Monday Morning QB: Close, But No Cigar

Kansas City's defense came to play. The offense played better, but conservative play calling cost them any chance to feed off great defensive play. Predictable play calling, a tired Larry Johnson and Damon Huard could not get the Chiefs in the end zone. Too bad, it's a game they should have won. The Chiefs head into the bye 0-2 and will have to go 10-4 the rest of the way to make the playoffs.

It's hard to pin this loss on any one player, but for the second week in a row a special teams player made another costly mistake. Last week, Dante Hall made a mistake fielding a punt. This week, third-string running back Dee Brown made a careless block, negating a punt return that would have put Kansas City near midfield late in the game.

Needless to say, Dee Brown will go on my "five to bench" list. There are other options on special teams. The penalty was even more disturbing than usual, because the officials let these two teams slug it out for the entire game with few flags. That one cost the Chiefs 15 yards of critical real estate.

But he wasn't the only player who made mistakes. Larry Johnson fumbled inside the red zone and ran out of gas in the fourth quarter. Damon Huard should never have attempted to field a tipped pass, leading to a fumble. The play killed momentum immediately following a 37-yard pass to Eddie Kennison.

Huard was solid on Sunday, but he never used the outside of the field. On a critical third-and-three play late in the fourth quarter, he tried to find Tony Gonzalez over the middle of the field and failed to notice Dante Hall wide open on the sidelines without a Denver defender within ten yards.

On the last drive of the game, he did it again, trying to squeeze the ball to Gonzalez over the middle. Kennison was so wide open at the 35-yard line that he could have crawled into the end zone and scored the winning touchdown. The Broncos corners, safeties and linebackers knew where Huard would throw the ball and they never respected the outside portion of the field. The Chiefs should have exploited it.

Hindsight is 20/20, but this game should NEVER have gone to overtime. Unfortunately, it did, and Kansas City's defense was simply out of gas at that point. After Jake Plummer's long completion to Javon Walker, the game was all but over.

The defense was outstanding, and deserved to leave the field as winners. I was very impressed with linebacker Derrick Johnson, who I was somewhat critical of last Sunday when the Chiefs lost to the Bengals.

The Chiefs know they left a win on the field in Denver, and that should bode well for their future road trips. I still think they'll win four games on foreign soil this season. That keeps my 11-5 prediction alive, because I don't believe the Chiefs will lose another game at Arrowhead this year.

The Chiefs can still learn a lot from this game. If Trent Green was on the field, they would have blown out the Broncos. I think Larry Johnson now understands the pressure on him to be great, and I think he'll respond over the last 14 games.

Herman Edwards gave us a glimpse of what this team is going to be like in 2006 and beyond. He understands that games like these will be the norm. The fans better get used to it. I thought this game would be close, and I was right, because this defense is far better than I'd anticipated this early in the year.

The way I see it, there aren't too many teams in this league capable of putting 20 points on the Chiefs. If the offense can squeeze out a little more production, this team could be fighting for a playoff spot in December.

Five to the Bench:
1. Dee Brown - I'd rather see the Chiefs carry another wide receiver or fullback. Brown's gaffe on special teams indicated a lack of focus. If there is any doubt, you don't hit the guy. It's as simple as that.

2. Damon Haurd - I know he completed over 70 percent of his passes, but he has to use the sidelines. He had time to throw the ball down the field on several occasions. His biggest mistake was the catching the tipped pass and fumbling, leading to a field goal for Denver. He looked at Tony Gonzalez far too often, and it cost him at the end of the game when he forced the ball in twice with no chance for a completion. With a bye week ahead, and Trent Green's hopeful return against the San Francisco 49ers on October 1st, this might have been Huard's last game as a starter.

3. Dante Hall - With field position so critical in this game, Dante Hall needed to use more of the field. Outside of the last return that was negated by Dee Brown's personal foul, he ran up the middle and failed to cutback. Twice, he ran into scores of Bronco defenders, failing to cutback when his lanes were clogged. I don't understand why he runs to the short side of the field on his returns. When he was the ‘Human Joystick' he had the entire opposition worried about cutbacks. He needs to quit feeling for yardage and be more aggressive. He has to use the whole field if he's going to return to form and scare opponents like he did in 2003.

4. Ryan Sims and Lional Dalton - When Dalton and Sims were in the game during a critical Denver drive in the fourth quarter, they failed to get any pressure up the middle. Both of these guys need to step up, because Ron Edwards and James Reed can't play the entire game.

5. Mike Solari - My only problem with Solari was that he tried to be too fancy after Kennison's big catch. He didn't call enough screen passes or plays designed to run away from the short side of the field. He needs to manage the game better and use all of his weapons. His playcalling improved from the opener, but he makes the list because the offense couldn't get into the endzone.

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