Rake's Take: Crawl Ball

I could sit here and discuss all the things that went wrong for the Chiefs against the Steelers on Sunday. I could point out the fact that the defense took a major step back, that the offensive play calling was beyond inept and that the Chiefs have not won a critical road game since, well, I don't know when.

But guess what: I have too much respect for my wrists and fingers. This column would go on forever. Paragraph after paragraph, page after page.

I'm not going to put you through it. If you watched Sunday's game in its entirety – or even until halftime for that matter – you've been through enough already. Having to read a negative column about the Chiefs would just put you in a worse mood.

But you know what? It might make me feel better, so let's give it a try.

Anytime a team loses 45-7, which, by the way, is the worst loss the Chiefs have suffered since Frank Gansz was head coach, it is difficult to determine where you start. But I think we'll start at the top with Chiefs President/General Manager Carl Peterson.

Is it unfair to unload years of bottled-up frustration just because of one ugly road loss? Perhaps, but that isn't going to stop me. It's been 13 years since the Chiefs have had a playoff victory. At some point, the rulebook needs to be re-written. And I'm mad.

Peterson has had too many unforgivable draft picks. Take the 2002 draft class for instance. It consisted of Ryan Sims, Eddie Freeman, Omar Easy, Scott Fujita and Maurice Rodriquez. Four of those players are no longer on the team, and another (Sims) won't be around beyond 2006 if he continues to play poorly. In 2004, the Chiefs drafted Junior Siavii, Kris Wilson and Keyaron Fox with their first three picks.

What. A. Waste.

And now it's catching up with them. When Dick Vermeil was in KC, he had a veteran team that would eventually have to get younger. It hasn't happened, and it's because the Chiefs have failed to consistently draft talented players to push the complacent veterans for jobs. Name one player the Chiefs have drafted in the last six years that has come in and played productive offensive line or wide receiver. Name one. How about a defensive tackle or a cornerback?

Since 2000, the Chiefs have drafted 23 players at those positions. Only two of them - Dante Hall and Samie Parker - have made positive contributions. That is a poor draft record, and it does not speak well for a man that, at eighteen years with the same gig, is the longest tenured GM in any professional sport.

But let's not sprinkle ashes all over Peterson, because despite his mediocre draft history, he has still been able to put together a team that can compete. Two times in his first five games as coach of the Chiefs, Herm Edwards has failed to make that happen.

Against Pittsburgh, Kansas City's offense was terribly predictable and incredibly boring. It was Crawl Ball, a style that's incapable of producing points against a Pittsburgh defense that is tougher and more physical than KC's offensive front. The Chiefs needed a quick-strike, big-play day. Instead, they played conservative, and it didn't work.

If you were like me, then you were about this close to throwing something hard and heavy at the TV when the Chiefs continued to run on every first-and-10. That strategy was about as effective as using newspapers to insulate your home.

Defensively, the Chiefs weren't much better. In fact, they were probably worse. Pittsburgh's wide receivers had a field day against KC's secondary. The schemes looked like something out of the School of Greg Robinson. There were holes everywhere. Just miserable.

But that wasn't the worst part. How about the tackling? Not one single Chiefs player tackled well. Actually, I take that back. Larry Johnson's hair-tug of Troy Polamalu was admirable, I guess. Arm tackles, poor positioning, over-pursuit and a shoddy playing surface did in KC's defense. For a defense that had seemingly turned the corner, it was an alarming, eye-opening effort, and one that should haunt Chiefs players and coaches until they play San Diego next Sunday.

It will undoubtedly haunt Chiefs fans.

But it's time to end all this negativity and put the loss in the proper context. Any realistic Chiefs fan didn't expect Kansas City to beat a desperate Steeler team on the road. It just wasn't going to happen. Bill Cowher has never started a season 1-4, and he has rarely lost four straight games in his career. To think the Chiefs (a bad road team) could beat the desperate Steelers (a good home team) under the said circumstances isn't justified. Baby steps, people. The Chiefs barely squeaked by the Cardinals last week against a rookie quarterback making his first career start. Did we really expect the Chiefs would beat the defending Super Bowl champs in their most critical game of the season to date? Give me a break.

At 2-3, the Chiefs are in a precarious position, but not a hopeless one.

They are two games back of San Diego (4-1) and Denver (4-1), but play the next two games at home. If the Chiefs are to make the playoffs this season, they will have to win all six of their remaining home games. There's no other way around it.

If the Chiefs can do that, they would only need to muster up a pair of road victories the rest of the way to get themselves to 10 wins. That might seem unrealistic, but it is an attainable goal.

The toughest road games on KC's schedule have already been played (Denver and Pittsburgh) and believe it or not, it does get easier from here.

I always go back to the story of the 2001 New England Patriots. That team lost three of their first four games, including a 20-point loss to the Miami Dolphins. They went on to win the Super Bowl. Two years later, they opened the season with a 31-0 loss to Buffalo. That season also ended with a Super Bowl victory.

The fan base overreacted and raised the white flag during both of those years. One of my friends, a Patriots fan, told me after the Miami game in '01 that Bill Belichick should have "never have gotten another head coaching job" after his first lame-duck attempt with the Cleveland Browns. Five years later, Belichick has authored a book on coaching philosophy.

So what I'm trying to say is this: the NFL can make us look awfully foolish sometimes, and too many times we end up saying stupid things. We tend to make poor judgments and we rush to conclusions. Every week in the NFL brings surprises, and if you don't believe me, then go ask the Washington Redskins (who are more of an up-and-down team than the Chiefs will ever become).

I'm not suggesting the Chiefs are a good football team, and I'm certainly not suggesting they'll mirror the Super Bowl seasons that New England had. What I am saying, however, is that even though the Chiefs might be down, they're certainly not out. A lot can happen the rest of the way. If the NFC can dominate the AFC as they did this past weekend, a 9-7 season might just be good enough to qualify for the postseason.

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