The Good, The Bad, The Ugly on 7 Dec: Chiefs 2-11

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.

The Good:

– 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)

The Bad:

– 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 Ugly:

– 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.

Key Points:

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.

Bottom Line:

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.

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2 Comments

Filed under Chiefs/NFL Analysis

2 responses to “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly on 7 Dec: Chiefs 2-11

  1. Another positive for your side–even though it might not seem like it when you purely look at the stats–is Brandon Flowers. Sure, the Broncos put up some good passing numbers, but he’s going to be good. I think I’ll be cursing his name in years to come.

    Thigpen is still a little bit of a mystery to me. Better by far than I thought he was going to be, but is he going to be the kind of leader and quarterback that KC really needs? You can’t tell after a season like this–he got thrown to the dogs early and he’s handled it well, but he doesn’t have a whole lot of help. I’ll be curious to see how he does next season.

    As for my b’loved Broncos, I’m kind of proud of them. They’ve had a tough season, they’ve been inconsistent, and their defense is still suspect. But they’ve won some tough games and won against some good teams. They’ve worked past key injuries to every position except the offensive line (which has been nothing short of brilliant this season)–our secondary has been dinged up for half of the season, we’ve lost linebackers, every starting wide receiver has missed a game or two to injuries (and stupidity–I’m talking to you, Brandon 1), and five running backs have been lost to injured reserve for the season. I believe four of those RBs were starters.

    It’s been a tough season and an uneven season, but they look to be poised to get a home playoff game and do have a team that could conceivably beat pretty much anywhere on any field.

    Of course, they also have the potential to lose to anyone on any field, so, yeah…

    Really tough season for KC fans, I’m sure. I wonder if Herm will keep his job. I like the guy, so I kind of hope so, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new coach for your team next year.

    Raiders fans probably expected their team to be bad, so it isn’t so disappointing for them. San Diego fans–and all the writers who picked them to go to the Super Bowl–have to be some of the most disappointed people in the league, though. Such high expectations for a team that is going to have a tough time getting to .500.

    Anyway, I’m glad my guys won. I’m also glad it was a good game. I think the Chiefs–with a good draft and some smart free agent moves–will be much improved next year.

    • chiefmuser

      I didn’t mention Flowers this week, but to tell the truth, I’m really happy with all the Chiefs’ secondary, and I’ve mentioned all of them at least once in the “reasons for optimism”, I think. Flowers, Carr, and Leggett are all big hitters who can cover and get picks. I think Carr may end up being better than Flowers…remember, it was Carr that just about shut down Marshall in Kansas City, and got the game-icing INT. And had we won in Denver, it would have been largely due to Leggetts pick-6. Our safeties are hard-hitters that can grab INTs, too.

      The Broncos did exactly what they almost always do, which I identified 3 or 4 years ago. They may lose a an unexpected game, but they almost always win 2-3 games they should lose due to Shanahan’s gameplanning and/or luck, and then end up positioned for a playoff run right about the time the team gels and starts winning due to superior talent and/or teamwork.

      You bastards.

      But I do think this year was the start of the Broncos-Chiefs renewed rivalry. The games didn’t matter much this year, but we spanked you once and lost close after putting a scare into you the 2nd time. Next year, I expect the games to matter in who wins the AFC West. And I expect it to be that way for the next 5-6 years. That always makes for great rivalries.

      I hope that it is the Chiefs winning the future games and going on to win the AFC West, but Cutler is a great QB.

      Thigpen, however…I don’t know. He’s got to improve his numbers. But they’ll improve as we get a decent running game back, and when he has a whole off-season to work with the 1st team offense, and with continued experience. If his numbers don’t improve, however, he’ll be very frustrating, because he’s very clearly got “it”. As good as Cutler is, as bad as our defense is (and your defense is coming together and isn’t as bad as earlier in the season), Thigpen came about 2 feet from tying the game with 4 minutes left to go. If he’d stretched the ball out like he did in Buffalo, it would have been a TD. (and maybe we’d have gone for and gotten the 2, to go up by 1 point and put the pressure on you to drive for a FG by a kicker that had already missed one).
      With you being the division leaders, and us being the cellar dwellars, I think that says huge things about Thigpen’s leadership and ability.

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