Category Archives: Chiefs/NFL Analysis

Making Sense of the Chiefs Season

The Chiefs are 7-4.
5-0 at home.
2-4 on the road.

After consecutive losses to AFC West opponents, putting the Chiefs record at 5-4, some said the Chiefs had been exposed.  Teams figured out how to beat the Chiefs.  The run game was no longer dominant.  The defense couldn’t stop the run and couldn’t enough pressure on the pass because opponents had figured Crennel out.

The Chiefs couldn’t beat a good team.
Or the Chiefs couldn’t beat a semi-good team on the road.

Well, things look different now.

We dismantled the Cards…but that was at home, the critics said: the Seahawks will be the real test.
We put 42 points on the ‘hawks on the road.

The Buffalo Bills have taken 3 teams to O/T before losing: the Ravens, the Steelers, and the Chiefs.  That’s pretty good company for the Chiefs.
The Cleveland Browns have gone on to win 4 games, some wins against pretty good teams.
The Chargers have become a good team.

I think there might be a way to understand the season.

Keep in mind, this is just conjecture.

But here’s what I think:

The Chiefs are a good team.  They have won the games they were supposed to win.

It took multiple reasons for the Chiefs to lose each game they lost:
Colts: they played a better team on the road.  Bowe’s dropped TD changed the game from possible win to certain loss
Texans: A close game.  BS DPI call on Flowers.  Cassel’s failure to get the first down to be able to run out the clock.
Raiders: It was an AFC West road game, where anything can happen, no matter what the relative records or team skill/cohesiveness.  Refs helped the Raiders reach OT by stopping the clock and saving them a down. Bad calls abounded.
Denver: It was an AFC West road game, where anything can happen, no matter what the relative records or team skill/cohesiveness. McDaniels spent more his time/effort during the bye preparing to beat the Chiefs instead of trying to have a winning season.  The Broncos illegally video-tape other teams.  McDaniels knows how to game plan against a traditional Patriot-style defense, but no one else.

That doesn’t mean the Chiefs should be undefeated, or even 9-2.  It just means that the Chiefs losses have significant reasons that don’t come into play in every game.  It means the Chiefs can lose these games and still be a good team.

However, coming into this game against the Seahawks, the Chiefs were excellent at home, and below average on the road.  But this win should scare our opponents for the rest of the season: The Chiefs have learned to move the ball and score points on the road, using the passing game.

Of course, it is too soon to say for sure.  A collapse would change the whole narrative.  Anything could happen in AFC West games against the Raiders and Broncos.  They can recover from the pain of a losing season by sweeping the Chiefs.

The Chiefs need to take care of business.  They need to watch how the Colts are keeping the SD Offense out of the end zone through most of the 2nd half (at the time I write this).  They need to come out of SD with a sweep.

The Chiefs need to stick it to Tennessee, and need to ruin the Rams season by handing them a loss.

But if the Chiefs win out at home, they end up 10-6 and will get a home playoff game.  This team is dangerous at home to any team.

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The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, 18 Oct 2010: Chiefs Lose 35-31; 3-2

The Good:

– We put up more than 200 yards rushing against the #5 rushing defense in the NFL

– We committed zero turnovers

– The defense grabbed two more sacks

– Cassel had a great game: 69% passing, 3 TDs, o INTs…his only sack allowed was in garbage time

– We got 56% 3rd down conversions (9-16) and 100% 4th down conversions (1-1)

– Bowe had a monster game: 6 for 108, 2 TDs

The Bad:

– We gave up 28 2nd-half points

– We grabbed zero turnovers

– We allowed 50% 3rd conversions (5-10) and 100% 4th down conversions (1-1)

The Ugly:

Not much ugly by the Chiefs, honestly…but the referees had a pretty bad game

Interesting points:

For the 2nd straight game, strategic mistakes were costly.  Facing 3rd and 2 with 2:36 on the clock, the Chiefs chose to pass.  They didn’t catch the Texans off guard, and Cassel was way off target.  If the Chiefs had run the ball, even had they failed to make it, it would have either run the clock down to the 2-minute warning (making the Texans rush more to get down the field after a punt) or forced them to take a time-out (again, increasing the pressure on the Texans).  And with the way we were running and with the Texans missing their top LB, we probably had a better percentage to succeed than with a pass, no matter how Cassel was passing.  Moreover, a run that failed to get the first down probably would have still gotten closer to the first down marker, making a 4th-down attempt (if necessary) less of a risk.  1 first down would have pretty much sealed a win.

– The refs?  Well, they didn’t lose the game for us.  However, they missed two very important calls on the last drive:

1) it clearly was a push-off by Andre Johnson, not interference by Flowers.

2) on the play that Derrick Johnson dived over the pile, the pressure caused Schaub to throw the ball  away.  It didn’t land anywhere near a receiver, and was clearly to avoid a loss of yardage, and he was clearly still within the tackles.  It should have been intentional grounding.  The incompletion put the Texans at 3rd and 10, and Arenas allowed an 11-yard reception on the next play to allow the conversion.  With the correct call, it would have been 3rd and 18 and nearly impossible to convert.  The Texans may well have kicked a FG at that point…but then the Chiefs would have just needed to get into FG range to win…an entirely different proposition

– Still, for the 2nd straight game, it took multiple bad calls by the coaches and a sub-par pass rush performance for us to lose, and by just 4 points.  These two losses were both on the road, to the two toughest teams on our schedule, right after both teams lost tough games and had something to prove.  In the end, that doesn’t mean much…but we’ve got a pretty easy schedule the rest of the season, a great running game, and a passing game that is starting to hit its stride.

– Even with our 2nd straight loss, every other team in the AFC West also lost…so the Chiefs are still in great shape, two less losses than every other team in the AFC West, 3-2, and with lots of strengths (especially running and stopping the run, and scoring defense) and few weaknesses (pass defense, to an extent…bend but don’t break).

Bottom Line:

In any case, the season is still young, and lots could still happen.  The Chargers could find their stride again, the Broncos might find a running game, and well, okay, the Raiders are no threat.  But everyone says the hard part of the Chiefs schedule is over…well, the Chiefs need to prove that by stringing together a win streak.  And no matter what the relative records, it isn’t ever “easy” to play on the road in the AFC West, so we’ll see.

But the Chiefs are in the driver’s seat.

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The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: 10 Oct 2010, Chiefs Lose, Now 3-1

Well, we lost.  Some good things happened, but we lost.

And I need to figure out a better title format.  That being said…

The Good

– The Chiefs held the Colts to 0 TDs and a 9-9 tie going into the 4th quarter

– The Chiefs didn’t allowed only one sack (3 in 4 games!) despite going up against Freeney and Mathis

– The Chiefs held Manning to 0 TD passes and 1 INT; a mere 65.0 QB rating

The Bad

– Despite the perceived rush defense weakness of the Colts, the Chiefs did not have a 100-yard rusher

– Despite the perceived rush defense weakness of the Colts, the Chiefs barely eclipsed 100 yards rushing total (113)

– Despite the Colts’ being down to 2nd and 3rd string Safeties, the Chiefs were not able to exploit the middle of the field

– Despite the weakness of the Colts’ rushing attack, the Chiefs allowed several 8+ yard runs that either set up 2nd-and-short, or converted a 2nd/3rd-and long…including giving an 11-yd TD run on 2nd-and-1 from the 11

The Ugly

I think it was a huge mistake for the Chiefs to start the game with an onside kickoff.  Sure, it tells your defense you have confidence they won’t give up an easy TD on a short field if it fails…but it also tells the team that you need trickery from the start to have a chance.  And there are no sure things with onside kicks.  It is a gamble, at best.  And the result is that with a short field, the Colts were able to gamble on trying to establish the running game.  If they failed to convert on the first series of downs, they can at least have an excellent chance to pin us inside our own 3.  And after they convert even 1 first down, they have a near-automatic FG.  The Chiefs did stop a TD with a great play by Carr in the pass game…but the Colts ran on 6 of 8 plays, and moved the ball.  That established some confidence for the Colts to run the ball.  The Chiefs stuffed the run any number of times…but the Colts were able to get running yards pretty much any time they needed it (they got 8 first downs w/ the run).

– It was also a huge mistake for the Chiefs to go for a 1st down on 4th and 2 from the Colts’ 8.  Sure, it again shows confidence in your defense to not let the Colts make a long drive to a score, and in your offense to be able to drive the field and score again…but if you just gave the Colts 3 free points, and then worked so hard to get the ball all the way down the field, you have to get points.  I gotta believe the 4th quarter would have played out much differently if the Chiefs were up 12-6 instead of tied 9-9 (taking away the free 3 points and taking the 3 points for the FG instead of going for the TD).  But even if you leave the onside kick in, it would have been a huge difference running the 2-minute drill if the Chiefs were down 19-12 instead of down a full 10 points and needing 2 scores.

– It was a smaller, but still big, mistake to give the ball to Charles so much this game.  Yes, I know he’s the “home-run hitter”, and I’ve said before that he needs more touches.  And he did a fine job.  However, despite the title of this article saying that Speedy Running Backs are the Colts’ Achilles’ Heel, the analysis in the article actually makes it clear that pounding backs do more damage to the Colts’ defense.  The Colts have built the team on being smaller, lighter, and faster…so it just makes sense that a pounding back like Jones will wear the Colts out more; the Colts would have to respond by bringing more defenders up to the line of scrimmage, and that would either result in Jones breaking a long run at some point, or in setting up the Colts’ for a morale-breaking, long play-action pass.  Instead, Charles never really wore down the Colts, and their speed allowed them to recover from covering other players, take good angles, and keep Charles from breakaway TDs.  That actually helped build the Colts’ confidence, and the last run of over 10 yards by Charles was with about 8:31 in the 3rd quarter (14 yards).

– Bowe dropped an easy TD that would have put the Chiefs up by 4 (the Chiefs still got a FG).  Then he dropped an even easier short pass.  Then McCluster dropped a pass.  It was an 0-3 passing 3-and-out that was 100% on the receivers.  Since that was coming off of an INT of Manning, all it did was continue to help the Colts’ morale.  Going into the 4th tied at 9 was great, since most people said the Chiefs would get beaten easily, but going into the 4th quarter up by 4 would have been much, much better. Again, if nothing else changed, it would have meant the Chiefs’ last 2-minute drill possession would have had the Chiefs down by just 6…a TD would have meant an automatic win (avoiding the need to consider going for 2 to avoid overtime on the road).

Interesting Points

I don’t consider this a “ripped off” loss, or a moral victory, or a “we had that game won, but this one play changed the outcome”.

We lost. The Colts won.

It was a solid win for the Colts.

What made the difference is that the Colts won the game in the trenches. The prevented any pressure of Manning in the first half, and created openings for the RBs to get a few long runs, and to get enough yards for short yardage 3rd down conversions, and gave Manning enough time to get the ball out where the WR could make the play even when we brought pressure.

Still, we played a good Colts’ team very tough.  Our passing defense kept Manning and his WRs out of the end zone.  The defense also played the run very tough, holding them to just 3.1 ypc.  This team was in the Super Bowl last year, and we gave them all they could handle.

I think it shows the Chiefs are for real.

The disappointing thing is that this was a a winnable game.  How much better it would be to have beaten a Super Bowl team at home!  How much more “for real” would we be if we were 4-0 after winning on the road in a game no one gave us a chance to win!

The Chiefs will continue to improve, too.

I really think the Chiefs can hang with any team in the NFL at home or on the road.  I think we have a chance to be 8-0 at Arrowhead, win a few games on the road, and make the playoffs.  We actually have a good chance to win the AFC West, with as inconsistent as the Chargers have been so far.

As always, we’ll see how it actually turns out.  But things look good for the Chiefs to remain ahead of the expected rebuilding curve this year.

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Chiefs vs Colts

Big game coming up this weekend, no?
The Chiefs are undefeated, the last in the NFL this season to remain unbeaten.
And they have to go onto the Colts’ home turf to try and demonstrate the 3-0 and record isn’t a scheduling quirk, but is actually indicative of the Chiefs’ ability this year.And they have to do it after the Colts have endured an embarrassing loss, and in which both losses include a humilating inability to stop their opponents’ running game.

It is an intriguing matchup, to be sure:
Cassel has struggled in the passing game. He was one of the most-sacked passers last year, but this time, has only been sacked 2 times in 3 games, which is close to the best in the league at this point. Is the pass-protection this year for real, or has it just been luck? We’ll find out in a hurry, as the Colts’ Freeney and Mathis are among the best rushing end tandems in the league (if not the best pair).

But the Chiefs also excel at getting the ball to Charles on the perimeter where he can gash a defense for long gains if he can get around the defensive ends. The aggressiveness of the Colts rush ends, and their smallish size should facilitate that plan.

So do the Colts sell-out the pass in order to stop the run?

Then there is the fact that the Chiefs have one of the most talented secondaries in the NFL, with Brandons Flowers and Carr both gaining experience to add to excellent physical skills and instincts, and 5th-overall pick Eric Berry looking for a breakout game (but otherwise already playing better-than-average), and surprisingly decent performances also being turned in by Berry’s fellow rookies Javier Arenas and Kendrick Lewis. But it is also one of the youngest secondaries in the NFL, with Carr having the most experience with just 35 starts, and just 71 starts total between all 5. That’s less than 5 seasons, and Manning is one of the most experienced, cunning, and cerebral QBs to ever play the game, much less currently active.

So does Peyton exploit the inexperience of the Chiefs’ secondary and torch them for bundles of TDs? Or does the teamwork and physical ability the Chiefs’ Young Guns contain the Colts’ passing attack enough to keep the score in check? I’m sure the running game of both teams will influence the answer to this, if the Colts’ offense can’t get to the field because the Chiefs dominate TOP, or if the Colts are one-dimensional because the running game doesn’t produce much of anything.

Well, the Colts’ running game has also been notably ineffective, and the Chiefs have been doing a good job of stuffing the run without sacrificing the passing game.

And part of the success in the passing game is that the Chiefs have started to find ways to pressure the passer, if not garner showy sack stats. The Colts let OG Ryan Lilja go, and so far it looks like that was a mistake. The problems are more in the running game than the passing game, but the Chiefs OLB Tamba Hali is developing into one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, getting pressure on the QB on better than 1 out of every 3 dropbacks against the 49ers. Not even Peyton Manning can remain unruffled with that kind of pressure. And the chifes are excellent at forcing 3-and-outs, ending opponents’ drives without allowing a score, and preventing 3rd-down conversions (yes, those are all very closely-related stats, but not identical).

In the end, I think the Chiefs will win:
Games are won in the trenches. The Colts have an amazing D-line, but their O-line isn’t as good as it used to be. The Chiefs, on the other hand, are getting excellent performances from both their O-line and D-line. And when you get away from the trenches, the Colts have clear weaknesses in both running the ball and stopping the run. The best passing performances come when a team is trying to come back from behind. The biggest passing totals usually come in a losing effort. That’s because it is still true (if somewhat exaggerated) that when you drop back to pass, only 4 things can happen and 3 of them are bad. You can win games by being a one-dimensional team with nothing but an excellent passing game and good pass rush, but you can’t win games consistently.

Ask Peyton’s father about how being the best passer in the league sets you up for winning seasons, if the NFL basics (winning in the trenches, running, stopping the run) are lacking.

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Chiefs Win: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly on 13 Sep 2010

Good, Bad, Ugly

Well, the Chiefs won a close one, needing a last-minute goal-line stand to hold off the San Diego Chargers’ high-powered offense. The Chiefs won by playing disciplined ball, hard-nosed defense, and electrifying special teams. A big play in the running game helped, too.

The rest after the jump.
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Plans for the Future

This blog will probably switch to only writing about the Kansas City Chiefs.

I think I might not write about socio-political topics again…or at least not in the near future.

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Man, the Chiefs Suck This Year

You’d think they would play a little better for me, since I’m working so hard over here in Baghdad.

 

But no.

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