The Chiefs entered their match-up in Denver with an attitude and a swagger that they had the right stuff to defeat the Broncos in their season opener. But what was sadly apparent is that the defense has a long way to go and the offense has no viable wide receiver option and that means trouble for Kansas City.
The game started out great for the Chiefs as Trent Green hit a wide open Eddie Kennison for a 57-yard catch that resulted in a 2-yard touchdown run by Priest Holmes. The Chiefs took a 7-0 lead and it was time for the new defense to step up and show some game.
It was obvious that the defense had a new attitude and on the Broncos initial drive they held them to a field goal but Denver scored touchdowns on their next two drives. Led by quarterback Jake Plummer and his bootlegs, he tore up the Chiefs along with Griffin.
On consecutive drives, Denver scored first on a 1-yard pass from Plummer and Denver led 10-7. Then after the Chiefs offense stalled three and out, Denver climbed back on the Griffin express and he scored his second touchdown this time on the ground and his cutback running vaulted him into the end zone on a nifty 25-yard run.
That gave Denver a 17-7 lead and they enjoyed that lead until early in the third quarter. On the opening play of the half, linebacker Monty Beisel intercepted a Plummer pass that lead to a Lawrence Tynes 50-yard field goal. On the next series, Plummer executed his second gift of the quarter as he tried to avoid a safety and threw the ball left handed right into the arms of Shawn Barber.
Priest Holmes scored his second touchdown of the game on a nifty 4-yard run that tied the score 17-17 with twelve minutes left in the third quarter. But the defense couldn't contain Griffin as he sliced through the overplaying Chiefs defense and shred them for a 47-yard touchdown run. On both of his touchdown runs safety Jerome Woods was out of position and that's unusual for a veteran like Woods but he looked out matched on defense and that has to concern the Chiefs coaching staff.
But it was not all Woods fault, the defensive line was not efficient in staying in their spots and were constantly fooled by Plummer. The Chiefs are going to face a series of mobile quarterbacks this season and teams will run these types of plays all season until they learn how to stop them.
Still the offense showed some bite as they turned to their bread and butter. They ran the ball on seven consecutive plays. Priest Holmes ended the drive with his third touchdown of the game as he scampered 33-yards to tie the score at 24.
But on the next possession, Denver turned back to the bootleg and Jake Plummer hit a wide open Ashlie Lelie on a 58-yard bomb. It appeared that the Broncos would score but Griffin making his only mistake of the game fumbled at the one-yard line and cornerback Dexter McCleon recovered for a touchback.
Kansas City had momentum but they could not move the ball and Denver's offense went back to work. Though the defense stiffened Jason Elam ended a 13-play drive with a 45-yard field goal that gave the Broncos a lead they wouldn't relinquish 27-24.
The Chiefs offense had to step up on the next drive but on a critical third and five at midfield with nine minutes left in the game, Eddie Kennison failed to convert a short pass into a fist down. Broncos cornerback grabbed his jersey and Kennison didn't have the strength to break free for the first down. The Chiefs instead of going for it on fourth down kicked the ball and gave up any chance of winning this game.
The defense was gassed and Plummer was a magician on a 13-play 87-yard drive that culminated in another bootleg touchdown pass to tight end Patrick Hape.
That shut the door on the Chiefs and their season opener. After a four and out by the Chiefs offense, Denver ran out the clock and they for one night made more plays to win the game.
Now the Chiefs have to go back to the drawing board on offense. It's obvious that they need to consider finding another wide receiver because relying on tight end Tony Gonzalez and running back Priest Holmes won't get it done this season. Teams will watch the Broncos game film and do the same thing. Chiefs wide receivers were open but Denver's corners were able to keep them in front of them and outside of Kennison's long catch, simply don't have any home run threats.
Kansas City has to stretch the defense and with rookie Samie Parker hobbling with a hamstring injury and rookie Richard Smith nowhere to be found. Trent Green was average at best and that didn't help either. The veteran quarterback only completed 16 of 32 passes for 174 yards and most of that came on the catch by Kennison.
Priest Holmes ran for 151 yards but Griffin surpassed that performance with 155 yards and he was the star of the game.
Next week the Chiefs will host the Carolina Panthers in their 2004 home opener. Denver meanwhile travels to Jacksonville to play the Jaguars who upset the Buffalo Bills on the road on Sunday 13-10 on last second touchdown pass.
Back-up cornerback William Bartee left the game in the first quarter on a stretcher. Bartee jammed his neck trying to tackle return man Rod Smith. He laid motionless for minutes but after an x-ray, Bartee was back on the sidelines in street clothes in the second half.
The Chiefs need a healthy Bartee because Benny Sapp didn't suit up and Julian Battle simply is not ready for major duty on defense. On numerous passing situations he was playing more like a safety than a corner. Battle had a difficult time trying defending the slot receiver.
Tight end Tony Gonzalez really struggled against the Broncos. He seemed really out of sync and just appeared to be moving slower than usual. The Broncos did a great job fronting him and he simply could not get open enough to be a consistant threat.
It appears that the Chiefs made the right move in keeping Kicker Lawrence Tynes. He nearly nailed a 58-yard field goal to close out the first half but he did manage to hit a 50-yard field goal. He was outstanding in kick-offs. Also punter Steve Cheeks made a stong impression in his debut as he averaged 45.5 yards on five punts.