If the unthinkable happens and the Chiefs lose their third game at home this season when they take on the Falcons, Kansas City will quite likely lose out on any shot at making the playoffs. Consider the fact that the Chiefs have been in a downward spiral since they started the 2003 season with nine straight victories. The team has only won five games since then and the only thing that can salvage the season is another nine game winning streak.
The Atlanta Falcons pose a threat to the Chiefs but Kansas City has more talent across the board. It's true the good guys don't have Michael Vick on the roster but they have more talent on offense and more veteran leadership on defense. But who's hungrier? You have to give the Falcons the nod. But as far as a team that's in a more desperate situation, you'd have to give the edge to the Chiefs.
I really don't think you can say how important this game is to the season and the franchise. If the Chiefs go 1-5, then concerns over the teams future will loom large. What will Kansas City do? With an aging offense where the majority of players are over 30 years of age and a defense that is also long in the tooth in some positions; you have to wonder if the Chiefs will move to a youth movement now.
Now some of that is already in place as several younger players have made an impact on defense as rookies Jared Allen and Junior Siavii have become part of a defensive line rotation that only lacks consistency rushing the passer to becoming near dominant.
But some of the veterans have not played well most notably safety Jerome Woods and cornerback Dexter McCleon. Same goes for linebacker Shawn Barber and veteran defensive end Vonnie Holliday. For all the positives that Gunther Cunningham has brought to the Chiefs revamped defense, his lack of aggressiveness against a hobbling Byron Leftwich last weekend made little sense. Prevent defenses late in games have proven time after time to prevent you from winning.
On offense the Chiefs have been a victim of their own success. They've lost their swagger and the coaching staff has been slow to repair the holes left by teams adjusting to the same formations that are no longer fooling anyone.
The smash-mouth mentality that ruled this offense for three years has been replaced by inconsistency with their five offensive linemen. As a group, they've been nowhere near as dominating as in the past. Age at left tackle in Willie Roaf and right guard in Will Shields is part of it but the lack of development of John Welbourn to solidify the right tackle spot vacated by John Tait; has more to do it with the lack of cohesiveness as anything else this season.
That has caused the Chiefs to try and pass more with a wide receiver crew that until last week had not worked together since the first three days of training camp. Offensive coordinator has taken the ball out of Priest Holmes inside the ten yard line and the offense continues to sputter and will continue to do shoot itself in the foot until Saunders changes his thinking.
The buck though stops with Dick Vermeil and in order for the Chiefs to have a reversal in fortunes; the 68-year old coach must go against his own grain. He has to show a sense of urgency and can't make the mistakes that have cost his team at least three wins this season.
Vermeil has said in the past that the NFL season is a sprint and not a marathon. That might be true but there are only 11 games left this season and if Kansas City doesn't win at least ten of them, they'll be home in January. It's time to put this team in fifth gear and ride them until they reach their ultimate goal or the wheels completely come off trying to get back into playoff contention.
There is no point in saving themselves for anything. It's do or die every game and Vermeil has to get that point across not only to his players but to his coaching staff. The schedule favors the Chiefs the rest of the way and Vermeil better play them all with a killer attitude or the Kansas City fans who deserve more for their loyalty; will turn on him and the rest of the players fast.
If that happens, then the Chiefs will be facing bigger questions in the off-season that could include organizational changes from top to bottom. That means the window of opportunity will be shut for the remainder of this season and possibly the next one as well.