Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
The last time optimism was this high in Chiefs Kingdom, George W. Bush was Commander-in-Chief of these United States. Fans have every reason to be optimistic about this football team. The Kansas City Chiefs appear to be bound for a return to the postseason. Since the playoff format changed in 1990, 90% of the teams to start season 5-0 have gone on to qualify. I’m never one to antagonize confidence, but I think it’s time to ask some very serious questions about this team.
Sunday’s victory over the Tennessee Titans might be the most satisfying flashpoint in Kansas City’s young season. It was a gritty win where the Chiefs came from behind, late in the game, to beat the Titans 26-17. The Chiefs got out to a 13-0 lead and were alone on the scoreboad going into the half. When play resumed, the Titans rallied with 10 unanswered points in the third quarter. Tennessee scored again early in the fourth quarter and looked to be on their way to handing Kansas City their first loss of the year. That was before Kansas City’s defensive heroics returned and helped close the door on Tennessee with two late interceptions. The Chiefs’ offense also chipped in, giving them 13 fourth quarter points to seal the deal.
The Chiefs are unblemished, but their offensive problems are glaring. Thus far, the team’s averaging just two offensive touchdowns per game. They’re getting another 6 points per game from kicker Ryan Succop. Scoring only 20 offensive points week in, week out needlessly strains the defensive and special teams units. Their offensive woes put them in a compromising position on Sunday and nearly cost them a game. A better team will make the Chiefs pay for stalling on offense as often as they do.
So what exactly is the problem with Andy Reid’s offense? I’m glad you asked. Kansas City is having real trouble establishing the run early in games, pass protection is inconsistent at best, and Dwayne Bowe has just 17 catches for 183 receiving yards. The Chiefs’ No. 1 receiver is averaging a shade over 36 yards per game. The offense has gotten solid contributions from unlikely heroes Donnie Avery and Sean McGrath (combining for 484 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns), but they haven’t made up for what the Chiefs are used to getting from Bowe.
Beyond Bowe and Avery, there’s simply not much in the cupboard at the position. The rest of Kansas City’s receivers have posted a grand total of 140 receiving yards (WR3-WR6). It’s possible they’ll be reminded of the talent the group lacks next Sunday when the Oakland Raiders come to town. Donnie Avery came out of the game late in the first half after catching a 41-yard pass from Alex Smith. Avery left his feet, fully extended his arms, and came down hard on his right shoulder. He returned to the game in the second half, but only for a few plays. X-rays were negative, but he now has a bruised shoulder and is reportedly having trouble raising his arm.
The Chiefs haven’t committed themselves to establishing the run early. Of Jamaal Charles’ 92 carries, only 36 of them have come in the first half (an average of just 6 per game). The Chiefs haven’t had much first half success with the run game, but there haven’t been enough attempts to develop any rhythm. Traditional run sets and dogged determination might help them get the ground game going (try saying that three times). The blisters on Charles’ feet prove he’s not being underutilized in this offense, but the same can’t be said for rest of the backfield. Knile Davis and Cyrus Gray have a total of 14 carries this season.
Alex Smith can’t continue to be the team’s 2nd-leading rusher. Having a quarterback who can improvise is a good thing, but it also exposes them to big hits. Smith has only played a full 16 games twice in his nine-year career. His scrambling has lead to him being upended in two straight games. It’s time to get the younger backs more involved. In the past, Reid’s been criticized for not running the football often enough. That’s become painfully evident in the 3rd-and-short situations where Kansas City has struggled.
The Chiefs’ offense is going to have to hold up its end of the bargain if their winning ways are to continue. Kansas City had only seven offensive plays in two third quarter drives. Neither of those offensive series produced any points. That hung the defense out to dry and kept them on the field for 12 minutes in the quarter. Unsurprisingly, the third quarter is where the Titans’ offense had the most success. Tennessee climbed back into the game with two straight scoring drives that cut Kansas City’s lead to three points (13-10, Chiefs).
It’s still early in the season, but the Chiefs’ offense should be trending upward at this point. Sunday’s game with the Oakland Raiders will provide a great test for Kansas City. Oakland’s defensive unit is surrendering just 21.6 points per game and is currently ranked as the league’s 9th-best run defense. The Chiefs opened the week as 10.5 point favorites, but I expect the game to be one more grudge match in a storied AFC West rivalry.
Am I overreacting or are these legitimate concerns about Kansas City’s offense? Use the comment section below to weigh in on the topic. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.
Until next time, Addicts!