Dolphins Win Shootout At Arrowhead, 38-31

The 30,000 fans that showed up in the bitter cold at Arrowhead Sunday were treated to one of the most entertaining games of the Herm Edwards era. Despite trailing 10-0 early, the Chiefs battled through long odds and another week of team distractions before leaving it all out on the field in a loss.

To his credit, Head Coach Herm Edwards, who remains on the hot seat, had his troops ready to play Sunday. In warm-ups you could sense an energy that was missing in other games at Arrowhead this season. Questionable play-calling in the third and early stages of the fourth quarter had much to do with the outcome of Sunday's game, but the Chiefs have nothing to be embarrassed about over their effort level.

In the fourth quarter it came down to the skills of Miami quarterback Chad Pennington. In a tight game, with their playoff destiny in their hands, Pennington knew exactly what to do in a close game.

He matriculated the ball down the field, burning nearly nine minutes off the clock. Facing a critical third and five, he hit tight end Anthony Fasano, who dragged four Chiefs players on his back into the end zone to give Miami a 38-31 lead with four minutes left.

In response, Chiefs offensive coordinator Chan Gailey could not muster up the plays to tie the game. Facing a critical fourth and one, instead of giving the ball to Larry Johnson, who was over the century mark at that point, he called for a bootleg that backfired as Tyler Thigpen was sacked for a six yard loss.

The ending wasn't fitting for Thigpen, who threw for a career-high 320 yards with three total touchdowns. But he faltered in the second half, when too often his long passes fluttered off target down the field.

Given a chance to redeem himself after Ricky Williams' fumble, Thigpen threw two incompletions, was sacked, and on fourth down threw an interception that sealed the victory for Miami.

Again, the big issue for this football team was the inability to adjust their offensive game plan from the first to the second half. That again falls on Gailey, who's offense has failed to deliver enough second-half points time and again, leading directly to the Chiefs losing eight games by seven points or less.

We have to wonder if Gailey is the answer in 2009. Good offensive coordinators adjust their game plans from quarter to quarter or half to half, and he's failed at getting that done in each of these close losses.

It's unfair to blame Gailey completely when teams can run up and down the field on KC's defense, and there's been a lot of talk about whether or not the Chiefs' players have that killer instinct to finish out games, but when the offense disappears in the second half, you have to wonder about the play-calling. To me, Gailey has no feel for the ebb and flow of a game.

Today's loss didn't answer any questions about Herm Edwards, but it helps that to a man in the Chiefs' locker room, the players hope he's their head coach in 2009.

If there is a positive right now, it's that if the season ended today the Chiefs would have the third overall pick. At this point we take our silver linings where we can get them.

Four to Remember:

RB Larry Johnson
Herm Edwards made an interesting statement after the game that his football team is no longer a running team. So despite the fact LJ ran for over 100 yards and scored a touchdown, my take is that he won't be on this team in 2009 no matter who the GM or head coach might be. Though he's improving as a pass blocker since his return from suspension, he's not a fit in this offense now or in the future.

LB Derrick Johnson
Today he grew up in this defense as a middle linebacker. For the first time since the switch, he was making plays all over the field. On consecutive plays in the second quarter, he delivered big time blows for virtually no gain. Though I'd still like to see him blitz more, he and fellow linebacker DeMorrio Williams could make a nice tandem next year.

S Jarrad Page
He had another great game and has probably been the defensive MVP this season. With his fourth interception, a career high, and seven more tackles he might be the only player on defense that KC's new General Manager locks down long term. He'll be a restricted free agent in 2009 but the strength of this defense right now is in the secondary. Last week he was upset about the big catch in the Chargers come from behind victory but he came back and played his heart out. The Chiefs need to wrap him up well before the start of free agency.

QB Chad Pennington
I could only imagine what the Chiefs record would be right now if they had guaranteed Pennington the starter's spot at quarterback when he became a free agent in August. Hands down he's been the glue and the missing piece to the Dolphins' offense in 2008. Without him at the helm, they might not be playing for the AFC East title next Sunday in New York against the Jets. It's no slight to Thigpen, but if Pennington had been the Chiefs' quarterback to begin the season, they'd have won the AFC West. Edwards wanted to sign Pennington but others on KC's coaching staff felt it would disrupt the growth of Brodie Croyle. In retrospect, Edwards probably should have gone with his instincts and grabbed Pennington.

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