Now the Chiefs organization has some serious questions to ask amongst themselves and its coaching staff. Its clear that the panic button has been pressed at Arrowhead and someone better find a quick and season long fix or the entire 2004 season will be a distant memory in Kansas City.
Greg Robinson is no longer around so the players and the organization can't blame him for the faults of the defense on Sunday. But the problem for the most part was not the players it was the coaches and especially Gunther Cunningham who called a brilliant game on first and second downs but was terrible when it came to being aggressive on third downs when he could have throttled the Texans offense.
Time and time again, Cunningham put pressure on Texans quarterback David Carr early in the series of downs but had his cornerbacks playing ten yards off the receivers and showed no aggressiveness rushing or blitzing the quarterback in critical times. On the flip side, the Texans defensive coordinator Vic Fangio blitzed the Chiefs in their final time on the field and thwarted any possible comeback by Kansas City to set up their own game winning field goal chance.
Cunningham for all the talk about his return was really was a victim of his own success on Sunday. The rule of thumb in the NFL is that if you play prevent defense, it will prevent you from winning the game and Cunningham showed little confidence in his defense who actually played by far their best game of the season. He never allowed them to make plays on third down.
The defense has a clear weakness at cornerback as Dexter McCleon is playing like a rookie. He more than anyone else in the defensive backfield played off the Texans receivers and on the final drive of the game facing a second and long. The veteran cornerback was nowhere to be seen as he allowed wide receiver Andre Johnson to keep a drive alive. McCleon should have moved up and could have intercepted the pass but by the time he read the obvious passing play, he was too far off the line of scrimmage to make an impact.
His corner-mate Eric Warfield had a decent game in fact his interception early in the first quarter thwarted a Texans touchdown drive that probably would have made this game a moot point much earlier. The linebackers showed up to play especially linebacker Shawn Barber. The defensive line did an admirable job but the play calling by Cunningham leaves little to be desired and any momentum they garnered from this game could set their progress back even farther than if they were allowed to play the type of defense management promised when they hired him last January.
But he's not the only problem within the coaching staff, offensive coordinator Al Saunders continues to baffle fans and the people watching the game with his play calling inside the red zone. Priest Holmes, who became the Chiefs all-time rushing leader, has to get the ball on second and goal from the 2-yard line.
Facing that situation again today late in the third quarter with the Chiefs leading 14-8, Saunders tried to trick the Texans defense by having Trent Green loft an ill-advised pass to Tony Gonzalez that led to a 102-yard interception return that free safety Marcus Coleman returned for a game tying touchdown. That play killed the momentum and the Chiefs fans knew that play might be too much to overcome.
Saunders has the greatest running back in the NFL and a touchdown scoring machine being a decoy and blocker on the weak side of the play; instead of getting the ball every time in the scoring zone. It's simply bad coaching and poor execution by a team that led the NFL in scoring the last two years by getting the ball into the hands of Priest Holmes.
It's something that might be too late to correct as this season. It's time to start looking at the roster and what changes might need to be made for next season. It's clear that the veteran talent level on this team is not very good. Apparently the Chiefs did not make enough roster changes when they added 15 new members to the 2004 roster.
Chiefs Head Coach Dick Vermeil has little choice but to be a cheerleader this season as his team is facing an uphill battle to keep from finger-pointing. Even if the Chiefs win eight of their last 13 games that leaves them a .500 teams and that will fall well short of their Super Bowl aspirations. Age might have finally caught up with this team.
Vermeil might have under-estimated the Chiefs talent and some of his coaches who have failed to prepare them to win football games. The Chiefs were in a position to win their first three games but failed to execute and honestly didn't know how to win these games. That's not a Vermeil trademark. Nonetheless it was a bitter loss for the Chiefs.
But more disturbing than anything else about this game was the fact for the second time in two weeks, the fans in the stands emptied Arrowhead Stadium midway through the fourth quarter knowing the outcome would not favor the Chiefs.
The fans are no longer willing to be patient when obvious changes needed to be made in personnel that simply were not made at the end of last season. The final seven games of last year and the first this year are part of a trend that has plenty of steam behind it. Granted the Chiefs have killed with injuries but look around the NFL and every team has a key player or two missing from their roster.
Today some young players stepped up like wide receiver Chris Horn and rookie defensive end Jared Allen who continues to impress the coaching staff. But he was not in a position to make plays late in the fourth quarter as the defense was back-peddling in key situations.
But veterans like Jerome Woods and McCleon in the secondary look like they can't make plays anymore at this level. I'll give Julian Battle some time to develop into a better cornerback and outside of the one play he gave up for a touchdown, he didn't play that bad.
Still he has to mature because McCleon needs to move back to the inside and cover the slot receivers. He can't play the outside corner anymore. He's not physical enough for it and his talent level has fallen off to be counted on to play one-on-one coverage. He's being exposed as a starter and that's a bad sign for the Chiefs defense.
Now the Chiefs face the Baltimore Ravens next Monday night in a game that means their entire season. A loss next week combined with an 0-4 start; could pummel the franchise and the word re-build will start to echo around Arrowhead and the Chiefs nation.
I thought today would be a statement game for Kansas City but instead it was a game that clearly defined that the 2004 Chiefs version of football is not very good.
How bad are the Chiefs?
Consider the fact that the last time the Chiefs started the season 0-4 was 1980. That year the Chiefs actually won eight of their last twelve games but that's not likely this season. They can't lose but maybe one or two games just to reasonably think about the playoffs.
Chiefs President Carl Peterson and Vermeil did not anticipate this start and a loss next week against the Ravens could echo some winds of change. The NFL is getting faster and younger and the only ones not noticing are the people at Arrowhead. The fans have been jumping off the bandwagon since the end of the 2003 season and now it will take a Herculean effort to gain back the fans respect and the players.
After all winning Championships are the ultimate goal of every franchise but when the fans can see the problems well before management that has to cause concern for the Hunt family. There is so much talent on the roster but the coaching staff is not getting the most out of that talent.
It might be unfair criticism but it's the truth and that's all Chiefs fans have ever wanted since the birth of the franchise.