Chiefs Make Progress in Atlanta

We should be absolutely thrilled over Kansas City's 38-14 loss in Atlanta. The Chiefs showed us something we haven't seen from them in months – a consistent, dependable ground game.

Yes, the Chiefs got destroyed, couldn't pass the ball, couldn't stop the run, and generally looked like the worst team in the NFL. But none of that matters. The only thing we should be focusing on right now is the success of Kansas City's ground game against the Falcons.

Remember, we all knew the Chiefs would lose with Tyler Thigpen under center. It was as close to a lock in the NFL last Sunday as any game. We can't justifiably pass judgment on this team when they're starting a practice-squad quarterback.

Now that Damon Huard is back under center, we should adjust that sentiment (there's no excuse for KC's offense resembling an NFL Europe attack now) but we'll talk about that next week. For now, let's dive into the numbers of Kansas City's running game success.

The Chiefs piled up 184 yards against the Falcons. That's the highest output from a Herm Edwards offense since the Denver Broncos were pounded for 223 yards by Larry Johnson and Michael Bennett on Thanksgiving night in 2006.

More importantly, those 184 yards blow away almost every rushing performance from the 2007 Chiefs. Save a late-season game against the Oakland Raiders last year that saw Kolby Smith pile up 150 yards, the 2007 Chiefs really had zero consistent performances from their ground game. Johnson had a few 100-yard outings early in the year (Cincinnati, Oakland, San Diego) but each was padded by a long run that skewed his yards per carry.

Yes, Johnson had a 48-yard run against the Falcons, but the Chiefs still racked up 136 yards at a 4.25 yards-per-carry clip if you throw it out. That's impressive for a team that struggled to gain 100 yards against the New England Patriots in Week 1 and couldn't find any significant running room whatsoever against the Raiders a week ago.

The fact the Chiefs had such a great outing running the ball this early in the season is significant. Last season KC's running game was absolutely throttled in September and October, apart from a few long runs from Johnson. It was a preview of things to come, and Kansas City finished dead last in the league in rushing after 16 games.

This is important for our Herm-Edwards led Chiefs team. We know Edwards can't field a successful offense or football team without a productive running game. His entire philosophy towards winning NFL games is dependent upon his team running the football well.

That's why Edwards hired Chan Gailey this offseason, at least in my opinion. Gailey's history of fielding successful ground attacks is well documented. Last season, when the Chiefs couldn't run the ball, everything else broke down – pass protection, run defense, and of course, Larry Johnson, Damon Huard and Brodie Croyle.

We know the Chiefs will never be a pass-first offense under Edwards. Right now, Gailey doesn't even have the pieces to field such an approach, so forget it. Maybe the rest of the NFL has changed, with the Saints, Broncos, Colts, Bengals, Patriots, Cowboys, Packers, Eagles, Cardinals and a few other teams throwing the ball around the yard arena-league style, but not the Chiefs. Just accept it.

Instead, we should be happy that Gailey, at least for one week, found a way to get Johnson and rookie speed demon Jamaal Charles loose. It's the first real sign of progress from the 2008 Chiefs we've seen thus far. In fact, every other aspect of the team – passing offense, run defense, pass rush, special teams – looks about the same, or even worse.

We can't be too happy, however, because the Falcons fielded the NFL's 26th-ranked run defense last year and were gashed on the ground in Week 2 this season. Before we put Johnson back in the Pro Bowl, let's see how KC's running game fares over the next month or so. If what we saw in Atlanta wasn't a mirage, the Chiefs should find running room against the Broncos and Panthers, but might struggle against the Titans and Jets.

And if the Chiefs do resurrect their ground game this year, there's one man who will benefit more than anyone else – Brodie Croyle. If Kansas City is running the ball as they did in 2006 when Croyle returns from injury, the bootleg game should flourish, and we just might see improvement in other areas of the football team. Heck, the Chiefs might even win a game. Now there's progress!

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