Young Chiefs Flourish In Loss

The Chiefs' 28-24 loss to the Jets Sunday was exactly the kind of loss the team needed. Sure, winning would have been best, but at this point, the season can't be evaluated on the basis of wins and losses. The only thing fans and the organization need to be concerned with is growth, and many of KC's youngsters showed signs of development in the Meadowlands.

Tyler Thigpen gets the game ball this week, and showed the largest margin of improvement. For the first time since coming to Kansas City last year, Thigpen showed everybody the potential that only coaches and teammates had been previously privy to. Thigpen's strong arm and mobility had been overshadowed by his inaccuracy and poor decision making, but he hit his receivers in perfect stride Sunday.

Thigpen completed nearly 70 percent of his passes against the Jets, compared to a meager 44.2 percent the rest of the season. He showed finesse when he lofted a ball up for Tony Gonzalez in the red zone, resulting in KC's first touchdown. Later, he executed the two-minute offense perfectly at the end of the first half, capping the drive by threading the ball through a needle to receiver Mark Bradley for his second touchdown pass of the game.

With head coach Herm Edwards making it clear that the quarterback search is far from over, Thigpen's stellar performance Sunday may have assured him a roster spot for a little while longer. There's a great amount of uncertainty about who will be taking snaps when the Chiefs kick off next season. There's a good possibility that none of the current quarterbacks will still be on the roster this time next year, so even if Thigpen isn't in the equation for 2009, he now has one good start under his belt that could help him catch on elsewhere in the league.

Thigpen wasn't the only young Chief to impress on Sunday as cornerback Brandon Flowers hauled in two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. The 2008 second-round selection of Flowers has already paid off in spades. He's KC's best corner, and is having a fantastic rookie season. He and fellow rookie corner Brandon Carr look like they might be able to lock down the corners for years to come.

Another impressive young player Sunday was rookie tight end Brad Cottam, who hauled in four passes for 34 yards. Those four receptions were his first as a pro, and he'll definitely need to continue stepping up his game this year, as he'll likely be the Chiefs top tight end next season.

Receiver Mark Bradley entered the NFL with the Chicago Bears four years ago, and though the Bears sent him packing, many people in and around the organization had complimentary things to say about his game. He's only been with the Chiefs for five weeks, but is already a starter.

Sunday, he caught a season-high five passes for 42 yards. One of those receptions was a great snag in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Bradley looks like he might be a legitimate second receiver, something the Chiefs haven't had this season. If he proves he can hold down that starting spot, it'll give KC more flexibility in next year's draft.

Third-year defensive end Tamba Hali was supposed to make up for some of Jared Allen's lost production this season, but struggled on the right side all season, and moved back to the left against the Jets. For the first time all season, Hali finally got pressure on the quarterback, forcing Brett Favre to throw two interceptions in the first half. He also recorded his first sack of the season Sunday. Hali was a productive player his first two years, but the Chiefs still have a glaring need for help at the defensive end position.

All in all, Kansas City's loss to New York was positive. It's the kind of loss Chiefs fans can deal with. Everyone knew the Chiefs would be rebuilding this season, and that would come with losses, but until Sunday, silver linings were hard to find in the smog of 2008. If the young players continue to show signs of development, it will make the losing easier to stomach.

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