Old Lessons Validated In Chiefs' Loss

The Chiefs' 2008 season is and always was supposed to be a season of learning. Since Jared Allen was traded for three draft picks, since veteran after veteran was ushered out the revolving door and rookie after rookie ushered in, this season was about learning.

It was supposed to be a year for the rookies to learn how to play NFL football, and a time for the organization to learn what they had in their young veterans, like Brodie Croyle.

All that was a given coming into 2008, and Chiefs fans have been lucky enough to learn about players whose names they were unfamiliar with five months ago like Maurice Leggett and Mark Bradley. I've been more than fair in pointing out those and other small triumphs the Chiefs have had this season, but in KC's stunning 22-21 loss to San Diego, the Chiefs learned some things that cannot be painted in a positive light.

The most glaring lesson learned Sunday was that Herm Edwards' time management is definitely still a problem. This is not a new lesson learned, but rather a validation. Edwards blew his first two timeouts in the second half with over six minutes left to play, and did so on the same drive within 90 seconds of each timeout.

Edwards then blew his final timeout when he made the terrible decision to challenge whether or not Philip Rivers crossed the line of scrimmage before completing a 16-yard pass to Malcolm Floyd. If there is one challengeable play where the outcome is black and white, it's that one. Either he was behind the line of scrimmage or in front of it, there's no gray area. Whoever was sitting in the booth and advised Edwards to challenge the play made a grave mistake that cost the Chiefs a timeout and probably at least one more chance to get Connor Barth closer for a potential game-winning field goal.

The other thing we learned Sunday, which is more of a season-long realization, is that the Chiefs' special teams are bad. The kick and punt coverage teams are abysmal.

With all the talk about Edwards, Gunther Cunningham, Dick Curl, and Tim Krumrie's respective futures with the Chiefs, there has been little-to-no talk about Mike Priefer's future. Priefer has been KC's special teams coordinator during the entire Edwards era, and those years have been less than stellar in terms of special teams. Sure, there's been a Bernard Pollard block here and Leggett touchdown there, but overall, special teams have been sub par. Maybe it's time for a change at that coaching position?

Another lesson learned Sunday was the Derrick Johnson experiment at middle linebacker is failing. Johnson registered just five tackles against the Chargers, and managed to disappear in the middle of the defense. On one particular run play, Johnson started in the middle of the Chiefs 4-3 formation, but wound up outside the right tackle. The play was a straight give up the middle between the center and the right guard. Johnson ran outside the tackle on his own accord, he wasn't blocked.

Does Johnson shy away from contact with the big boys? Perhaps, and if he does, then middle linebacker is not the position for him. The storyline about Johnson's future with the Chiefs is interesting, because he only has one more season left on his rookie contract. Typically, this offseason would be where the Chiefs would try to re-up with their valuable young talent, but Johnson's knack for disappearing in games may be costing him either dollars or a new contract with the Chiefs altogether.

Another old lesson validated Sunday was the one about Dwayne Bowe's hands. Bowe made a spectacular catch on the Chiefs' opening drive, and that was one of many great grabs for him this season. But, his inability to secure the ball on San Diego's onside kick proved to be fatal.

Bowe has dropped several gimme balls this season. Does he just lose focus? Is he afraid of the footsteps he's hearing? Does he have carpel tunnel? Who knows? What we do know is that he has the hands of a brick mason, and he needs to find a way to get better at holding on to the ball. I don't know what's more laughable, his inability to catch an onside kick, or Priefer's decision to place Bowe on the hands team.

As much as we've learned in 15 weeks this season, there are still two games left and plenty of lingering questions. Is Tyler Thigpen the quarterback of the future? What position will the Chiefs be in the line to draft Sam Bradford? Will Herm Edwards be coaching this team next season? Will Carl Peterson still be running the show?

The answers to most of these questions are probably no more than a few weeks away, and they're a worthy enough reason to not completely check out of the football season just yet.

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