If there is one player who deserves a break this season it's wide receiver Chris Chambers, but he had a big hand in KC's loss. On the Chiefs ill-fated fourth quarter drive that ended with Matt Cassel's third interception, Chambers' holding penalty negated a long run by Jamaal Charles. A few plays later Chambers dropped a sure first down that would have given the Chiefs the ball inside Buffalo's five-yard line with two minutes remaining.
Even so, the Chiefs showed some grit, and because they are playing for 2010 now, we have to be positive. Offensively, Charles has emerged as Kansas City's go-to weapon.
His 76-yard touchdown, which brought the Chiefs to within three points in the second half, was a thing of beauty. Guard Wade Smith came across the line and blew open the hole that sprang Charles into the secondary, and after that the running back easily won a foot race. The play was KC's longest of the day and put Charles into the end zone for the fifth straight game. Sunday he ran hard and was difficult to bring down.
On numerous occasions, Charles' second effort led to more yards and he's growing each week into his starting role. It's unreasonable to expect him to gain 143 yards on 20 carries every week, as he did Sunday, but clearly he's a player who can slash his way for 100 yards or more in just about any game next season and beyond. The best thing Chiefs head coach Todd Haley did this season was jettison Larry Johnson in favor of Charles.
On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Tamba Hali continues to shine. Scott Pioli can win some fans by locking him up with a long-term contract. Right now Hali is KC's best linebacker and pass rusher. When the Chiefs needed him to apply pressure Sunday, he was there. While Hali had only one sack, the Bills had to account for him in every passing situation.
Other than Chambers' mistakes, the game turned on Cassel, who did his best to make plays and find open receivers. While the Chiefs continue to drop passes, at times Sunday he tried too hard to force something that wasn't there. But that's to be expected with the pressure of a large contract on his shoulders.
It was good to see Cassel utilize his tight ends, and both Brad Cottam and Leonard Pope bring something different to KC's offense. Cottam is a big target down the the middle of the field and Pope can take a short pass and break tackles. Both need more balls thrown their way in 2010. Cassel, given time, should look for them more in the final three games this season.
Cassel, who attempted 43 passes, had more balls dropped Sunday. Despite playing poorly the last two weeks, it appeared today his interceptions were simply a product of bad luck, outside of an ill-advised pass he threw early in the third quarter.
What did we learn Sunday? The Chiefs don't yet have the talent to beat bad football teams. One more play here or there and they would have beaten the Bills, but they didn't. If there is a common theme to KC's three-win season to date, it's that they don't know how to win close games.
Bills Escape Arrowhead With 16-10 Win
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