It’s a good thing the Kansas City Chiefs played on Thursday night this week because had the Chiefs 31-30 loss to the Oakland Raiders happened on Sunday night this Monday blog post may have just been something like:
What are they doing?!?!?!
How many times can you lose one game?!?!?!?
While you may have been able to relate to the sheer frustration and exasperation, I’m not sure how insightful it may have been. I’ve had several days to digest what was the most painful regular season loss that I can remember. With every day that passes, I’ve begun to see the Raiders loss less as a singular event but rather part of a bigger issue that has been exposed in back-to-back losses to the Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers.
My post last week was about how I blamed the Steelers loss on the Chiefs inability to win the battles in the trenches. While I still believe that to be true, when I combine it with the loss to the Raiders, I now believe that the problems the Chiefs are having in the trenches are just a symptom of a larger problem.
The Kansas City Chiefs are soft.
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Now let me start by saying that I still believe that the Chiefs are one of the best teams in the NFL. I believe they are incredibly talented and one of the best coached teams in the NFL. I believe they will win the AFC West and still have a great shot to be the number one seed in the AFC giving them home field advantage. That makes them a legit Super Bowl contender.
They are just a Super Bowl contender who’s biggest weakness is that they are soft.
The Pittsburgh Steelers walked into Arrowhead Stadium two weeks ago and punched the remaining undefeated team in the NFL right in the mouth and the Chiefs didn’t really punch back. Oh they continued to try and win the game. They turned things on a little in the second half and made it a game, but the Steelers were the more physical and more aggressive team the entire time.
The Raiders aren’t as physical as the Steelers so it wasn’t as glaring on Thursday night but the Raiders were still the aggressor. They attacked the Chiefs. Again, just like the week before, the Chiefs answered by trying to just go about their game plan. It’s clear they believe if they just execute their game plan, their talent will win out.
Now we can all agree that the Chiefs did not successfully execute their game plan in either of the past two games. Two weeks ago, the offense fell short and this last week it was the defense that let them down. We can complain about officiating (it was bad). We can also break out the pitchforks and torches and demand Bob Sutton as a sacrifice, but I put both of those loses squarely on the shoulders of the players.
The other team wanted it more and went out and took the game. Period.
“But Lyle, they dropped Justin Houston into coverage, AGAIN!!!”
Guess what, they’ve been doing that forever and it usually works because when KC has dropped eight guys into coverage the opposing quarterback can’t consistently find guys to throw to. This game the Chiefs dropped eight guys back into coverage and despite the fact that there were twice as many defenders in coverage as there were offensive targets, guys were still WIDE OPEN. Sorry, but you have to cover better than that. Period. Stick to your man. Don’t be so scared of being beaten deep that you give him free release off the line. Jam him. Knock him off his route. Disrupt the timing. Yes, they could stand to drop Houston less on key passing downs, but the overall game plan is sound.
“But Lyle, if you give a quarterback that much time he’ll eventually find someone!”
Fine. Send Derrick Johnson or Daniel Sorensen after the quarterback. Guess what? They aren’t getting there. And now the receivers are that much more wide open and there’s one or two less guys to TRY to tackle them after they make their wide open catch. Would I love for us to get more pressure on the quarterback? Sure. But nobody had a problem with this scheme when we were 5-0 and the Chiefs were on top of the world. This same defensive scheme CARRIED this team for long stretches the last few seasons when the offense was sputtering. Now the exact same defensive coordinator should be fired? Come on now.
It’s not Bob Sutton that’s refusing to wrap guys up. It’s not Bob Sutton that would rather swipe at the ball than actually tackle somebody. It’s not Bob Sutton that’s too slow going sideline to sideline now. It’s not Bob Sutton that’s getting blown off the line of scrimmage by the offensive line and leaving running lanes open. It’s not Bob Sutton that’s getting completely turned around in coverage after one little juke move. It’s not Bob Sutton that’s bouncing should be interceptions off his hands (or helmet). Beat YOUR man. Cover YOUR man. If YOUR man gets the ball then you sure better be the guy to put him in the turf and send the message that he may not want to do that again.
The Chiefs have turned into a finesse team. You can win games like that, especially when you have more talent and better coaching. The problem is that most NFL games are close. They come down to a handful of plays and sometimes those plays are about who wants it more. I’m not saying that the Chiefs don’t want to win, but for the past two weeks, K.C. has needed guys to step up and make a stand when the game was on the line. It hasn’t happened.
When the game is on the line, defensive backs are getting beat. Tackles are being missed. More often than not, our pass rushers aren’t getting through. Instead, it’s the other team that has seemed fired up. The other team is sending a message. The other team is imposing their will.
Don’t think the offense is off the hook here, either. The Chiefs were up on the Raiders in the fourth quarter. Kareem Hunt has been the most productive running back in the NFL this season and the Raiders’ run defense has been average at best. When that’s the case, the Chiefs should have slammed the door on them. They actually had two fourth quarter possessions and in those possessions the Chiefs running game averaged just under 3.9 yards per carry. That’s not good enough.
The fourth is when an offensive line is supposed to take control of the game and just wear the opposing defense out. They know the run is coming and they just can’t do anything about it. The Chiefs offensive line couldn’t get that done. I realize they are missing a few key starters but every team in the NFL is missing guys. You still have to man up and take control of the game when it matters. The past two weeks the Chiefs offensive line has failed to do that.
Andy Reid needs to do something to get these guys fired up. I’m not questioning the scheme’s ability to get results. However, when you have a defense that is consistently dropping guys back and an offense that relies so much on misdirection, motions, delays, and read options its easy to see where the team wouldn’t be conditioned to get physical and nasty. While I understand that it will never be the calling card of an Andy Reid team, I do think this coaching staff needs to call the players on the carpet before the Denver game next week. Someone has to stand up and demand these guys play with some fire.
The Chiefs used to have Eric Berry out there to be that guy. Maybe Berry needs to get the players together for a players only meeting this week. They really miss him on the field. I literally think his play and maybe more importantly his leadership and attitude could have been the difference in each of the past two loses. Somebody has to step up and be that guy in his place.
The Denver Broncos are coming to Arrowhead next week for another primetime national spotlight game. They’ve seen what the Steelers and Raiders did the past two weeks. They are going to come in with their cocky shut down defense and a running game that features a former Chief with a chip on his shoulder and they are going to try and punch the Chiefs right in the mouth again. The tape from the past two weeks says that they will just take those punches and go about their business without really punching back. If that’s what happens, I fear we could be looking at three straight loses and full scale panic in the Chiefs Kingdom.
Will the Chiefs stand up this time and when the game is on the line enforce their will on the Broncos?
I hope so because if they try to finesse their way to a win again this week I fear they may come up a little short and dare I say… a little too soft.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!