Hand it to the Denver Broncos they kicked the Chiefs tail after playing their best game of the season. Kansas City played their worst game of the season. Now questions abound as the Chiefs are in serious jeopardy of losing home field advantage.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos – Rewind
1. The defensive performance was not NFL quality. The Chiefs defensive game plan was flawed from the beginning. It was not rocket science what the Broncos were doing. Bootleg left, bootleg right, play action and give the ball to Clinton Portis up the middle. Last week against the Raiders, Portis for the first time this season ran exclusively between the tackles. He did the same thing against the Chiefs and that allowed him to run for over 200 yards and score five touchdowns. But the fact he average over 10 yards per carry has to be the single most disappointing stat in recent Chiefs history.
2. Middle linebacker Kawika Mitchell had his worst game as a Chief. He had no clue as to what his assignments were in Greg Robinson's gap defense. Play after play especially against the run he took on blockers instead of attacking the ball carrier. In almost every Portis run for a touchdown, Mitchell was out of position and he might be the future at middle linebacker but he's not ready to anything but a special teams player.
3. I thought I'd never say it but I saw some players quit on Sunday on defense and offense. I won't name any player because the list is lengthy. I never thought a Dick Vermeil coached team would ever have a player quit during the game. If that were a pre-season game, the Chiefs would have cut several players after looking at the game film on Monday.
4. Why did the Chiefs not use Priest Holmes more. His twelve carriers for 44 yards was a joke. On a crucial play in the third quarter, Holmes was out of the lineup on a third and one play. No excuse for that. Holmes has to be the focal point of the offense. Offensive coordinator Al Saunders did a poor job of calling plays in the second half. Instead of doing some of the same plays that worked to perfection in the first half, he inserted a different game plan and made one bad call after another.
5. Though he threw for nearly 400 yards, Trent Green was totally ineffective in the second half. On the first series of the second half, the Chiefs were facing a third and six. Instead of trying to pick up a first down, he threw an ill-advised 50-yard pass to Marc Boerigter who was in double coverage. That was the first time the Broncos defense stopped the Chiefs all day and it singled the end of their dominance. Denver took a great deal of confidence from that stop. They repeated the performance two other times in the third quarter and that was the game.
6. You have to be concerned with wide receiver Johnnie Morton. He dropped another easy catch in the third quarter on third down and his unsportsmanlike penalty late in the fourth quarter has me questioning why he's still in the starting lineup. The Chiefs need to replace him with Marc Boerigter. Morton has become unreliable and drops too many passes. It's clear that Morton is not focused and the Chiefs have gone out of their way to fit the offense to his talents. He's not giving the Chiefs his best effort on game days.
7. Back to the defense, why didn't the Chiefs blitz. Not one time all game it seemed. Vonnie Holliday and Eric Hicks were more concerned with stopping the run that they bit on every play fake by Plummer. Jake the Snake will never beat any team in the NFL being a pocket passer. He has to throw the ball on the run or create open spaces with play fakes to be accurate and successful. The Chiefs should have had Hicks shadow Plummer and instruct him to make a beat for him on every play. That might have slowed up the Broncos offense.
8. For all his comments, I thought Eddie Kennison played a decent game. He caught all three passes thrown his way including a 41-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter that gave the Chiefs a 21-17 lead. Though I didn't agree with his comments at least he backed them up with a solid game. Kennison needs to be used more in the offense down field.
9. The Chiefs offense had 444 total yards of offense and managed 28 first downs. Usually when that happens your team wins. After converting on all of their third down conversions in the first half, the offense managed only one conversation out of six tries in the second half. The Chiefs need to use more four wide receiver sets and use their no-huddle offense in the second half of games. They need to shake things up to give the opponents something to think about during the game.
10. Now before Chiefs fans jump off the bandwagon they have to remember one thing. Kansas City is in the playoffs, one of only six teams in the AFC that will qualify. There is no dominant team in the conference and every team that will be in the tournament is beatable at home or on the road. The only things stopping the Chiefs from succeeding in the post season are the players in that locker room. Kansas City still has the best all-around offense in the NFL. If they stay in attack mode all four quarters in December and January, they'll be fine. If they take the recipe of the Broncos offense on Sunday, they can do the same thing in the playoffs. Plus they have Dick Vermeil and he'll have his team ready.
Detroit Lions @ Kansas City Chiefs
1. I'd hate to be the Lions this week. If the Chiefs have any moxy left, they'll put 50 on the board against the Lions. If Kansas City has a tough game against Detroit then the lingering effects of the Broncos loss will be on the players' minds through out the playoffs. That will mean an early playoff exit.
2. The Lions have been decimated by injuries. In fact they've placed 13 players on injured reserve list and have been putting players on the roster just to fill slots that have little to none NFL experience. That might be the reason they have won only three games this season.
3. This game will be an eye sore for many Chiefs fans. On draft day, Dick Vermeil wanted to draft linebacker Boss Bailey. Instead Kansas City selected Larry Johnson. Bailey would have been a dynamite linebacker in the Chiefs system. In his rookie season, Bailey has 63 tackles (45 solo) and 1.5 sacks. Compared to Kawika Mitchell who has 13 tackles (12 solo) and zero sacks. Now to be fair, Bailey was more heralded but Mitchell was also highly rated by every NFL team on draft day. In time who knows who will be better. But the Chiefs after their performance against Denver on Monday sure could have used Bailey in the middle of that defense.
4. Speaking of the draft. Two years ago quarterback Joey Harrington was the hot pick. In fact, the Chiefs who had the seventh overall pick, which they traded up to get Ryan Sims, would have selected Harrington had he been available with the seventh pick. Harrington has struggled in each of his two NFL seasons but he has upside. However, this season he's thrown 19 interceptions and that stat might be the tonic that cures the Chiefs defensive woes.
5. The Chiefs run defense should get a rest this weekend. The Lions don't possess a game breaker. Shawn Bryson who the Chiefs tried to sign in free agency has not been very productive for the Lions. He's run for 447 yards, two touchdowns and turned the ball over twice. But he's been a force in the passing game as he leads the Lions with 43 receptions.
6. Former Chiefs tight end Michael Ricks has found a home in Detroit with the Lions. He's been a consistent performer averaging nearly 13 yards per catch. Ricks never fit in with the Chiefs primarily because Kansas City used him as a wide receiver. Ricks is more suited to play tight end because of his large and athletic frame. He's had to share playing time with Casey Fitzsimmons this season as both are in an intense battle for the #1 job in 2004.
7. I'm convinced that Dante Hall will get his one for the thumb this week against the Lions. He nearly ran one back against Denver after faking the ball to Marc Boerigter on an end around. Had Hall not tried the fake, he had a huge hole open up down the left side that he would have easily scored his fifth return touchdown of the season.
8. Kansas City must get back to the basics this week. They need to run the ball, run the ball and start relying on Priest Holmes to carry them into the playoffs. They have underutilized him in the past for whatever reason. But against the Lions horrible defense (yes it's worse than the Chiefs), Holmes needs to get into a rhythm. Now is not the time to reinvent the wheel.
9. For the defense, it's time to regroup, swallow the loss and move forward. The Broncos game is over and behind them. Nothing can be done to change one thing. As a group and a team, they need to punish the Lions on Sunday at home. Have a no prisoners approach and make them pay for their shortcomings this season. They'll need a good game because the Chiefs will face the Vikings the following Saturday in what could determine home field advantage in the playoffs.
10. One thing the Chiefs have to remember going into the Lions game. They are 11-2 and Detroit is 4-9 for a reason because of the talent on the field. It's not the execution or lack thereof but the disparity in talent. The Chiefs offense and defense needs to attack, attack and when they're done attacking go for the knockout blow whether that's in the first half or the second. They need to punish Detroit into the ground. It's time for this team to take off the gloves.
Around the AFC
1. The Raiders lose again. What else is new? This time the fledgling Raiders lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-7 on the road. To sum up the sorry Raiders effort, Hinds Ward the Pittsburgh stellar receiver said it all. "In the middle of the third quarter, maybe they gave up," said Ward. "They were ready to go home. It was cold (30 degrees) and they had a long flight home and they've had problems with their coach." That says it all.
2. Rick Mirer had his worst outing of the season as he threw two interceptions. Mirer only completed 10 of 25 passes for a meager 68 yards. The Raiders will have an interesting off-season choosing a new quarterback. Don't be surprised to see the Raiders make a run for the Bengals Jon Kitna who will be a free agent after this season.
3. Tyrone Wheatley was once again frustrated as he only touched the ball 13 times. He opened the scoring with a 22-yard touchdown run but with the Raiders giving up 17 points in the second quarter so they had to abandon the running game. Wheatley deserves a better fate than the one he's getting in Oakland.
4. The Raiders allowed Jerome Bettis to gain 106 yards rushing. Bettis has been in a tug of war with Amos Zereoue. Oakland could not stop Bettis who returned to his old form and carried the Steelers offense.
5. The beat goes on for cornerback and return man Phillip Buchanan. He fumbled two punt returns, losing one of them to the Steelers. Why the Raiders continue to use Buchanan on special teams is beyond me. Might be part of that ‘Dumb' thing head coach Bill Shanahan was referring to after their loss to the Broncos.
6. LaDainian Tomlinson had his best overall game of his career. He ran for 88 yards but had 148 yards receiving. Tomlinson scored two receiver touchdowns including one for 73 yards that helped San Diego defeat the Detroit Lions 14-7. Tomlinson needs to be used more in the passing offense. If the Chargers had used him more often, they might have a few more wins this season.
7. Doug Flutie had a good day thanks to the Tomlinson touchdown passes. But he was efficient connecting on 17 of 25 passes and showed a lot of patience in the pocket. But that might not matter as Schottenheimer is now considering starting Drew Brees for the final three games and benching Flutie. Schottenheimer has destroyed the confidence of Brees while he chose to win some meaningless jobs to try and save his job instead of developing Brees. Flutie can't be happy if he's benched the rest of the way. He's likely going to retire at the end of the season and would like to start the last three games of his NFL career. Regardless, the former KC Coach is in the middle of another quarterback mess. Sound familiar KC fans?
8. Former Kansas State linebacker Ben Leber had another strong game. He made eight solo tackles and though he's not Junior Seau, Leber is going to be a great NFL linebacker. He is one of the Chargers top tacklers and has a nose for the football. The second year pro was on a high Sunday after watching his Alma Mater defeat Oklahoma in the Big XII championship game on Saturday night.
9. San Diego tied Oakland for the cellar spot in the AFC West with a 3-10 record. The Chargers have to be the biggest disappointment in the AFC this season. Many writers had picked them to win the AFC West and they now must regroup in what has become a very difficult division.
10. Rumors out of San Diego this past week indicated the Spanos family who owns the Chargers, might be wavering on firing Marty Schottenheimer after the season. The San Diego players are still not responding to their head coach and the Spanos family is going to have a difficult decision firing Schottenheimer.