Monday Morning QB: What's Up With The D?

The Chiefs waltzed into Pittsburgh with high hopes of defeating the struggling Steelers. Instead, Pittsburgh set the tone early and ran up the score on the Chiefs after dashing out to a 31-0 halftime lead. It was disappointing, and for the second straight week the Chiefs came out flat on the road on both sides of the ball. That has to change if they're going to make a run at the AFC West title.

Let's be honest. Most fans, if not all of them, didn't think the Chiefs could pull out a victory against the Steelers yesterday. The team showed some heart in the second half, but it was too little, too late. The Steelers made it look easy.

What upsets me most about this game is the fact the Chiefs were out-coached for the most part. Steelers head coach Bill Cowher had his game face on and he made the Chiefs pay on every play. His offense had over 300 yards in the first half alone as Ben Roethlisberger made one play after another with little to no resistance. Going into the game he hadn't thrown a touchdown all season long and the Chiefs secondary gave him one gift after another as he found the end zone twice.

The defense that had been ranked fourth overall going into the game will take their lumps in the rankings on Tuesday. This defense reminded me of the bottom-ranked units that littered the organization the last four seasons. Sunday had to have Chiefs defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham scratching his head and throwing down his playbook.

His decision to lay off the blitz and rely on four pass rushers backfired, and it cost him dearly. It was uncharacteristic for this defense to be so giving. The secondary played a poor game as safeties Jarrad Page and Greg Wesley were out of position on both of Big Ben's touchdown passes. Run support was nonexistent. Outside of a couple of hard hits, none of the safeties were a factor in the game.

It was even worse for the cornerbacks as Patrick Surtain and Ty Law were unable to stop Steeler receivers Hines Wards, Nate Washington and rookie Santonio Holmes. It was surprising, to say the least, but considering the front four was unable to get in the offensive backfield, it's not hard to understand.

KC's defense might be able to get away with a limited pass rush against poor teams, but it will kill them against good teams. That means the defensive coaching staff was either unprepared or overmatched. I doubt it was the latter.

But coaching wasn't the only reason the Chiefs lost on Sunday. To a man, the players have to be accountable, and that's what matters in the end. The Steelers came into this game with one of the worst offenses in the NFL. By blowing out the Chiefs on Sunday, they showed that they're not dead yet and that any talk of a Super Bowl hangover can be put on ice for at least another week.

As far as the offense, it's clear now that Trent Green needs to quickly get back on the field. This season is in peril. Damon Huard has done a good job, but this offense needs its leader back.

Huard reverted back to some of his old ways and threw one short pass after another. It didn't help that Larry Johnson was unable to get on track. But the Steelers had eight and nine bodies at the line of scrimmage and dared the Chiefs to throw the ball down field. They couldn't do it. Offensive coordinator Mike Solari has to be more creative. I barked about it last week, but try a reverse or a flea-flicker. Do something other than the things that have not been working.

The sad part about this game is that it was over so quickly. The Chiefs didn't play with the type of intensity that you need on the road if you want to beat playoff teams.

The Chiefs have the opportunity to right the ship with back-to-back home games. They play division rival San Diego and Super Bowl runner-up Seattle. Win both, and the Chiefs are back in the AFC playoff race. Otherwise, and it's going to be a long season.

Five to the Bench:
1. CB Patrick Surtain - I don't know what Surtain's problem is. He's playing too soft against opposing wide receivers and has been dreadful when it comes to supporting the run. He missed at least a handful of tackles and he seems to have lost a step. He needs to get it back, and quickly.

2. LT Jordan Black This experiment is over. There are no more excuses that justify Black as a starter. Let's hope that Kyle Turley can get back on the field this week. If there was any doubt that the Chiefs will re-activate John Welbourn when he's eligible to return, they were answered on Sunday. Black's holding penalty wiped out a touchdown reception by Tony Gonzalez. That's inexcusable. He just doesn't have the foot speed to play tackle.

3. RB Larry Johnson - I gave him a pass last week because of his game-saving catch-and-run against Arizona. But against the Steelers, LJ ran into holes with no plan. The blocking was terrible, but he could have made better choices. He needs to get back on track. He needs to find that chip that made him the most feared running back in the NFL last year. Maybe he needs Priest Holmes on the sidelines. Next week's Chargers game will be a showcase of two running backs who are going in opposite directions. LaDanian Tomlinson had four touchdowns yesterday for San Diego.

4. OC Mike Solari - I'm getting a little tired of putting him on this list. After solid gameplans against San Francisco and Arizona, Solari's offense was unable to move the ball consistently against the Steelers. His lack of creativity is starting to cost this team its offensive identity. He's not using all of his weapons. His job as offensive coordinator is to call plays that create opportunities for his playmakers. Sure, Pittsburgh's defense was playing hard but did what they had to do. Even when Trent Green returns, opposing defenses will continue to stack the line of scrimmage until Solari can find a way to put them on their heels.

5. DC Gunther Cunningham - I touched on it earlier in this article, but he needs to make some personnel adjustments. It's time for linebacker Keyaron Fox get some time on the field with the first-team defense. Kendrell Bell had just a pair of tackles in his return to Pittsburgh. Bernard Pollard needs to see more time on defense, also. He can blitz, and with his speed in the secondary, maybe he can be a better final line of defense than Sammy Knight, who appears to be getting slower each week. Cunningham is supposed to devise plans to shut down playoff teams on the road and at home. It's obvious he has the talent, but Big Ben was allowed far too much time in the pocket. Cunningham should have blitzed him on every snap. You can't let a struggling quarterback gain confidence. It's time to go for the jugular on defense.

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