Hey, Cromartie – It's On!

Apparently Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie believes the Chiefs have no passing game, isn't impressed by Dwayne Bowe, and considers himself the best cornerback in the NFL.

I'm not speculating. These words come straight from Cromartie's own mouth, or rather, keyboard. In a recent chat with fans on NFL.com, the cornerback was not shy about expressing his opinions.

Guess what, Antonio? As Chiefs fans, we aren't shy about expressing our opinions either, especially when you bring your particular brand of trash talk against Kansas City. So, it's on! Let's examine your comments and really get inside them. We might discover something amazing.

"They never had a passing game. They don't even have Gonzalez."

Surely Cromartie is not referring to the entire history of the Kansas City Chiefs when he implies the franchise has never had a passing game. Clearly he must be talking about only his three years in the league, so let's examine what the Chiefs have done against the Chargers during that time.

Three different quarterbacks – Damon Huard, Trent Green, Tyler Thigpen – started games for the Chiefs against San Diego over the last three seasons. Three times Kansas City put up at least 220 yards passing. Over six games, the Chiefs averaged 209 yards passing, and passers connected on a combined 10 touchdowns.

Those stats alone are not that impressive. However, they are far from poor, and we have to consider what transpired in those six contests – the Chiefs won two, and were a razor-thin line away from winning two others last year. Essentially, the Chiefs won two games against the Chargers, could easily have won four, and each time it was because of of Kansas City's passing game.

In 2006, Huard led a late-game drive, setting up a game-winning field goal. In 2007, Huard torched the Chargers for 264 yards passing in a double-digit Chiefs win. Last season, Thigpen ripped up Cromartie and Co. with 266 yards and three touchdowns in San Diego, almost pulling off an upset, and his efficient first-half passing against the Chargers in Arrowhead (128 yards, one touchdown) staked Kansas City to an early 21-3 lead that likely would have held up had Herm Edwards not slammed on the brakes.

So, for a team that doesn't have a passing game, the Chiefs sure were using their passing game to battle the Chargers to end of their rope over the last three years.

Cromartie is dead on with his expert analysis that the Chiefs no longer have Tony Gonzalez, of course. However, that may mean Cromartie will have to worry more about covering wide receivers when he sees the Chiefs in 2009. How well does he cover wide receivers? That's our next issue.

"I think I'm the best. If you match up next to Nnamdi (Asomugha) from the Raiders, us two are the best."

We can't fault Cromartie for having a little bit of self confidence. That's always a necessary trait for NFL success. But in this case, is it confidence, or delusion? We may find out it's the latter fairly quickly.

First, we have the always reliable and insightful work from the folks at Football Outsiders to fall back on. According to their statistics database, Cromartie allowed a whopping 11 yards per attempt and had a forced incompletion rate of just 13 percent. Compared to Asomugha's 64 percent forced incompletion rate, we're not really talking about two comparable players here. Statistically speaking, Cromartie was burnt toast.

Heck, if you put any stock in these rankings, Cromartie isn't even the best cornerback on his team. Quentin Jammer's incompletion rate was roughly three times that of Cromartie's. And no one is comparing Jammer to Asomugha. Nor is anyone crowning the Chiefs' own Brandon Flowers, who clocked in at an impressive 55 percent.

Of course, considering how awful San Diego's pass defense was a year ago, we shouldn't be surprised by any of this. Cromartie and Co. fielded the second-worst pass defense in terms of yards per game in 2008 and gave up 25 touchdown passes (only four teams allowed more). And perhaps there is no greater indicator of the state of the Chargers' secondary than the fact that JaMarcus Russell torched it for a career-high 277 yards last season.

Also, we should point out that it appears the Chargers' front office and/or coaching staff may not share Cromartie's high opinion of himself. In March, San Diego attempted to re-sign one of their former players, cornerback Drayton Florence, and it was rumored that had the ex-Charger been inked, Cromartie would have been placed on the trading block. In fact, it was more than rumored – the San Diego Union Tribune reported the news based upon league sources.

So, is Cromartie really that great? Well, at least he can stop Dwayne Bowe. Or can he?

"Dwayne Bowe only has two catches on me in two years, so I've never had a hard time against him."

According to the limited data – i.e. game recordings – I've reviewed, Cromartie is absolutely correct. Dwayne Bowe only has two catches against him in two years. They both came in the same game – last season in San Diego.

Neither really do Cromartie much credit. The first is a simple out pattern. Bowe cleanly gets off the line, runs his pattern, and catches the ball for about 15 yards and a first down. Cromartie has no play on the ball, which is actually rather well thrown, but he doesn't do much to prevent the completion from happening.

The second is Bowe completely dominating Cromartie. Again, he escapes the line fairly uninhibited, and runs a route that leaves Cromartie scrambling trying to catch up. After the catch, Bowe breaks a couple of tackles before our valiant cornerback weakly tugs at the receivers' jersey and falls to the ground, barely tripping him up by his shoelaces after a 31-yard gain.

OK, so he got beat a couple times, for sure. But Cromartie may be accurate in his statement that those are the only two plays Bowe has made against him in two seasons.

If so, why does Bowe have 335 yards and two touchdowns against the Chargers in four career games?

Is it possible that – gasp – San Diego's coaching staff assigned other, more capable cornerbacks to cover Bowe? Considering the nature of Cromartie's 2008 season – a poor one, as we've already discovered – it made more sense for Jammer to draw the responsibility of covering Bowe last season.

In fact, it's quite logical when you factor in the issue of Cromartie's tackling. Despite his size, he's not known as a great tackler, and at times is downright awful. Bowe, of course, is known for his ability to break tackles and uses his large frame to muscle his way down the field. So really, it made little sense for Cromartie to be assigned Bowe.

Either that, or San Diego's coaching staff had no clue they had Dwayne Bowe Kryptonite on the other side of the field. But somehow, that seems unlikely.

So what happens now? Antonio Cromartie has shot off his mouth - in a completely entertaining fashion we might add - and we've responded in kind, though perhaps less bluntly.

Will Cromartie continue to be torched by NFL wide receivers? Will the Chargers keep him as far away from Dwayne Bowe as possible? Will the Chiefs ever find a passing game, or recover from the loss of Tony Gonzalez?

Your guess is as good as mine, but one thing IS for certain - it's on! Tune in this October for the first showing of Chargers versus Chiefs.

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