Chiefs Lost Their Focus

So the Chiefs lose to the Raiders, and the blame game gets passed around like a peace pipe this week. First it's Herm Edwards, for blowing two timeouts on one play. Next it's Mike Solari, for his usual uninspiring routine. Finally, we have Dave Rayner, for dredging up kicking nightmares that need not be repeated.

Forget all of that. How about blaming the tryptophan?

Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said it best during HBO's Hard Knocks this summer:

"Thanksgiving and Christmas, that's the worst," said Cunningham. "It's like a nightmare for me. Players, you know they're going to get some time off and they tend to lose their focus."

Gunther might as well be hailed a prophet for uttering that statement four months ago. His team, and especially his defense, came out Sunday and sleepwalked around Arrowhead in losing to Oakland, 20-17. It's really the only explanation for what happened.

Why did the Chiefs give up 153 rushing yards to a team they shut down in Oakland a month ago? Loss of focus. Derrick Johnson himself said the Raiders did absolutely nothing different – the players just failed to execute. But give credit to DJ – he executed the celebration of a routine tackle like a true Pro Bowler with two minutes left, as the Raiders rammed the ball right down KC's throat.

How did Brodie Croyle miss an open Jason Dunn on his first pass attempt (he wound up scrambling for four yards) and later fail to even look in Dwayne Bowe's direction when the wideout was wide open in the end zone? Loss of focus, though one can hardly blame a young quarterback for missing open receivers.

Did you see Kolby Smith drop two easy screen passes Sunday? At the moment fans are accusing him of having the worst hands of any Kansas City Chief since Tony Gonzalez's rookie season, but the truth is Smith flashed outstanding receiving skills in training camp. Too much turkey for this former Louisville Cardinal.

How about penalties? The Chiefs had a first down deep inside Raiders territory late in the second half following a fumble recovery. Consecutive flags on KC's offensive line negated any chance at points despite the fact a promising drive started at Oakland's 25-yard line. John Welbourn and Chris Terry obviously can't get enough stuffing (both on and off the field).

And it's not just players. Can you envision Herm, Solari and Gunther sitting around a table, dripping gravy all over their plates? They were all a little bit sleepy on Sunday.

Wasted timeouts aside, why did Edwards place Gilbert Harris in the game with a few seconds left before halftime and attempt to put the ball in his hands twice? The Chiefs had only one timeout, so a scoring drive mounted from their own 18-yard line was unlikely. Harris had fumbled earlier in the game – why risk a turnover against the shadow of your own goal line? That's not the head coach we've all come to know.

Solari? Well, give him credit for allowing Croyle to sling the ball down the field a bit against the Raiders. But why was John Welbourn playing right guard on the game's critical fourth down gamble? Welbourn, who has all the athleticism of Damon Huard, pulled to his left on the play. Rudy Niswanger, a much more mobile offensive lineman, should have been substituted for such a duty.

And Gunther? Yes, even our prophet had some head-scratching moments against the Raiders. After the Chiefs terrorized Oakland's offense in the first meeting with a plethora of blitzes, KC's linebackers and defensive backs sleepily sat back in zones all day Sunday, particularly on third down. Not surprisingly, the Chiefs put almost no pressure on Daunte Culpepper, who was also free to look downfield like Jake Plummer circa 2004 on every bootleg he ran.

Heck, even Chiefs fans were sluggish this past Sunday. At least they had a good excuse – Saturday night's Kansas/Missouri showdown was exciting and action-packed, and most fans were either too drained to care much about their lackluster Chiefs, or not even present. Arrowhead, once full of energy, is now only filled with lethargy.

Come to think of it, all this writing is making me a little sleepy, too. I think I'll go see if there's any turkey left in the fridge, and segue that snack into a nap. Maybe I'll dream about a time when pro football was relevant in Kansas City.

You know, when the Chiefs used to beat the Raiders?

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