Fright Night in Kansas City

Hey Arrow-Heads… The Chiefs continue to roll with a record-setting night. I have to say that this wasn't the convincing beatdown that many Chiefs fans had hoped for but I'm pretty sure most Kansas City fans will take another notch in the "W" column whether it was pretty or not.

Most of the same issues I talked about last week are still present with Haley and company but I'm starting to see the makings of a team that is willing to make gut checks throughout the game. After a fairly erratic first half and a flat third quarter, this team decided they weren't going to be denied on Monday Night Football. After what looked like the deciding drive led by Philip Rivers ended up with a muffed snap recovered by Andy Studebaker. It looked promising for the Chiefs but a late Matt Cassel pick by Eric Weddle and there just wasn't enough time left to get anything done.

This was one exciting trip to overtime. The Chargers won the toss but couldn't get out of their own way to convert a first down. At least Cassel pulled his bootstraps up and marched the offense to easy field goal range for Ryan Succop. Lo and behold, no messes or mess-ups; Succop puts it up, it's good and the Chiefs win 23-20 in OT. I'm amazed and smitten all at once.

1st Quarter

The first quarter and first series ends up a three and out for the Bolts after great line pressure. Studebaker ended up sticking Ryan Mathews and this drive is done. This is where I'm getting irritated with the coaching staff. They are consistently late in getting plays in and you can see the confusion as the offense tries to get it correct. Cassel is not shy about his, and I'm being nice, displeasure at the snail's pace. Jon Baldwin snags a nifty 14-yarder from the slot and Dwayne Bowe pulls in a 26-yarder on a quick slant. They can't convert the next first down and have to settle for three.

On San Diego's next series, Kendrick Lewis picks off Rivers who was looking for Antonio Gates. Studebaker was the pressure on Rivers and he hurried his throw. Good job, KC secondary!

The next KC possession ended with Dexter McCluster coughing it up and the Chargers recovered. This could be a long night…

After a couple of decent completions and a strong run by Mathews, Rivers is hurried again and the pass is deflected by Wallace Gilberry and right into the waiting hands of Derrick Johnson. The Chiefs are now back to +1 in turnover differential.

Cassel and Jackie Battle both get some running in and a screen to Le'Ron McClain goes for a few yards and draws a defenseless receiver penalty that tacked on 15 yards. Cassel nails Baldwin in the end zone on a deep post, Succop with the point after and it's 10-0 Kansas City.


2nd Quarter

The Chiefs and Bolts can't seem to settle down. They've each drawn offensive pass interference penalties and San Diego gets flagged for unnecessary roughness on a punt return. Rivers takes the electric men down the field and tries Patrick Crayton long but he draws one of the offensive pass interference flags. They get in field goal range and Nick Novak nails it. Now it's 10-3 Kansas City.

The Chiefs go three and out on the next series and after three nice first down tosses for Rivers, Mathews fumbles and the Chiefs recover. Kansas City is now +2 and winning the turnover battle. This could shape up to be a Chiefs win if they keep it up…

On the next possession, the much maligned Thomas Jones gets five yards in two carries and then Cassel is deflected with pressure and the refs call it an incomplete pass. Norv Turner throws the red flag and referee Alberto Riveron goes under the hood for the review. The call is reversed and ruled a fumble, San Diego recovered and it's their ball. Back to +1 on the TOD. Gates draws another offensive pass interference that could have been a score. Rivers is sacked by Johnson and Tamba Hali. Rivers completes one to Vince Jackson and Novak tries a 50 yarder that goes wide.

On this series, Cassel settles down a bit and starts to read his coverage. He draws San Diego offsides and they get flagged for encroachment. McCluster gets stuffed for no gain and then Cassel hits Steve Breaston for 21 and puts Succop in range for a 47 yarder. The attempt is good and the Chiefs go to the locker room with a 13-3 lead and probably feeling good.

They need to get Battle in there and working. I just don't get Haley and Muir's issue with putting the big man to work early. He's a fullback with tailback speed. I'm pretty sure he can take a licking and keep on ticking. We'll see in the second half…

3rd Quarter

The Chiefs get the ball first and go a quick three and out. With the ball in Philip Rivers' hands after a breather for half time, he marches the Bolts down the field and hits three different receivers. We see Curtis Brinkley for the first time and the rookie looks to be a potential handful. Gates and Brinkley get the Chargers into field goal range and Nick Novak nails a 44 yard kick.

The next series shows the inconsistency I've been talking about. Cassel tries a toss to Jon Baldwin and he drops it. Jake O'Connell is flagged for a false start and Cassel is picked on a deflection by Eric Weddle. The TOD is even…

Already in Kansas City territory, San Diego only gets three yards between a short screen to Ryan Mathews and two incomplete passes from Rivers but they are in field goal range for Novak and he hits a 42 yard attempt. It's 13-9.

The Chiefs go three and out on the next series and the Bolts take over.

Rivers nails Malcolm Floyd for 37 yards and Mathews follows up with a 12-yard run. After a couple of no gains, Novak is still in range and hits a 26 yarder. 13-12 and the Chiefs are hanging by a thread.


4th Quarter

The next series for the Chiefs shows a gut check I talked about. They've done it a couple of times but this is the first one that revealed definite (or defining) results. Apparently, after three quarters of football, it's time to put the Battle in the offense. Cassel to Battle, 7 yards. Cassel to Leonard Pope, 6. Cassel to Baldwin, 5. Cassel to McClain, 3. Cassel tucks it in and gets 6. Battle gets 11. Cassel to Bowe, 6. Battle gets 4 on the ground. Battle busts through for 20 and is ruled down at the 1. Battle goes up and over for the score, Succop's point after is good. Chiefs go up 20-12. Now it's a one possession game.

Not to be denied, Rivers marches the Chargers right back down the field after strikes to Crayton for 15, Jackson for 27, Matthews for 13 and Brinkley for 10; Rivers hands it to Brinkley for the score. Norv Turner throws caution to the wind and decides to try for 2. Rivers makes a short toss to Brinkley and he converts. It's 20-20. No time to waste to try to get into field goal range.

The Chiefs fail to convert a first down and go 3 and out again. Consistency is the key; I'll say it until the cows come home…

The Bolts figure this is it. Rivers starts the drive and marches down the field. He knows they need to get firmly in Novak's range if they expect to win this game before the end of regulation. With just ticks left in the game, Turner doesn't try to open anything up and settles for a chance in the extra period.

Overtime

The Bolts won the toss and elected to receive. As I said earlier, their first (and only) possession in overtime and they couldn't get out of their own way and ended up with nothing more than the "opportunity" to stop the Chiefs and try to get the ball back. But tonight…tonight the tricks were on the Chargers and the treats were on the Chiefs. Cassel did an excellent job in setting up Succop for the game winner with "Two Yards" Jones making the left hash mark. The kicking team gets set, Thomas Gafford snaps the ball, Dustin Colquitt secures the hold and Ryan Succop nails a 30 yarder and the Chiefs win 23-20…


Evaluation

I'm going to start with a couple of props. Romeo Crennel is preparing his unit for games, period. He still needs to work on consistency and line pressure. QB pressure will burst out of line pressure every time.

Waxing nostalgic, if you look back at the vaunted Chiefs defenses developed by Bill Cowher back in the early 90's it was solid line pressure that enabled Derrick Thomas to be the ultimate sackmeister that he was. Looking even further back, Buddy Ryan's 46 defense relied on stout and consistent line pressure to bring quarterback play under the control of the linebackers. With playmakers like Tamba Hali, don't think that Crennel hasn't gone back to his Patriot days and referenced some past successes to implement here. He needs a couple of more dominating playmakers back in action like Eric Berry, a couple of young studs and some added veteran depth and we may very well see the 10's version of Cowher's and Gunther Cunningham's 90's defenses. We won't count Dave Adolph's drop to mediocrity between the Chin and Gun.

The offense is an entirely different story. Matt Cassel is getting harder and harder to figure out. One game he'll play like a pro-bowler and the next he'll play, well, like a Kyle Boller. I hate his inconsistency and that's why I think the Chiefs need to be looking for their next guy and soon. Cassel is serviceable but more as a backup than the starter. Sorry but that's how I see it. We do have an emerging receiver corps that will likely be in Kansas City as long as Scott Pioli can get a deal done with Bowe. Baldwin and Steve Breaston are number 2 and 3 any day.

Dexter McCluster is the tough one to classify. At Ole' Miss they called him "Run DMC". At this level, putting him in as a scatback is putting this little guy out there for the crushing. People will say he's no different than Darren Sproles. Sproles is an elite scatback and his overall production from college through the pros is almost entirely highlight reel quality every time he has the ball. McCluster, in my opinion, is a perfect slot receiver or out of the backfield on third downs. You get this kid in space and its bye, bye…

The Chiefs really need an offensive coordinator. Bill Muir is not a creative play caller and he takes forever to get plays to the huddle. If he's doing the game planning by himself, I have to question Haley. I'll give Todd Haley some credit for firing his players up but his game management is becoming questionable. His insistence on not getting Jackie Battle into the game early does not sound logical at all. Historically, big backs are the guys who get the offense moving. Guys like Jerome Bettis and Jamaal Lewis are good examples. Use the big guy to soften the defensive line and good things happen for the passing game.

Special teams are taking care of business and Ryan Succop is developing into anything but Mr. Irrelevant.

All in all, if the Chiefs can develop and maintain consistency, I believe that they will have a chance at making the post season. Next week the hapless Miami Dolphins will make their 2011 visit to Arrowhead. I won't say the Chiefs can look past this and the Broncos games but that thinking will bite them every time. For the 4-3 Chiefs having a share of first place in the AFC West, they can take control of the division in the next few weeks. Let's hope the stars align, the seas part and the mountains crumble and Kansas City may have a team 3 games over .500…

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