Offensive Line Will Determine Playoff Run

If you use last Sunday's victory over the New England Patriots as a measuring stick, the Kansas City Chiefs appear capable of beating their next five opponents. With key players returning from injuries the Chiefs suddenly find themselves peaking at the right time and the month of December could very well be theirs for the taking.

If you needed any evidence that the Chiefs are capable of making a push to the playoffs through their tough December schedule then Sunday's victory over the New England Patriots should have been your game. Even when you combine all the defensive backs that the Patriots have on IR with the absence of Corey Dillon, the Patriots still took the field at Arrowhead with a very capable team.

The most inspiring aspect to this theory was Kansas City's victory over the Patriots was the play of their offensive line. With Willie Roaf back at left tackle and Jordan Black back on the bench, the Chiefs offensive line turned in their best performance of the season. Roaf was strong from the opening snap and surprisingly enough showed no signs of rust. For the first time in weeks defensive ends and linebackers were tearing around the left side of the offense only to find themselves pancaked by number 77. Needless to say having Roaf back in the offense changes for Kansas City as they are 4-1 this season when he starts at left tackle and 3-3 without him.

Regardless of how many injuries the Patriots have had in their secondary Richard Seymour, Rosevelt Colvin, Teddy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren, and Willie McGinest still make up one of the best defensive fronts in football. Due to their recent struggles in pass protection it was remarkable to see how well Kansas City held up with nothing more than five or six man protections. Green was even able to utilize an inordinate amount of five step drops, something he hasn't had much success with since the Jet's game. A lot of that success had to do with Roaf and Waters ability to contain Seymour and Colvin though the entire offensive line did well communicating and picking up New England's blitz schemes.

No one has suffered more from Kansas City's woes on the offensive line than quarterback Trent Green. After nearly getting killed against Buffalo, Washington, San Diego, and Denver this was first time Green's offensive line actually held up against a strong pass rushing defense. With his linemen protecting him as well as they have since 2003, Green went 19 of 26 for 323yards and a touchdown. His quarterback rating was also an astronomical 127.6. Now you can say that part of that success was due to Larry Johnson's ability to run the ball but that too is a direct result of the offensive line performing well and doing their job.

Speaking of the running game it was an epic battle between the offensive and defensive lines on that front as well. New England's interior of Bruschi, Vrabel, and Wilfork are as good as they come but the Chiefs still managed to control the "A Gaps". Kansas City offensive line blocked with more authority than they have all season and unlike earlier in the season, they finished, which means they were running down the field looking for someone to hit until the whistle blew. Will Shields and Casey Wiegmann were particularly impressive as they could be seen making blocks 15 yards down field on numerous occasions.

The way the Chiefs were able to man-handle the Patriots defensive front seven was slightly shocking yet on the same note encouraging. If the Chiefs can play that well against New England's 3-4 defense they should be able to do the same thing against pair of good but less potent 3-4 defenses in Dallas and San Diego. Dallas happens to be little weaker in their 3-4 scheme than San Diego from a personnel standpoint. Their outside linebackers in particular is where the drop off occurs (anyone playing the Cowboys should make it a point to run right at Scott Fujita). San Diego also has a better front three than Dallas with Williams, Olshansky, and Castillo. In fact the Chargers young defensive line has been playing so well that they right on the verge of being able to challenge Seymour, Wilfork, and Warren for the title of the best three man front in football.

Sunday's performance against the Patriots also helped to foreshadow how well the Chiefs might hold up against Denver's defense as well. From a talent standpoint the Denver Broncos have the best trio of linebackers in the league though their defensive line isn't as talented as New England's. Denver's variety of constant blitzes will force the same high level of preparation and communication required against the Patriots. The Chiefs will find however that they won't have to worry about properly reading and adjusting to Denver's blitzes nearly as often if they can get Larry Johnson going in the running game. In last seasons game at Arrowhead Larry Johnson ran for 151 yards on 30 carries in a 45-17 route.

New York and Cincinnati don't bring much defensively, especially when you sit them next to Dallas, San Diego, and Denver. If Kansas City's offensive line is truly on their way back to their 2004 form they will slice through New York and Cincinnati's defense like they aren't even there.

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