After predicting the Vikings would storm into Arrowhead Stadium and win 13-6, almost the exact opposite happened. The Chiefs turned up the aggression on offense, took advantage of Minnesota's weak pass defense and took steps toward finding an offensive identity.
Last week I called Sunday's home opener the "final exam" for KC's offensive braintrust of Herm Edwards, Mike Solari and Dick Curl. The good news? They passed (pun not intended). The bad news? They almost failed.
This trio deserves a C- for coming out in the second half, listening to Larry Johnson and Damon Huard, and attacking Minnesota where they were most vulnerable. The Chiefs threw 19 passes after halftime, and most of them were down the field.
Instead of flinging 30-yard prayers at fullback/H-back/tight end Kris Wilson, Kansas City actually attempted to get the ball to Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez. Heck, Bowe would have had two touchdowns Sunday had Huard not underthrown the rookie on a deep pass down the right sideline in the third quarter.
What Edwards, Solari and Curl don't deserve praise for is going back into the classic Martyball shell once the Chiefs took a 13-10 lead.
After Bowe's spectacular touchdown reception, KC's offense ran nine plays over the game's final seven minutes. They attempted just one pass downfield – a 25-yard rocket from Huard to Gonzalez. Not surprisingly, they gained just one first down.
I was particularly upset after the Chiefs' final possession. With an obvious goal of making the Vikings burn their timeouts, Kansas City pointlessly shoved Larry Johnson into the faces of Minnesota's immovable defensive tackles, Pat and Kevin Williams, three more times.
I realize Edwards wants to play to his defense. But given the state of Minnesota's secondary, and how much yardage they had surrendered in the second half (a whopping 169 yards through the air), the Chiefs could have easily picked up a first down and ended the game without the drama of a last-minute defensive stand. Minnesota's pass rush was effectively neutralized all game long. There was little risk.
Instead, the Chiefs didn't even look at Bowe or Gonzalez.
So yeah, KC's coaches passed their exam Sunday. Unfortunately, they're still failing for the semester. The Chiefs rank 29th in overall offense, 31st in scoring offense and 30th in third-down conversion rate.
Fortunately, there's still time to earn some extra credit. It starts this weekend in San Diego. The Chiefs will face another good defense, one that's given them problems in the past. In order to beat the Chargers, Kansas City must maintain their aggressive approach.
That doesn't mean 40 pass attempts. Facing a run defense that's slightly softer than Minnesota's, the Chiefs can afford to hand the ball to Johnson on first down. What they can't do is run almost 80 percent of the time.
Against the Vikings, Solari called 23 first-down plays. Eighteen were runs, and at one point, the Chiefs ran on first down 11 consecutive times. That's not going to fool anyone, and it certainly won't fool the elite members of San Diego's front seven, nose tackle Jamal Williams and linebacker Shawne Merriman.
I spoke of exams? Merriman is the first big test for left tackle Damion McIntosh, the Chiefs' prize free agent acquisition on offense. Through three games he's been everything Kansas City expected, but if he can't block Merriman this weekend, the Chiefs may have to return to their Cro-Magnon offense.
Somehow I doubt that will happen. As long as Kansas City's coaches keep up the pressure, Bowe, Gonzalez and company can move the ball on San Diego. And when wide receiver Eddie Kennison returns, the Chiefs might just end up with a passing offense that's capable of gifting their defense with more than a three-point lead.
This has been an early rough spot for this team, but through the power of teamwork, they appear to have found the answer. I don't expect a relapse, especially after seeing Huard and Curl shake hands on the sideline to begin the second half last Sunday.
As Marty used to say, "let's get this rocket ship going up." Air Herm is cleared for takeoff.
Chiefs Need To Keep Attacking
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