I was caught up in the hype of the Bengals victory on Sunday. They played a near flawless game and beat the Chiefs on what was their worst performance of the season. Kansas City had no business losing this game but they did and this is not a sour grapes kind of column. I choose the road less traveled.
It's all been said one NFL coast to the other that the Chiefs were weak against the run and their offense does not make enough adjustments from series to series. Both came back to haunt the Chiefs on Sunday in their 24-19 loss to the Bengals.
The Chiefs allowed Rudi Johnson to run rampant all over the Paul Brown Stadium turf, despite the crummy field. For the record, that stadium turf is by far the worst playing surface in the NFL. Another Brown family cost cutting move I suspect. Someone in Cleveland needs to find George Toma! What's even more ironic is a lot of stadium turf is grown in Ohio.
Anyway Kansas City's defense returned to their '32 Defense' form of a year ago. They gave up big running plays, big passing plays and failed to stop the Bengals on the final drive to get the ball back into the hands of the Chiefs offense.
Actually in hindsight, the Chiefs were better off trying an onside kick and taking their chances; then giving the Bengals offense another possession. It was obvious that the defense was tired and they might have been more productive playing in a shorter field than a longer one. In fact, even better, they could have recovered the ball and there is little doubt the offense would have scored a touchdown.
In the off-season offensive coordinator Al Saunders wanted to take more risks on offense, especially when the team needed to keep possession. Too many times last season, the Chiefs failed on short yardage plays to keep drives going. On Sunday in the third quarter, they faced a third and less than a yard and were stuffed for no gain. Instead of riding the backs of their much heralded offensive line, the Chiefs attempted a 43-yard field goal that would have made the score 10-9 in favor of the Bengals but the kick fell one-yard short of the crossbar.
The Chiefs should have gone for it. If they had been successful, it might have demoralized the Bengals. I truly believe if they had ever trailed after that point, they would have folded like the Bungals of the past. The Chiefs lost their aggressiveness and that shocks me.
At no point in the first half on offense did they attack the Bengals weak secondary. Especially since they were blitzing most of them on passing downs. The Chiefs never countered with screen passes, quick hitches or just chucking the ball down the field to one of their playmaking receivers. Tony Gonzalez was underutilized and Priest Holmes was ineffective.
I don't have the answer. Green still managed two touchdown passes and over 300 yards passing but that means very little because of the first half dysfunctional state of the offense.
The Bengals linebackers now known for their speed and quickness figured out how to beat the Chiefs. Go wherever Priest Holmes was standing or running. The Chiefs should have put him in motion to stop the blitzes. Since he was not running the ball effectively, they should have used him as a decoy. But they didn't and I'm not on the coaching staff.
The defense was equally horrific in the second half. Eric Warfield missed tackles in both of the Bengals big offensive plays in the second half. He should have tackled Peter Warrick before he escaped in to the end zone. In the fourth quarter, he tried to leg tackle Rudi Johnson at the line of scrimmage instead of grapping, clawing or doing anything to slow him down before he ripped of his long gain.
But the Chiefs didn't lose the game because of Warfield's missed tackles. The entire defense had grease on their hands. Shawn Barber had a clean shot at Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna on their first drive of the second half and he missed him. Kitna converted the third down and later completed the drive with a touchdown pass.
The Chiefs stopped blitzing in the second half and that cost them more than anything. If they had watched the game film on Cincinnati more closely, they would not have been burned on the long pass to Warrick. Mr. ‘I Called My Shot' Chad Johnson and Warrick have scored most of their touchdowns on long plays. They are home run hitters and the Chiefs were caught unprepared.
Greg Robinson has to go back to calling the plays that shut down the Bills and Browns offensive attacks. The defensive alignments and his cover two zones were predicable and Kitna is too good a quarterback to not take notice of wide open receivers fifteen yards down the field. Dexter McCleon gave too much respect to Johnson and Warfield didn't give Warrick enough respect. These guys can play bump and run but for some reason Robinson kept their shackles on and it cost the Chiefs a victory.
Same problem for the Chiefs on defense as it was on the offense. They stood back on their heels and didn't make any plays. Cornerback William Bartee had a sure interception but he couldn't see the ball coming at him in the second half and that might have changed the game.
The bottom line is if the Chiefs want to be playing at home in the playoffs, they better start playing with a fire in their belly and one under their feet.
With Indianapolis, Tennessee and New England all standing at 8-2, the Chiefs could conceivably blow home field advantage and a bye week in the first round of the playoffs. If the Colts or Titans have a better record or earn a tie-breaker over the Chiefs and the Patriots do the same, Kansas City will have to play three playoff games instead of two.
With that said, the Chiefs need to wake up, smell the coffee and understand they are still the best team in the AFC at 9-1. The Bengals are 5-5 and that's a huge disparity in the NFL. The Chiefs have a much better chance of winning their next six then the Bengals, Colts, Titans or Patriots.
Time to reflect the accomplishments of a 9-0 start are over. The Chiefs need to get back on the practice field, make some adjustments and focus on beating the Raiders on Sunday, then the Chargers and Broncos on the road after that.
The success or failures of the next three weeks will determine if the Chiefs have home field advantage or not and if they'll play two playoff games or three.