Chiefs Have Bigger Problems Than An Appendix

It's easy to blame Matt Cassel's suddenly disagreeable innards for last Sunday's debacle in San Diego. The Chiefs' offense disappeared without Cassel, bursting just like his appendix might have had it not been removed in time.

Unfortunately, Cassel's absence is a red herring. The Chiefs were blown out in San Diego for the same reason they were blown out in Denver a month ago – their defense returned to 2009 form. Against the Broncos, Kansas City allowed four straight touchdowns to open the game, never forcing a punt. The only reason the Chargers didn't replicate Denver's dominance was a dropped screen pass that killed a promising drive.

A trend is emerging, and it's stated quite simply – the Chiefs can't stop the run. Over the last five games, Kansas City is surrendering 128 yards rushing per game and 4.97 yards per carry. If those were the numbers for the entire season, they would rank 24th in yards and dead last in yards per carry. Even last year, when fielding the NFL's 31st ranked run defense, the Chiefs only allowed 4.7 yards per carry

Here's the really scary part – the Chiefs have been letting bad rushing teams do all of this damage.

It's one thing to get steamrolled by the Texans' seventh-ranked running game, as the Chiefs were earlier this year. But over the last five games, Kansas City has faced the Broncos twice, the Cardinals, Seahawks and Chargers. We're talking about the 31st, 29th, 28th, and 14th ranked ground attacks.

The implosion of Kansas City's run defense was punctuated last Sunday by a Chargers team that ran for only 21 yards the week prior and, Thursday against the 49ers, averaged only 2.6 yards per carry. San Diego has been accused of being soft this year. If the Chargers are soft, what does that make the Chiefs?

Can the Chiefs stop Jackson?
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Suddenly, you start to worry less about Cassel's gut and more about Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson and Darren McFadden – three of the NFL's top nine rushers - running right up the gut on the Chiefs over this season's final three games. We're arguably talking about the three best running backs the Chiefs will face all season long, and we just witnessed nobodies like Knowshon Moreno, Ryan Mathews, Mike Tolbert and Tim Hightower piling up yardage against Kansas City.

Here's an even more sobering thought – what if the Chiefs survive the December running back gauntlet and beat the teams they're supposed to beat? Facing teams on the brink of playoff elimination is one thing. Facing seasoned playoff teams like the Jets or Ravens is another matter entirely, and now you're not just talking about one running back, you're talking about a tandem - LaDanian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene or Ray Rice and Willis McGahee.

The bottom line is the Chiefs now have much bigger problems than Cassel's appendix presented. That was fixed in a few days with a couple of snips and some stitches. Kansas City's front seven needs major surgery. It needs a transplant, and that's not arriving in the next three weeks.

Is it unfair to criticize a team in the second year of a rebuild for a lousy run defense? Should we be more patient?

No. When Scott Pioli arrived in Kansas City he inherited the league's 30th ranked run defense. After a year on the job, following Pioli's acquisition of major, game-changing upgrades in the form of Tyson Jackson, Alex Magee, Mike Brown and Mike Vrabel, the Chiefs fell to 31st. The Chiefs were giving up gobs of rushing yards last December and we're sitting around watching the same thing a year later.

Why? Pioli failed to invest in Kansas City's front seven in his second offseason. Instead, he invested in Dexter McCluster, Javier Arenas, and Jon Asamoah with three picks in the middle of last year's draft. While the Chiefs were getting run over by the Chargers last Sunday, McCluster was doing everything but touching the ball on offense, Arenas was getting beaten for first downs and touchdowns and Asamoah was watching the carnage from the bench.

If Pioli doesn't allocate the franchise's resources more wisely this coming offseason, the Chiefs will be handicapped by their front seven once again. That's not a recipe for championships.

Eleven of the last 16 Super Bowl champions fielded a top 10 run defense. Even in these pass-happy modern times, six of the last eight champions were ranked 8th or better. The Chiefs' run defense is falling fast this year and hasn't been respectable since 2005.

Of course, the Chiefs missed the playoffs that year, too. Why? They didn't stop the run in December.

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Compiled by Michael Ash


Their record will improve to 9-5 and they'll remain one game ahead of San Diego with two games left to play.

A Chiefs win and a Chargers loss in Week 16 will give the Chiefs the division. If both teams win that week, the Chiefs can clinch the division in Week 17 with a win or with a Chargers loss.


The Raiders will be eliminated from the AFC West race. Even if Oakland went on to win their final two games, which would include beating the Chiefs in Week 17, the best record they could finish with is 8-8. That wouldn't be enough to catch a Chiefs' team that already earned their ninth win.


The Chiefs' lead over Oakland will remain at two games. The Raiders could be eliminated from AFC West contention in Week 16 with a loss or with a Chiefs win.

Incidentally that would mean the Raiders would come to Arrowhead in Week 17 with no chance of making the playoffs, barring the almost impossible odds that they might still be alive for a wildcard spot.


Their record will drop to 8-6 and they will fall to second place in the AFC West behind San Diego. To win the division, they will likely have to win their final two games to finish 10-6, then hope the Chargers lose a game so that the best record they can finish with is 9-7.


The Chiefs cannot earn a wildcard birth. The only scenario in which K.C. can earn a wildcard involves either the Jets or Ravens losing all of their remaining games and finishing with a 9-7 record, while the Chiefs win out to finish 10-6.


The Chiefs will still have a slim chance at a wildcard. Between the Jets and Ravens, whichever team that lost will also have to lose their final two games. Additionally, the Chiefs will need to win out and hope that Miami loses another game.

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