Sunday Can Be Successful

Chiefs Head Coach Herm Edwards has made it clear his team isn't looking for moral victories when they take the field Sunday at Gillette Stadium. I'm not predicting that Kansas City will beat New England, but there are ways this game can be considered a success, even if the Chiefs come out on the wrong side of the score.

- Sunday can be successful if Kansas City's offense in no way resembles the attack Washington displayed Thursday.

Many Chiefs fans who watched the Giants/Redskins season opener found themselves asking the same question - when did Washington hire Mike Solari?

From throwing short passes on third and long, to a stubborn insistence on running the ball despite a mediocre yards per carry average, to a general sense that whoever was calling the plays just didn't know what he was doing, the Redskins offense appeared to share many of the same traits as Kansas City's attack from a year ago.

During the preseason, there were obvious new elements incorporated into KC's offense. The two most notable were the oft-used bootlegs and the Denver-style cutback runs in the ground game. But otherwise, a lot of what we saw was fairly similar to last year.

The Chiefs didn't run the ball especially well, relied far too much on short checkdown passes, and rarely tried to throw downfield. The success of three opening touchdown drives in the preseason can't be denied, but the Chiefs can't expect to make a living out of those long, sustained drives with multiple third-down conversions. Most teams are lucky to generated one series like that a game.

We've heard several times that the Chiefs didn't open up their playbook much in the preseason, but come Sunday there won't be any reason to hold back. Nobody's expecting a brand new offense to suddenly produce 30+ points and a fireworks show, but even if it doesn't bear fruit right away, it would be nice to see some signs that KC's offense is finally moving away from the failures of last year's Chiefs (or this year's Redskins).

The bootlegs and rollouts should keep Brodie Croyle from getting knocked around so often, and the cutback runs could help boost a stagnant running game. But those adjustments alone aren't going to make a significant improvement in the offense. It's time to see what Chan Gailey has in store for us.

- Sunday can be successful if the Chiefs let Croyle take his training wheels off.

I fully understand why the Chiefs wanted to protect their young quarterback last season. The offensive line was terrible. If KC's coaching staff had let Croyle throw 30 times a game, they risked exposing him to serious injury. As it was, he got injured twice in just six starts.

But now that Croyle is beginning the season as the starter, it's time to let him sink or swim. He has to be given a chance to show what he can do, even if it means making mistakes along the way.

Whether there's any truth to it or not, I can't say. But there's a growing fear among some that Croyle has basically been neutered by a coaching staff that has bombarded him with the message that a quarterback should manage the game, not turn the ball over, and not make risky decisions. And as a result, Croyle constantly plays it safe, avoiding throws he could probably make because he doesn't want to gamble.

Perhaps that impression is just another symptom of the barebones preseason offense. But as everyone familiar with Tony Gonzalez surely knows, even when it looks as though a defender is stuck to him like glue, Tony is usually open. Likewise, Dwayne Bowe has shown an ability to go up and simply beat defenders for the ball even while he's covered.

For Croyle to really get in rhythm with his top receivers, he has to be able to throw to them in those types of situations. He can't be worried that they might not be open enough and that the ball might get picked off. Croyle needs to be given room to air it out and take some chances.

I don't expect to see Croyle throwing deep balls all over the yard on Sunday. But how about seeing a handful of plays – not on third and long – where he's actually allowed to throw the ball farther than 20 yards?

- Sunday can be successful if KC's defense shows up against the run.

Again, there's no grand expectation here for the first game. No one is asking for KC's defense to stop Laurence Maroney behind the line of scrimmage every time he touches the ball.

But with Gunther Cunningham coaching the linebackers the entire offseason, it's not unfair to hope for some minor sign of improvement. With Glenn Dorsey and Tank Tyler on the defensive line, the task should be that much easier.

Considering the lack of playing time Tom Brady had in the preseason, many feel the Patriots will lean on their running game this week. Maroney is a talented back, but there are questions along New England's offensive line. This should be a good first test for the Chiefs defense.

- Sunday can be successful if, come Monday, fans aren't storming Arrowhead with torches and pitchforks.

I don't want to discount the notion of thinking positively, but I'm honestly surprised how many Chiefs fans are talking "upset" this week. Not that a lot of people are predicting one, just that many seem to think an upset might be possible...on the road... against a team that only lost one game last season.

I'm all for optimism; that isn't the issue here. I'm just concerned about the reactions we'll see if things don't work out the way everyone hopes. We saw it after the Dolphins game: the Chiefs had two pretty good outings in their first two preseason contests, then went to Miami and stunk up the joint.

And the floodgates opened: "Fire Herm!" "Why is Brodie our quarterback?" "Fire Carl!" "The rookies are busts!" "Can we fire Clark?" "Trade LJ!"

Everyone is on board with the idea of rebuilding when there aren't any games to play. But for many, the willingness to endure the down times of a rebuilding project will evaporate around noon on Sunday. If the Chiefs are blown out, as many of the Patriots' opponents were last year, there will be heavy doses of anger and outrage from fans.

Just try to keep in mind that a bad team made up of talented young players who are learning on the job is a lot more fun to watch than a bad team of aging veterans who have nothing left to give. If you could put up with watching the group the Chiefs trotted out last year, then this season should be a breeze. Top Stories