Week Five – Issues Surrounding the Chiefs

The Chiefs actually won a game this week, but there are still plenty of issues to discuss. This week Michael Ash talks about losing your job to injury, the left tackle situation, Tony Gonzalez, and...uh...his birthday?

They say that a player isn't supposed to lose his job to injury, but after Sunday's game, three Chiefs probably should.

After Brandon Carr's performance against one of the league's top receivers in Brandon Marshall, there's no reason for him to give up his starting spot when Patrick Surtain returns. Granted, Marshall did beat Carr for a touchdown, but that was more because of a great throw from Jay Cutler than a bad play from Carr.

Likewise, Demorrio Williams should have worked his way into the starting lineup with his performance. Maybe Donnie Edwards can play middle linebacker, but he didn't practice there at all during training camp. While Edwards was nearly invisible during the first three games, Williams was hard to miss once he got his opportunity against Denver.

Finally, there's Dantrell Savage, whose 51-yard kick return midway through the fourth quarter was a largely unsung factor in the Chiefs' first win of the season. While some compare B.J. Sams to last year's failed experiment with Eddie Drummond, Sams hasn't been anywhere near that bad, but Savage seems far more capable of breaking big returns on a regular basis.

But with all that being said, the Chiefs deserve credit for a situation where they were patient and didn't make a change in the starting lineup.

Since his strong performance at left tackle in the preseason, fans and writers alike have been clamoring for Herb Taylor to replace Damion McIntosh at right tackle. During a preseason edition of our WPI roundtable, I mentioned that keeping Taylor behind Branden Albert might be a wise move due to the possibility of lingering issues with Albert's foot.

The Chiefs did indeed keep Taylor as Albert's backup, presumably as a precaution. That decision paid off when Albert was injured Sunday. Taylor was able to come off the bench and fill in as if he'd been starting all along.

With Branden Albert's injury, keeping Herb Taylor at left tackle looks smart.
Doug Benc

Had the Chiefs moved Taylor to right tackle at some point over the last few weeks, it's doubtful the transition would have gone as smoothly. All this time, Taylor has been practicing at left tackle while McIntosh has been getting practice reps and game experience on the right. The other possibilities – a benched McIntosh stepping in at left tackle, or Taylor bouncing around after trying to adjust to the opposite side – aren't as pretty.

Quite obviously, the best players should be on the field, and it's difficult to argue Taylor isn't among KC's five best offensive linemen. But given Albert's injury troubles and the possibility of continued problems with his foot, I don't fault the Chiefs for wanting to make sure they had someone waiting behind him just in case. Albert's latest injury had nothing to do with his foot, of course, but he'll miss time just the same.

Albert's injury won't be as costly as it could have been, because the Chiefs were committed to keeping a strong, steady backup behind him. Imagine if Dick Vermeil had invested in a quality backup for Willie Roaf?

There were few negatives after Sunday's game, but the situation with Tony Gonzalez's quest for another record is glaring.

As you surely know, Gonzalez was unhappy that he finished Sunday's game just three yards short of setting a new mark for career receiving yards by a tight end. With the Chiefs playing on the road next week, that milestone will occur in Carolina instead of happening in front of the fans in Kansas City.

While his disappointment is understandable, I can't help thinking that there seems to be a misunderstanding factoring into this. Gonzalez was quoted in the Kansas City Star saying he thought the game was already "out of reach" once he came within the three yards he needed to set the new record.

In truth, the game was nowhere close to being decided.

When Gonzalez caught his final pass of the afternoon, the Chiefs were ahead 23-16. Four plays after Gonzalez's last catch, Nick Novak kicked a field goal to put the Chiefs up 10.

But the Broncos put together a drive and added a field goal of their own, once again bringing the game within seven points. When the Chiefs started their final possession, the score was 26-19 with just over two minutes left to go. They ran only three plays on that drive, with a fourth wiped out by a holding penalty.

Just before Larry Johnson broke the 16-yard touchdown run that clinched the win, the Broncos called their second timeout and stopped the clock at 1:45. Had Denver somehow forced a turnover instead of letting Johnson run free, they would have had around 1:40 and a timeout to score a tying touchdown. Given that Mike Shanahan isn't afraid to go for a two-point conversion, it could have also been the game-winning score.

The point is the Chiefs were never out of the woods until Johnson scored that late touchdown. Everyone who watched those final minutes white-knuckled and on the edge of their seats as they prayed for the losing streak to end can attest to that.

Don't worry Tony, you'll get that record yet.
Dilip Vishwanawat

But judging by Gonzalez's words, it seems he thought the Chiefs were farther ahead than they really were. People have brought up Herm Edwards' conservative nature, saying it wouldn't have killed the offense to throw a pass under the circumstances they were facing. But Gonzalez himself disagrees.

In the same Star article, he spoke of how people would be criticizing Edwards if a pass had been tipped and intercepted, an acknowledgement of the fact that you don't run that sort of play in a tight game when the team is trying to milk the clock and get the win. The only logical inference is that Gonzalez doesn't think the Chiefs were facing that situation, when, in fact, they were.

So for those saying Gonzalez was putting his own interests ahead of the team, it doesn't seem like he wanted them to do anything to put the impending victory at risk. It just sounds like he was mistaken about the game situation at the time. That surely added to his frustration, thinking the Chiefs already had the victory in hand, yet didn't throw to him.

Worse yet, Gonzalez made those comments to the media after meeting with the head coach. One can only assume that Edwards wasn't up on the game situation either, or he should have been able to put the issue to rest when they spoke.

Can't someone just tell these guys what the score was?

Want to know why the Chiefs really won on Sunday?

Sure, Larry Johnson ran for nearly 200 yards, and the defense did a great job of forcing turnovers. But I'm going to let you in on something. Have a look at these scores.

September 28, 2008: Chiefs 33, Broncos 19.
September 28, 2003: Chiefs 17, Ravens 10.
September 28, 1997: Chiefs 20, Seahawks 17.
September 28, 1992: Chiefs 27, Raiders 7.
September 28, 1986: Chiefs 20, Bills 17.
September 28, 1980: Chiefs 7, Chargers 24.

Those results represent every game the Chiefs have played on Sept. 28 since 1980. What, you might ask, is significant about September 28, 1980?

That happens to be the day I was born.

If only I could have arrived early enough for my positive mojo to help them that same day. Alas, it was not to be. But the loss just illustrates how things changed, how it was that date when the universe stood up after the game and said, "the Kansas City Chiefs will no longer lose on this day!"

Ever since – in other words, since I've been alive – the Chiefs have won every single game they've played on my birthday.

Boy, you'd think Carl Peterson would at least send me a card.

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