Well, 6-10 is clearly out of the question. Yes, I was hoping we’d go on a tear. To tell the truth, it is really hard to write these after a loss, and not because I’m upset or depressed with not winning. It’s just that there are only so many ways to say, “Yeah, we lost because the Chiefs weren’t as good as their opponent…but there are some signs of hope!” At some point, you have to start winning games, or all the hope is empty.
– Tyler Thigpen had another pretty good game, sort of…(more on this later)
– Tony Gonzalez had another really good game, 5 catches for 73 yards, and a TD
– Dwayne Bowe had an excellent game, catching 7 balls for 96 yards
– Maurice Legget had a great game, intercepting Cutler for a TD; he missed the 2nd half with a shoulder injury, though, and I wonder if that helped make the difference in the game, because the Broncos passing game really took off in the 2nd half (Cutler completed 19 of 23 passes)
– Larry Johnson was sub-par; he’s shown he has the ability to knock out long runs at times…is he just not getting enough carries to break one?
– The defense allowed a 28-yard run to Bell, and an 18-yard TD run to Hillis
– the offense really appears to be crippled without Mark Bradley, our #2 WR; between Darling, Webb, and Franklin, we got almost zero production out of our #2 WR slot
– we scored zero points in the second half
– The Broncos held the ball for more than 36 minutes of the game
– the defense allowed the Broncos to convert on 9 of 14 3rd downs: 64%!! You don’t win when you do that
Reasons for Optimism:
Larry Johnson had 36 yards on 11 carries, but we still almost won! We didn’t score a point in the second half, but we still almost won! We couldn’t get a stop on 3rd down on 4 extremely long drives by the Broncos, but we still almost won! We failed to get a sack, or even much pressure on Cutler, but we still almost won! The Broncos held the ball for more than 36 minutes of the game, but we still almost won!
Reasons for Pessimism:
– See: the Bad and the Ugly; these are problems we’ve had all season, and they just aren’t getting fixed
– On the other hand, we’re reaching the point of the season where there isn’t much room to be pessimistic anymore. About the worst that could happen is that we don’t win a single game for the rest of the season. But then we’d end up in a great draft position!
– Aside from all that, our D-line and LB corps have been so universally below average, it is very difficult to know how to fix it other than just simply throw more bodies at them. We have lots of high draft picks on the D-line, and still don’t get any pressure…does that mean we give the young guys another year to develop, or throw another high draft pick at the squad? Derrick Johnson is supposed to be good, but is he dragged down by being surrounded by sub-par LBs, or has he already peaked out at “not good enough”? And is the problem lack of talent, or due to Krumrie and/or Cunningham? Maybe 10 1st round picks wouldn’t have half the positive impact that just hiring new coaches would… How do you know? That’s a fairly good reason for pessimism, I guess.
I said Thipen had a pretty good game, and that’s based on the fact that he moved the ball, avoided turnovers, added another TD to his record, and had a QB rating of over 80. But when you delve deeper, you should note: Thigpen should have been intercepted, but only a really heads-up play by Jeff Webb to strip the ball saved him. Truly bad accuracy on that throw. And Thigpen completed only 53% of his passes…and with those incompletions, his yards/attempt was just 5.8. You could put our loss right there, perhaps. Pick 3 incompletions, any 3 second half incompletions, and make them completions (to get his completion % above 60)…which drives are then sustained, and get FGs or an extra TD? Jay Cutler completed 80% of his 40 passes…if you give him a 53% completion percentage, and he completes only 21, instead of 32. Take away 11 of his completions, and how many drives are sustained? Far less. How many TDs are lost? At least one. Heck, give Cutler a 53% completion rate, and he doesn’t get to 40 passes, and KC probably wins the time of possession battle en route to a solid victory. This is both frustrating and heartening: despite all our other problems with injuries, not being able to run the ball, not being able to stop Cutler/Marshall: Tyler Thigpen could have won the game if he’d played better. It’s frustrating because he has played better. It’s heartening because he is so young/inexperienced, that there is a very real probability that he will improve with an off-season of work with the first team. There is a very real possibility that he may eventually challenge Cutler for the (unofficial) title of best QB in the NFL. That would really re-ignite the old Broncos-Chiefs rivalry, eh?
Okay, we can’t really hang the loss on Tyler. He could have won the game with a better performance, but that is just one factor. We lost the game because of our defense. They couldn’t get a stop when we needed it way too many times. Our D-line couldn’t get much pressure, and never got a sack. But our LB corps was where our biggest problem was. Our LBs failed to tackle WRs multiple times when they had an opportunity to make stops for lossees or no gains. LBs are supposed to win when hitting WRs. I like Boiman for his intensity and pluck, but it is becoming obvious why he has bounced around the league: he bounces off of opposing offensive players too often. Demorrio Williams missed an easy tackle of the Broncos TE, Graham, too. These things added up. DJ dropped what could have been a fairly easy INT deep in Bronco territory on a drive that resulted in a Broncos TD. In contrast, while the Broncos LBs struggled earlier in the season, they performed very well against KC, getting penetration at the line, rarely missing tackles, breaking up passes. The loss in this game is about 80% on the disparity in LB corps.
The refs missed another blatantly obvious defensive offsides on the other team; second week in a row; further, Hali was completely spun around by a Bronco blocker gripping his jersey with an extended arm, which is a clear holding violation; the cameras didn’t show TonyG getting mugged by Bronco defenders on the Chiefs’ last offensive play, but I’m not surprised. I know people complain when flags are thrown by saying it is the ref deciding the game…but not throwing flags when they should be is just as directly affecting the game: you cannot let people break the rules because you afraid they’ll complain. Then again, I did see another Chiefs’ fan mention the refs were allowing the Chiefs’ O-line to hold excessively, as well…but while that may even things out a bit, I don’t like it. Call all fouls, and let the players adjust their actions to playing fair and clean. Playing a dirty, illegal game just benefits the Broncos.
All this “what if” doesn’t change the fact that the Chiefs got beat. If Tyler increases his completion percentage, or if he scores on that 4th down, 4th quarter scramble, the Broncos still had plenty of time on their last, run-out-the-clock possession to go down and score the game-winning FG or TD. They had the game in hand, and an extra score would not have guaranteed a win. In fact, if we’d scored on the long pass to Bradley in the 3rd quarter, the possibilities branch out from that moment with such complexity, we still could have lost by 10 points or more. Teams play differently when the score is different.
But we played well and competed with the team that will be the AFC West Champion, a team with an excellent offense, the best QB in then NFL right now, and a resurging defense that had none of the problems of earlier in the year. The Broncos may have won the AFC West in a weak year, but they do have the ability to beat any team in the NFL, more so than just the regular “any given Sunday” formulation. And we still challenged them and pushed them to the limit in a game that they played very well and made very few mistakes, and on their home turf. That bodes very well for the Chiefs’ future. Jay Cutler lost games like this his first year of starting, too.