Calm After the Storm

It has been a few days since the Chiefs upset division rival San Diego in front of a national audience, and in the process elevated themselves to the lone spot at the top of the division. But after the excitement of the big win has worn off, the statistics of Monday night's contest have a sobering message – the Chiefs still have a lot of work to do.

First and foremost, it starts with QB Matt Cassel. Just about everyone in the media has taken a shot at the Chiefs' quarterback this week, so I will try to avoid kicking Cassel while he is down. But 62 total passing yards is simply not acceptable. However, I'm also not naive enough to overlook the variables that played into the slow offensive start.

Charlie Weis and Todd Haley need to do a better job of putting Cassel into a situation where he can succeed. Although the offensive line was not dominant on Monday night, they did more than enough to allow Cassel to take some shots down the field and the coaching staff elected not to. Steadfast in their excuses for Cassel, the coaching staff blamed the rain as the culprit for their passive offensive attack.

I don't buy that, however, and neither should you.

Phillip Rivers racked up 280 passing yards in the same weather conditions against a Chiefs defensive unit that was playing with an inspiration we have not seen in Arrowhead since the days of Derrick Thomas, Neil Smith, and Dan Saleaumua. Although there is little debate over which QB was the best on the field Monday night, there is no excuse for the pitiful offensive display from a presumably improved Chiefs offense.

Cassel is a shaken quarterback that needs a shot of confidence and Weis and Haley did nothing but add to his self doubt on Monday night. Instead of allowing Cassel to put a nail in the Chargers coffin, and saying to Cassel "go finish this game", they told him instead "we are not going to allow you to lose this game". This is simply the wrong message to send to an already jumpy QB.

As the Chiefs head into Cleveland on Sunday, Weis and Haley need to show that they have confidence in their starting QB. Monday night was too important to take any chances of a turnover and I can understand that, but this defensive unit stepped up and responded in crucial situations which should allow the offense to take some more risks in the passing game. The Chiefs don't need to come out throwing bombs down the field, but short crossing patterns and screens should go a long way in building up Cassel's confidence in himself and in his offensive line.

Browns running back James Harrison embarrassed the Chiefs run defense for 286 yards and three touchdowns at Arrowhead in 2009. On Sunday it could be the Chiefs rushing game that dominates.
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Kansas City is facing one of the worst teams in the league on Sunday and it should be a good opportunity to improve some of their awful offensive stats. One of the keys could be the third down conversions. The Chiefs offense only converted one of their eleven third downs against the Chargers, while Cleveland surrendered 7/17 to Tampa Bay. With the Chiefs presenting playmakers like Dexter McCluster, Jamaal Charles, and Dwayne Bowe, it should allow the Chiefs to throw some new wrinkles at the downtrodden Browns.

Looking at the defensive stats, it is hard to read much into the teams 29th ranked pass defense considering they only allowed 14 points while on the field for almost two-thirds of the game. This Crennel-led defense is going to surprise some people in 2010, but the best help is going to be a better offense. If the Chiefs' offense can stay on the field and give the defense a chance to catch their breath, there is no telling how good they will look considering how they played on Monday.

The Cleveland Browns are a bad team in the very depths of a rebuilding process. The Chiefs are an ascending team that should handle business on Sunday. Although some of the stats of last Monday are a little concerning, all could be well if the Chiefs have a good showing in Cleveland. Either way we are sure to learn a lot more about this Chiefs team than the stats tell us after Monday night's victory.

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