This Is Not A Trap Game
By Joel Wright
After their defeat of the Seattle Seahawks this past Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs have all but proved they can defeat any team in the NFL. Tied atop the AFC West with a 7-3 record, all that’s left to prove is how far they can go.
Much has been made about the improbability of the Chiefs’ success, where the lack of skill at certain positions has been neutralized by the talent of the coaching staff. The team has improved on its experiences from a year ago, now making plays to win tough games, opposed to getting lucky or dominating a weak schedule. The first example that comes to mind are the parallels between games at Buffalo the last two years.
Last year, up 10-3 and driving in the red zone, Buffalo quarterback Jeff Tuel inexplicably threw a pass to Sean Smith after Stevie Johnson burned the corner with an inside move. Johnson stood wide open in the end zone as Smith returned the interception for a touchdown. This year, with Buffalo threatening to go up by two touchdowns, Ron Parker made possibly the play of the year, diving and slapping the football out of Bryce Brown’s hand before he crossed the goal line.
The Chiefs are learning how to win better each week, relying on good offensive play-calling to gain a lead, and clutch defensive stops to preserve victory.
Sunday, the defense overcame a minus-2 turnover ratio, making three, fourth-down stops to hold a 24-20 lead it had through most of the final period. Not lost in this was the new-old-school approach Kansas City took on offense — battering the Seahawks with Jamaal Charles and De’Anthony Thomas, in addition to 108 yards of passing as a change of pace. The Chiefs will look to carry this momentum into a Thursday night matchup against a 0-10 Raiders team.
Keeping a bad team bad
Nov 16, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) is hit by San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Dwight Freeney (93) during the fourth quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
This simply cannot qualify as a trap game, because there would have to be a justifiable reason to take the week off. Each game (and win) at this point has begun to grow in importance, and the Chiefs need every win they can get in a divisional race against Peyton Manning and the Broncos. They can’t afford to take any game lightly, and the leadership of the team is too smart not to recognize this. If they take care of business in Oakland, that leaves 10 days to prepare for Denver in a home primetime game that could propel Kansas City into the driver’s seat — not only in the division, but possibly in the conference.
That being said, Oakland has not seen a lot of success this season, but is still a professional team with the capabilities to win. They are tied for fourth in the league in giveaways, and have a bad offensive line protecting a rookie quarterback that sometimes forces throws (though he can make all the throws necessary of a NFL quarterback).
Their defense has kept them close in games against the likes of Seattle, San Diego (twice), New England and Arizona. Down 24-3 at halftime in Seattle, the Raiders outscored the Seahawks 21-6 in the second half, coming within an onside kick and a miracle of winning. The Raiders haven’t seemed to give up in games yet, but also can’t seem to finish. The Chiefs must keep this trend going.
Thursday Night Football games have a tendency to show who teams are at their base. With little prep time during the week, game planning and practice are harder to squeeze in. Coaching will be as big of a factor as the play on the field, and that advantage should be in Kansas City’s favor.
The narrative is the same for the Chiefs — it all starts on the defensive side of the ball. If the defense can stop the run early (something it has struggled with at times) and the line can pressure Derek Carr, they should be able to pass the baton to the offense and the run game. You never really know what to expect from Andy Reid’s play-calling, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Alex Smith run a little more play-action early after handing off the ball so often Sunday. After all, Reid does enjoy the pass game, and Oakland’s secondary isn’t quite like Seattle’s.
This is not a trap game, it’s a must-win game. To be a good team, you must keep bad teams bad, in addition to beating the good ones.