Although the Cardinals entered the game 3-6 on the season and a four-game losing streak, the Chiefs entered the game following their blunders of the past month. The past three games needed to become distant memories for the Chiefs and this game just about turned the page on that disastrous stretch.
Last week, the Chiefs' premier rushing attack led by Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles was silenced but they returned to old form by trouncing the beleaguered Cardinals defense. Most importantly, the Chiefs have finally found an elite receiver that the franchise has been lacking for quite a long time.
Entering the game, the Cardinals defense ranked near the bottom of just about any category you could think of. They were allowing an average of 135 yards on the ground (a mark the Chiefs easily surpassed with their 159 yards on Sunday) and also allowed about 29 points from their opponents. With their effort on Sunday in front of their home crowd, the Chiefs made sure the Cardinals would stay at the bottom of the barrel and beat up on an otherwise weakened opponent.
Quarterback Matt Cassel had another one of his typical days, and I'm surely not saying that in a bad way. Cassel's clearly shown us that he is a game-managing type of quarterback and isn't going to replicate his 469-yard showcase from last week in Denver. His effort against the Cardinals was the sixth game in which he threw for under 200 yards, but most importantly, five of those games ended with victories. It's still very tough for most of us to put a finger on just what Cassel means to this team, but nothing denies the fact that he's won more games as the Chiefs' starting quarterback (10) since Trent Green was the team's regular starter in 2005. He now has 18 touchdowns with just four interceptions on the year.
Is there a better receiver in the NFL right now than Dwayne Bowe?
Despite some injuries on the offensive line—including one during the game where Branden Albert suffered a hip injury—the protection around Cassel stood tough and didn't allow a quarterback sack on the day. That's a major plus considering that Cassel had been sacked ten times in the past three games. The key to letting Cassel make the right decisions obviously starts up front, and the guys in the trenches like Ryan Lilja and Brian Waters are making it all possible for Cassel.
To say the least, Dwayne Bowe played probably the most impressive game of his life on Sunday registering 109 yards on just six catches with two touchdowns. And that's saying something for a guy coming off a game where he stamped 186 yards from Matt Cassel. Some of the routes he was running made it look like the Chiefs just happened to swap Larry Fitzgerald from the opposite sideline and got him to wear a red jersey, not the road white.
With his sixth consecutive game with a touchdown, Bowe surpassed former Chiefs Chris Burford and Otis Taylor on the list of most-reliable receiver in consecutive games. Bowe is one touchdown reception away from tying Burford's effort in 1962 for most receiving touchdowns in a season, and it's safe to say judging by his efforts in the past two weeks, he'll easily surpass that mark when it's all said and done.
Some interesting calls on offense included a few playmakers from the other side of the ball. Defensive back Javier Arenas saw some time as a slot receiver, and both linebacker Mike Vrabel and defensive lineman Shaun Smith lining up in the backfield as receivers in goal-line situations. Passes went Vrabel's way, but it was more fun to see the hefty Smith in the backfield. These antics might give us just the perfect appetizer for what's to come from offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. I bet we see Shaun Smith possibly take on a slight William "Refrigerator" Perry role in goal-line situations, and just might get the handoff from Cassel one of these days. If you ask me, it wouldn't be a bad idea for a 325 lb. man to pound the rock into an opponent's face.
The Chiefs also appeared to have attempted an onside kick despite having the lead in the game, but replay footage revealed that the ball actually just got blown of the tee from the crosswind, just as the referees insisted. It would have added to the wild selection of play calls by the offense, and wouldn't have been all that surprising considering that head coach Todd Haley may have wanted to pull out all the stops against his former employer. There were no hard feelings after all, though; Haley shook hands with his former superior—Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt—following the game.
LB Demorrio Williams came off the bench to record one of KC"s two sacks on the afternoon.
On defense, linebacker Demorrio Williams recorded his first quarterback sack on the season and rookie defensive back Javier Arenas recorded his first in the NFL. Linebacker Tamba Hali could have registered his ninth sack on the season, but the play was nullified when Chiefs head coach Todd Haley called a timeout while the Cardinals had only one second on the play-clock.
The Cardinals' offense was battered all day by the Chiefs upfront, and their quarterback Derek Anderson justified all the talk about Arizona's season-long instability at the position.
Anderson didn't turn the ball over and still registered 295 yards passing against the Chiefs' secondary, but he couldn't get his team to score until the final seconds of the game. His favorite target was obviously Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who tallied 90 yards on just six catches and the lone touchdown from Anderson in the closing seconds of the game.
Despite his surefire success with connecting with Fitzgerald, Anderson had trouble at times getting passes to his receivers through the Chiefs' secondary, mainly because guys like Kendrick Lewis were busy handing out bruising hits to Anderson's targets. Cardinals receiver Early Doucet left the game early after landing awkwardly on his head after a hit from Brandon Flowers. Moments later, Steve Breaston was on the receiving-end of another big hit from Kendrick Lewis. While they had just enough trouble trying to tackle their opponents, at times, the Chiefs seemed more determined to lay out the guys with the redbirds on their helmets.
The Cardinals themselves seemed like they were bloodthirsty, and let it show in some feisty altercations. Eleven penalties for 96 yards didn't help the Cardinals any, especially since most of them let the Chiefs have better field position due to personal fouls. The losing record is definitely getting to the Cardinals' heads, especially for the guys who were literally about a minute away from winning Super Bowl XLIII just two seasons ago. The team is unraveling, and it clearly showed to the folks in Chiefs Nation on Sunday.
Now it would be silly of me not to mention the most important thing I got out of this game, and it doesn't involve Dwayne Bowe's spectacular showing. "Backup" running back Jamaal Charles didn't touch the ball until the 11:50 mark of the second quarter. He ended up recording 126 total yards on offense and to have a player like that sitting idle for that long in a game the Chiefs clearly needed to pound their opponent is just baffling to think over.
Sir Charles made the most of his touches on Sunday against the Cardinals.
The Chiefs have now completed 10 games of the season, and while it's unquestionable that the Chiefs still sit atop the NFL with the best rushing attack, most of the credit must be given to Charles. While Charles was busy tallying the yardage, Jones was busy tallying the points, and that's been the case for much of the season. Against one of his former teams, the veteran Jones tallied his first two-touchdown game as a member of the Chiefs, and by the looks of it, it won't be his last. Jones will probably continue to see most of the work while Charles still sits for most of the game or serves as a decoy in the backfield.
Prior to this game, I started to wonder just how much rookie sensation Dexter McCluster means to this offense, and while the Chiefs did just fine without him on Sunday, it's important for the team to see his return to the field as soon as possible. Dwayne Bowe is having a fantastic stretch as of late but I think Dexter McCluster would have seen a couple of Bowe's 11 touchdowns on the season. Although he practiced earlier in the week, the Chiefs are being cautious with McCluster, because they know—like we all do—just how crucial he is to this offense in the long run.
Another big key to the offense—tight end Tony Moeaki—leaves a big hole on the offense as well, but while he recovers from concussion symptoms, Bowe will continue to take the brunt of the offense's workload. It's unfortunate to say that the best thing that may help Bowe on the way to his first Pro Bowl appearance and contract extension are the unfortunate injuries to the other top playmakers on offense. It just makes you wonder how his counterpart Chris Chambers feels now that his younger pupil is in the spotlight more often than he is.
Otherwise, Jake O'Connell serves just well enough to fill Moeaki's shoes, but Matt Cassel will need as much firepower as possible heading into the next few games, especially the divisional rematches against Denver and San Diego. With the playoffs now within possible reach, the Chiefs cannot afford to beat themselves again. Mistakes are abound in any NFL game, but mistakes shouldn't be able to drag down a team from week to week.
Entering this week's game against the Seattle Seahawks, the Chiefs might take notice that they're 8-0 in contests against the NFC West since 2002. Let's hope they keep that streak going so that they can keep building on their confident lead in the AFC West.
Seahawks QB Matt Hasselback struggled Sunday against the New Orleans Saints suffocating defense.
Non-divisional games are important because they give the Chiefs an opportunity to beat up on an opponent while their divisional foes are resting, losing, or beating up on each other. What better division is there to take time and sharpen your knives against than the NFC West?
Games such as the ones against Arizona and Seattle give the Chiefs the perfect opportunity to stay just a step ahead of Oakland and San Diego, and let's hope that step turns out to be a big leap.