The Rebirth Of Martyball

The Chiefs found themselves in a rare defensive battle Sunday when they visited the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field. For the first time since Gunther Cunningham was head coach, the Chiefs played with a tough-minded mentality on the road, bringing a physical style that was undoubtedly missing throughout the Dick Vermeil era.

Despite a sound effort and a brilliant game plan, the Chiefs left Denver with a familiar feeling: a loss.

It was the sixth straight the Chiefs suffered in Denver, so no one was really surprised. What did come as a surprise, however, was the way Herm Edwards coached in some of the game's most critical moments.

Edwards talked all week about how he wasn't a conservative coach, and about how he wasn't trying to change the offense that had been so successful over the last four seasons. He said he had no intentions of changing the offense. If it isn't broke, why fix it?

That's the logic he has used since replacing Vermeil in early January.

But the injury to quarterback Trent Green forced his hand, and he had no other choice but to revert to "Marty Ball." And it was the right move. Against the Broncos, "Marty Ball" was effective. The Chiefs ran six times out of ten, used a quick-strike passing game, punted for field position, played great defense and controlled the clock. On top of that - and true to "Marty Ball" form - the offensive playcalling was predictable.

Still, "Marty Ball" kept the Chiefs in the game, and as the game progressed, you got a feeling that the Chiefs might steal a crucial win and overcome the odds (Vegas had the Chiefs at 10.5 point underdogs).

That feeling lasted until nine seconds remained in the second quarter. The Chiefs were deep in Denver territory and had one timeout remaining.

They had already managed the clock poorly to that point, and topped it off with a crucial blunder. With the clock already stopped, the Chiefs couldn't get the play called.

They were forced to use their final timeout.

And so Edwards had a decision to make. Would he roll the dice and take the aggressive approach, risking a sack for a possible touchdown? Or would he play it conservative and kick the field goal?

You know what Vermeil would have done. He would have thrown to the endzone. He would have taken one crack at getting a touchdown, because on the road in one of the league's toughest venues, you have to make the most of your opportunities. You have to take the game down right then and there. Against Denver's defense, you only get so many chances.

The Chiefs had already wasted one golden opportunity. Larry Johnson fumbled the ball inside the Denver 10-yard line, killing any chance of Kansas City taking a lead on their opening possession. But that was then and this was now.

What would Edwards do?

He decided to send out the field goal team, and Lawrence Tynes kicked the Chiefs to a 3-0 halftime lead.

That one decision, that one play, set the tone for the rest of the season. Edwards isn't going to take risks. He is going to play the odds, minimize his risks, and he is going to take the field goal. In a nutshell, he is committed to "Marty Ball." And that's fine. That could be the best way for the Chiefs to win games this season.

But as Jason Elam's game-winner sailed through the uprights in overtime, how could you not think back to the "Marty Ball" era? It's almost pure irony, the way the games used to always play out. For a coaching philosophy that seems to embrace the field goal, it was always those same field goals that ended up slamming the door on a potential victory.

For one day, "Marty Ball" returned to Kansas City. And though Edwards has been adamant that the offense will not change, you have to believe that it will. You should fully expect Edwards to bring it back Oct. 1, when the Chiefs take on the San Francisco 49ers.

You know, just for kicks.

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