Jamaal Charles and Derrick Johnson ended the Broncos' playoff hopes and opened positive floodgates for the 2010 Chiefs during a 44-24 win in Denver.
If you had told me before this game that Matt Cassel would only throw for 207 yards, Dwayne Bowe and Charles would catch only one pass combined and Kyle Orton would throw for 431 yards, I'd have sworn the Chiefs would have lost on Sunday to end their miserable 2009 season. Instead, they played their best football game of the season.
With Charles setting a Chiefs' single-game rushing record with 259 yards and Johnson scoring two touchdowns off interception returns, have we seen the birth of the new Chiefs? Did we just witness the genesis of the team we'll see next season?
It won't hurt if both Texas standouts are on the roster come next September. Charles is a lock, but Johnson is a free agent and has not been a happy camper in Kansas City since Haley arrived with his in-your-face coaching style.
Charles' big day almost didn't happen. Before the trade deadline in October, Chiefs' general manager Scott Pioli offered Charles to the Redskins for a paltry fifth-round pick. But Washington GM Vinny Cerrato felt that was too high a price to pay for a backup running back. That might be why Cerrato was fired last month.
The Chiefs held onto Charles and he has paid huge dividends. A year ago, former Chiefs Vice President of Player Personnel Bill Kuharich told me Charles was going to be a special running back, and that's why he pushed former GM Carl Peterson to draft him in the third round.
Charles is clearly the go-to back in Kansas City based on his second-half performance this season. Kansas City now has the luxury of pursuing other needs on offense in free agency and the draft.
Johnson, even though he was primarily used in passing situations, clearly has still been KC's best inside linebacker all season long. The Chiefs now need to make a strong play to keep him, because he's talented enough that he'll go somewhere else and succeed.
Charles and Johnson weren't the only bright spots Sunday. Early, it became clear that the Chiefs were ready to play from the opening snap. The first play on offense was a 50-yard bomb to little-used wide receiver Terrance Copper, sending a message to the Broncos that the Chiefs weren't going to lie down.
The Chiefs kept punching the Broncos in the mouth until they delivered the knockout punch – Charles' 52-yard touchdown gallop - that eliminated Denver from the playoff race. Just for that, this game has special meaning. Chiefs fans can live the entire offseason knowing their team ended the season of an AFC West Rival that started 6-0. While New York's win Sunday night also would have eliminated the Broncos, the Chiefs had the pleasure of taking away Denver's hope early.
Who's the better coach now? Todd Haley or Josh McDaniels? We'll have plenty of time to debate that this offseason.
Haley showed something Sunday and will get another season to turn the ship around in Kansas City. We should have no problem with that, especially if the reports are accurate that Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis will soon be taking over KC's offense and defense. Crennel and Weis would give Haley two former head coaches to bounce ideas off, and that could be enough to make a huge difference next season.
This season was full of bitter disappointment for the Chiefs and for the most part it was a negative year that warranted harsh criticism. But Monday morning, that doesn't matter. The Chiefs are undefeated in 2010. Now we wait nine months for the next game.
Chiefs Dominate Broncos, 44-24
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