Enough Blame to Go Around in Chiefs Loss to the Broncos

November 17, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; General view of the line of scrimmage between the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs during the first quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t do moral victories. I had enough of that crap when Todd Haley was the coach of this team and they were just doing enough to lose every week, but look “ok” doing it. A victory that doesn’t come with a “W” next to it on the schedule isn’t a victory, it’s a loss. And losing sucks. We should know. We’re Kansas City Chiefs fans and we’ve had a lot of that around here for the last decade or so.

All season long, the Chiefs have done just enough to win. Whether it was running back Jamaal Charles on the ground, Alex Smith in the air, or – more often than not – this Chiefs defensive unit coming up with a score of their own, they’ve found a way to win. Last night, the Chiefs did just enough to lose.

And yes, I said “the Chiefs” did enough to lose. This loss didn’t fall on one person.

Alex Smith didn’t lose the game for the Chiefs last night. Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe or Dexter McCluster didn’t lose the game for the Chiefs last night. Hell, even Anthony Sherman, who committed the Chiefs only turnover that led to a Denver Broncos touchdown didn’t lose the game for the Chiefs last night.

Just as the Chiefs have won every game they’ve played this season as a family, this game was lost by the same family.

The defense is still playing well. I’m not calling anything a “moral victory” but the Chiefs “D” held the Denver Broncos to their lowest score all season. They held Manning to his lowest pass completion percentage all season. He only threw one touchdown last night, and that hasn’t happened all season either. But it wasn’t enough.

The Chiefs pass rush couldn’t get to the “crowned prince” of the NFL. Manning conducted his post-game interview on Sunday Night Football with his jersey the same color as it was when the game started nearly three and a half hours earlier. In the last two games, the team that has become known as the “Sack City Chiefs” hasn’t touched the opposing quarterback.

While the Chiefs defended the rushing game pretty well, they’ve still got to get better. The unit held the Broncos to 104 yards on the ground, which is 13 yards under what they’ve allowed other teams all season. They did this without the help of their “run stuffer” defensive end Mike Devito who left the game in the first half with a knee injury. But, while they did well against the run, they allowed the Broncos to rush for two touchdowns. Prior to last night’s game, the Chiefs “D” had only allowed two rushing TD’s all season.

The Chiefs passing defense did pretty well last night as well. Just not good enough. For all the talking Brandon Flowers did, he allowed Welker to burn him a time or two. Young Marcus Cooper looked exactly that last night – young. Manning started picking on him early and found the chink in his armor. There was more than one occasion that a Broncos receiver was wide open for Manning to throw to. In a man to man scheme like the Chiefs employed most of the game last night, that’s pretty unforgivable.

But the Broncos offense and the Chiefs defense weren’t the only people on the field last night. The Chiefs offense needs some work.

In the aftermath of the broken winning streak, a lot of fingers were pointed in the direction of Alex Smith. His stat line was pretty pedestrian with only 21 of his 45 pass attempts completed for 230 yards and two scores. He added another 52 yards with his legs but was sacked three times – mostly because he held onto the ball too long trying to find an open receiver.

Jamaal Charles only touched the ball a total of 18 times last night – 16 of those were rushes – for 78 yards on the ground. Thirty-five of those 78 came on one play, his longest of the season. This was definitely not the season breakout game many thought it would be for arguably the Chiefs most talented player.

Dwayne Bowe led the team in receiving yards last night with four catches for 57 yards and a touchdown, but had at least that many drops. He was unable to create any kind of separation from the secondary and even got away with an offensive pass interference “push-off” when he grabbed his touchdown score. While Bowe seemed to be Smith’s favorite target in the first half, he completely disappeared in the second.

For all of the hype with the special teams unit, Dexter McCluster was unable to get anything going. In scrolling through my Twitter feed last night, or own copy editor, Natasha Sims remarked that she couldn’t remember Dante Hall going down so easily after one hit. And she’s right. For all his jukes and jives, DMC isn’t that hard to tackle and that was proven last night.

Finally Andy Reid and Bob Sutton should know better. The game plan last night wasn’t the game plan that was needed to win the game. The Chiefs completely abandoned what got them to this point. Charles only getting the ball 16 times on the ground isn’t what got them here. Rushing four and not sacking the quarterback is not what got them here. Trying to match Manning in a “who can throw more deep passes contest” is not what got them here. The Chiefs completely departed from their strategy and the result was a loss, the first of the season.

Yes, Addicts, there’s plenty of blame to go around. Including us.

Yes, I said including us.

The fact that the Chiefs are here is a complete anomaly. It doesn’t happen. In fact, it’s never happened. No team in a major North American sporting league (NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB) has ever gone from the worst team one season to winning their first nine games the following season. It’s not rare, it’s impossible. But, in having this miraculous turnaround, the Chiefs have raised their fans ‘ – that’s us, by the way – expectations so high that we forget where we were last year.

Many of us, and I’ll include myself in this statement, forget that even though last night’s loss was a worst-case scenario, that scenario still involved the Chiefs leaving Sports Authority Stadium at Mile High in first place in the AFC West — albeit they’re sharing it with the Broncos. That worst-case scenario involved the fact that the Chiefs having a winning record for the first time since 2010, and it’s only the end of week 11. That worst-case scenario involves the fact that the Broncos still have to come into a revitalized – and world record breaking noise level if I do say so myself, because I was there – Arrowhead stadium in just two short weeks and face this team again.

If you think the Chiefs had a chip on their shoulder going into last night’s game, wait until December 1st.

It would seem that everyone wanted the Chiefs to lose last night.

Maybe that’s a little strong to say. At the very least, most everyone expected them to lose. But were they exposed? I hardly think so.

 In the eight previous games the Broncos won, they beat their opponents by an average of 17.5 points. Last night the Chiefs lost by 10. The Broncos have been scoring an average of 42 points per game, the Chiefs held them to 24. Peyton Manning has thrown an average of 3.6 touchdowns per game. Last night, he only was able to throw one. I wouldn’t call that exposure. A loss yes, but there was no fraud exposed in that stat line.

 If you think the Chiefs aren’t a contender, as Bobby Brown would say, “that’s your prerogative.” But as Jason Seibel would say, I think you’re crazy. Well, I just said it.

The bottom line is football teams lose games. It happens. Only two teams in the NFL have gone undefeated through the entire regular season. And even those teams are 50 percent on Superbowl victories. The truth is, if you truly thought the Chiefs were going to go 16-0 this year, you might want to readjust your game plan right along with Reid and Sutton and Pederson.

 There are six games left in the season and a million and one scenarios could play themselves out. To count out these Chiefs after their first – and might I add only – loss of the season is a little premature.

 The Chiefs have to get better in all three phases. The defense needs to find the magic they had to start the season, the offense needs to figure out a way to score points and the special teams need to be, well…special.

 But, ever the optimist I refuse to say that the Chiefs were exposed last night.

 In fact, I think what’s more likely is they’ve got this league exactly where they want them.

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