Coaching Will Make The Difference

Minutes after the Chiefs shocked the world by earning a slot in the playoffs, Shannon Sharpe of the NFL network proclaimed, "This is the Colt's worst nightmare." Analysts from and quickly seconded Sharpe's proclamation, based on the idea that Larry Johnson's physical running style would devastate the Colt's NFL-worst run defense.

The premise behind their prognostications is incorrect. If the Chiefs are to win on Saturday, the key performances will come long before game-time. The Chiefs will lose if they play with the stodgy game plans they used during their three game December losing streak. Larry Johnson and Peyton Manning's nemesis Ty Law won't be factors unless Herm Edwards uses them with the same urgency he showed against the Raiders and the Jaguars, when the games seemed unlikely to matter.

But, aren't the playoffs won on the field?

Certainly. If, however, the coaching staff returns to the cowardly-lion game plans that plagued the team during their nightmarish December losing streak, the team will squander all the good fortune that landed them in the Super Bowl tournament.

I am certain that Edwards would deny that his approach was any different the last two weeks than at any time during the season. Yet the evidence is clear that the team made radically different decisions along the sideline the last two games. All you need to do is compare how Gunther Cunningham treated inexperienced Jacksonville quarterback Quinn Gray to how they dealt with Cleveland's Derek Anderson. Against Cleveland, the Chiefs played a very vanilla cover-2 with only a smattering of corner blitzes thrown into the mix. The passive scheme allowed Anderson, in his first NFL action, to rally the Browns from a 14-point 4th quarter deficit. After nearly making the same mistake against the similarly inexperienced Quinn Gray on Sunday (and allowing him to lead two touchdown drives), Cunningham brought the heat.

This time, the Chiefs held on to win. The different result was no accident.

We also can see similar discrepancies in the offensive decision-making. Against the Ravens, Herm Edwards decided to punt on a critical 4th and 6 play at the Ravens 39. His team never had the ball again with a real chance to win. The next week, however, Edwards seemed to have learned his lesson. He called for three 4th down conversion attempts in Raider territory, converting twice and keeping alive drives that resulted in 10 points. And in last Sunday's must-win game, not only did offensive coordinator Mike Solari keep the Jaguars off-balance by mixing up his play calls better than any other game in the 2006 season, the Chiefs actually ran TWO trick plays.

Kansas City hung 35 points and 395 yards of total offense on a good Jacksonville defense.

The Chiefs have an excellent chance of ruining Indianapolis' season, despite the Colts' perfect 8-0 mark at home this season. Not only does Kansas City match up well against the Colts' defensive weaknesses, they have the experienced secondary to keep the Colts in check and two good defensive ends to put pressure on Manning. Against the Rams, the Chiefs showed they can keep a top-flight passing attack under control in a dome game on the road. The Chiefs have the personnel to get the job done.

All the coaches have to do is give their team the game plan that can win the game. If, however, Herm tightens up again, Kansas City is doomed to suffer another short playoff run. Top Stories