No More Safety Net

Last Sunday the Chiefs treated Trent Green like a raw rookie making his first NFL start. They told him to manage the game. They only asked him to throw four passes in the first half. They only depended on him when they were down 13-10 with 4:53 left in the game.

That decision nearly cost the Chiefs the game.

After a dominating first possession in which the Chiefs went 76 yards for a touchdown while attempting only one pass, Kansas City watched the Raiders score 13 unanswered points. Throughout the second half, the offense floundered to make up the deficit, only managing a 37-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes. When Tynes missed a game-tying 35-yard attempt with 9:50 remaining, the Chiefs put themselves in danger of losing their second straight game to a weak opponent.

Fortunately, Green bailed out the coaching staff out with three critical completions while driving his team toward the game-winning touchdown. Even so, the game came down to a fourth-and-1 attempt on the Kansas City 29-yard line. If Larry Johnson (with a big assist from Terdell Sands' facemask penalty) had not converted that fourth down attempt, we'd still be talking about how a rusty Green cost his team a victory. We'd also have a full-blown quarterback controversy.

Some people attribute it to shrewd strategy by Herm Edwards. Others point to the difference between Green and Damon Huard. I call it luck. For the second straight week the Chiefs decided they would let a mistake-prone opponent beat themselves. For the second time in a row, the Chiefs found themselves needing a last-minute touchdown drive to win. Unlike the Miami game, the Chiefs crawled away with a victory.

They can't afford to take the same approach with the Broncos.

Denver is just as desperate as the Chiefs for a victory. After allowing San Diego to storm back from a 24-7 deficit in Invesco, not only do the Broncos need a win to stay in the AFC West race, they also need to prove something to themselves. A second loss in a tough divisional game will make them wonder if they are truly a threat to go deep into the AFC playoffs. Another poor performance by Jake Plummer will only increase the cries for rookie first-round pick Jay Cutler. Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan is unlikely to turn to a rookie at this point in the season, even if Denver loses Thanksgiving night, but his team will inevitably begin to doubt their leader. Such uncertainty will bury Denver as a true contender in the playoffs.

This is a shaken team. The Chiefs would be foolish to allow them an opportunity to gain confidence. Edwards needs to ride the wave of passion sure to be present during the first-ever Thanksgiving home game in Arrowhead stadium. He needs the Chiefs offense to come out firing and force Plummer to face the full roar of an inspired Arrowhead. That means he will have to take the wraps off Green and let Mike Solari open up the playbook.

Anything less, and Edwards will have thrown away the magnificent job he has done keeping his battered squad in the playoff race.

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