire plays in the time it took me to take a sip of my beer. The Chiefs have a very specific way of generating pressure. They usually roll with run stoppers like Shaun Smith and Jovan Belcher on first down. That is how the Chiefs play ball. They stop the run on the early downs, force the other team into a passing situations at which time the Chiefs insert pass rushing specialists like Wallace Gilberry to rush the passer. The Broncos had the Chiefs so off balance so early and mixed up their play calling so well that there were many occasions when Shaun Smith was on the field in passing situations and Wallace Gilberry was on the field for runs.
The Broncos made it impossible for the Chiefs to do what they do best and that is why things got so out of hand.
Reality: The Chiefs aren’t nearly as bad as they looked Sunday.
The Chiefs and Broncos could probably play each other 100 times and a game like the one we saw yesterday would never happen again. The Chiefs that you saw through the first half of the season are the real Chiefs. What is important is that you reevaluate what it is that you saw during the first eight games.
The Chiefs are an improved football team with a lot of young talent, good coaching and very little depth. They are a competitive team but they could have just as easily lost to the Bills and the Browns as they could have defeated the Texans and the Raiders. A couple plays here and there and the Chiefs could have eight wins or only three. The margin of error in the NFL is slim.
The Chiefs are improving but they still have a ways to go.
That being said the Chiefs aren’t close to as bad as they looked yesterday just like the Broncos aren’t nearly as good as they looked.
Reality: Todd Haley deserves criticism for snubbing Josh McDaniels after the game.
There is really no arguing this. No matter how mad Haley was about the loss his actions made him look foolish. Haley would yell at a player for taking a swing at an opposing player and drawing a personal foul penalty, even is his player was the victim of a dirty play. Haley knows that his players must keep their cool on the field and Haley needs to do the same on the sideline.
That is what being a leader is all about. You can’t preach professionalism to your players and then behave unprofessionally.
Reality: Chris Chambers is finished.
Chambers was absolutely awful on Sunday. He should be placed on the bench in favor of Verran Tucker. While Tucker only managed one catch the separation he got on that catch and the speed he showed is something the Chiefs desperately lack at receiver. Tucker may be raw but at least he provides a deep threat. The only separation Chris Chambers got Sunday was when he pushed off to the tune of an offensive pass interference penalty.
The Chiefs should go with Bowe and Tucker at wideout with Copper in the slot until McCluster is healthy. This will give them a chance to see what Tucker’s got.
Reality: It is time for Mike Vrabel to step aside.
The Chiefs need to see what they have in Andy Studebaker. Vrabel is great and all but he is slow, old and he can’t rush the passer. The Chiefs need Studebaker’s speed on defense and they need it now. In fact, using Vrabel less will probably make the veteran more effective when he is on the field. It should be 75% Studebaker and 25% Vrabel.
In closing, the Chiefs need to reevaluate their strategy. They have been exposed and they can no longer run their offense and defense as they did in the first half of the season. Teams have adjusted to what they are doing and in turn, the Chiefs must now make adjustments.
I think we’ll see some big changes this weekend when the Cardinals come to town.
What changes do you think the Chiefs need to make to stay afloat in the AFC West playoff race?