Was Sunday A Success?

With the Chiefs facing long odds in their attempt to come away from Baltimore with a win, I used Saturday's column to identify a few key areas where, even without a victory, we could still view the game in a positive light.

In using this tactic for last year's season opener, the results were disappointing all across the board. Did the Chiefs fare any better this time around?

Issue #1: Sunday can be successful if the Chiefs' offense gets on the scoreboard.

Grade: Pass

All combined, the Chiefs put up 24 points Sunday. One touchdown came from Jon McGraw's blocked punt and the other 17 points came from the offense.

One of the Chiefs' two offensive touchdowns was set up by the defense and Derrick Johnson's 70-yard interception return. So to be overly analytical, only 10 of the 24 points were obtained by the offense actually driving down the field and putting points on the board.

Still, 10 points is an easy victory for the Chiefs' offense. As we covered last time, when the Ravens played at home last season, they only allowed an average of 10 points a game. The Chiefs went into Baltimore with a shaky offensive line, a backup quarterback, and an offensive attack that hadn't been clicking, yet they still managed to hit that average.

As we've covered here many times, though, statistics don't always tell the full story. Just for our own critical purposes, we aren't counting the touchdown scored after Johnson's interception towards the Chiefs' offensive total. However, during the 2008 season, there were a handful of occasions where a team playing in Baltimore scored on a short field after a turnover. Those points, as well as a kickoff return touchdown, are all factored into the Ravens' 10 point per-game average.

If you remove that data from the equation and only focus on points the Ravens' defense allowed after their opponents put together sustained offensive drives, they gave up even less than 10 points a game. That makes the Chiefs' output look even better.

Issue #2: Sunday can be successful if the Chiefs protect their quarterback.

Grade: Fail

For the offensive line, the grade from Sunday is an unequivocal failure. Brodie Croyle was sacked three times and would have been brought down even more if, on several occasions, he hadn't released the ball at the last possible second.

But as we discussed last time, we could actually break this item down into two separate issues: how the offensive line fared at pass protection and how the quarterback himself handled the pressure.

As it relates to Croyle himself, what we saw on Sunday has to be considered a win. Despite his well-earned reputation for being injury prone, Croyle started and finished a game on the road against the vaunted Baltimore Ravens' defense. He was hit several times, repeatedly picked himself up off the turf, and still led the team on two game-tying drives in the fourth quarter.

Whether it was due to luck, smarter playcalling that didn't expose him to as much abuse, or some other factor, the durability Croyle showed was a big positive. Even better, Croyle avoided making mistakes in the face of constant pressure.

As for the offensive line, there's still plenty of work to be done.

Issue #3: Sunday can be successful if the defense shows up against the run.

Grade: Fail

By far, the most disappointing aspect of Sunday's game was the performance of the Chiefs' defense.

Specifically looking at the rush defense, Kansas City allowed second-year back Ray Rice to gain 108 yards on just 19 carries. That's an embarrassing average of 5.7 yards per carry. Even subtracting the 18 rushing yards the Chiefs allowed from a scrambling Joe Flacco, the team still allowed nearly 200 yards on the ground to the trio of Rice, Willis McGahee, and Le'Ron McClain.

But if you want to try finding silver linings in these numbers, there is data to support the notion that the Chiefs' defense wore down because they spent so much time on the field. Again putting aside Flacco's scrambling yardage, the Chiefs allowed 33 rushing yards on 10 carries in the first half of the game. That's an average of just 3.3 yards per carry. A year ago, Pittsburgh and Minnesota led the league by only allowing 3.3 yards per carry.

After halftime, the Chiefs allowed 147 yards on 27 carries. That's an average of 5.6 yards per carry, far worse than what they allowed in the first half.

However, those statistics could also be viewed another way. Since the Ravens only ran the ball 10 times in the first half, it's not a stretch to suggest that if they had focused more on their ground attack – as they did after halftime – they might have put up better numbers earlier in the game.

What we know for sure is that the Chiefs began giving up more yards against the run in the second half. Was it because the Ravens made a point of running the ball more often, or because the defense was just too gassed to keep up? We probably won't be able to answer that question until we see how the run defense performs in the coming weeks.

Ultimately, though, whether it was against the run or the pass, it was not a banner day for the Chiefs' defense. We'll talk more about that topic in our preview of this weekend's game against the Oakland Raiders.

WarpaintIllustrated.com Top Stories