Almost no one thought the Chiefs would trail the Patriots by four points at halftime Sunday, let alone in the fourth quarter. Not the local media, not the national media, not most fans, and certainly not myself. About the only one who saw the Chiefs competing with the defending AFC Champions was Warpaint's own Bobby Bell.
But here's the real issue coming out of KC's 17-10 loss to the Pats – who gets credit for the Chiefs boring, plodding, mind-numbingly conservative offensive attack?
Do we credit Herm Edwards for that, too?
Maybe we should credit the New England Patriots.
That's the same New England Patriots who racked up 47 sacks a year ago, second in the NFL. The same New England Patriots with three first-round picks (Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren) on their defensive line and two outside linebackers (Adalius Thomas, Mike Vrabel) who combined for 19 sacks a year ago. The same New England Patriots with the league's most explosive, deadly, quick-strike offense, capable of scoring from any position on the field.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs were starting a rookie left tackle who didn't play in the preseason, an inexperienced quarterback, and fielding a defense without much of a pass rush and without much experience in the secondary. Given the matchup, it's quite possible Edwards and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey decided to play it safe. So safe that it was virtually impossible for their offense to make a mistake that might give New England an opportunity for an easy score.
Was it boring? Yes. Did you feel like punching your television when the Chiefs called yet another predictable dive play that resulted in two or three yards? Yes.
Did it work? Almost.
Had Edwards' players executed his gameplan correctly – let's all point our fingers at Dwayne Bowe – the Chiefs would have forced overtime, or perhaps beaten the Patriots 18-17 on the strength of a two-point conversion.
Perhaps you scoff at that scenario, but two-point conversion plays call for the ball to be placed at the two-yard line. By the final minute of the fourth quarter, it was abundantly clear that KC's offense was amazingly adept at plowing into the middle of the line of scrimmage and gaining two yards.
So yes, Sunday's offensive gameplan was incredibly backwards, at least in theory. Mike Solari (seriously, he was more aggressive), Dick Vermeil and Al Saunders would never have come up with it. But Chan Gailey and Herm Edwards did, and it almost worked.
Will it work over the next 15 games? That's what every Chiefs fan is wondering this week. Was the offensive attack on display in New England a preview of what's to come, or merely Herm's chosen plan to best combat the league's most fearsome team?
To answer that question, let's focus on the most glaring element of Kansas City's "stone-age" offensive gameplan from Sunday – first down. The Chiefs opened the game with a run on first down, ran five consecutive times on first down after that, threw in a few passes, but wound up running on 14 of their initial 19 first downs (we'll toss out the game's final series, in which the Chiefs had no choice but to pass on nearly every down).
Running on first down is all well and good, but when you do it repeatedly utilizing blockers who aren't exactly Pro Bowlers (the right side of Kansas City's line), you're putting yourself at an extreme disadvantage. When the defense knows what play you're going to run, and knows they can beat the personnel you choose to execute that play with, it's safe to say you can count on two or three yard gains, if that.
Rest assured that Chan Gailey and Herm Edwards are aware of the above fact. No matter how much you want to believe otherwise, they know at least as much about football as you and I, and certainly ESPN's Ron Jaworksi, who dropped some epic knowledge on us Monday night by telling us all how wonderful it is to pass on first down ("base defense, base coverage").
So, given what we witnessed in New England, there are three possibilities.
1. Chan Gailey and Herm Edwards ran an extremely conservative offense in order to limit turnovers, protect their defense, and give their overmatched squad a chance at beating the New England Patriots.
2. Chan Gailey and Herm Edwards have no idea how to run an NFL offense and plan to utilize the incredibly counterproductive strategy of running on first down 75 percent of the time in all 16 games this season.
3. Chan Gailey and Herm Edwards do have an idea of how to run an NFL offense, but don't care, are stubborn, and love making Larry Johnson earn every penny of his huge contract by slamming him repeatedly into brick walls.
It's my guess that the first possibility is the most likely. But, I could be wrong. Be patient - we'll find out for sure in a few days when the Oakland Raiders come to Arrowhead Stadium. That's the same Oakland Raiders who present a fraction of the threat the New England Patriots pose to NFL teams.
In other words, it's safe to pass on first down against Oakland.
Be Patient With Chiefs Offense
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