Behind Enemy Lines With Nick Athan

Nick Athan, the publisher of our Chiefs site at Scout.com answers five key questions about this weekend's matchup. Find out what he had to say about Trent Green, Ty Law and the Chiefs' secondary, Kansas City's low scoring output late in games and more in this Wild Card Playoffs Insiders feature!

Ed Thompson:  We're hearing that Damon Huard might have to start if Trent Green isn't healthy enough to go. And even if Green can start, he could get the hook if he struggles early. Are the Chiefs better off with Huard at the helm? And what do you see as the biggest difference between the two quarterbacks?

Nick Athan: Damon Huard has quickly become the fan favorite in Kansas City. Trent Green has struggled and he is hobbled by a sore ankle. Head Coach Herm Edwards will not hesitate to start Huard over Green if his starting quarterback isn't 100%.

The one thing about Huard that makes him so good is the touch he puts on the ball. The wide receivers and tight ends love the way he delivers the ball. He's far more accurate than given credit and he's also more mobile than Green. But if Green does start and he throws a pair of interceptions early, Edwards is already on record that he'll make the switch. If that happens, he'll give the Chiefs a spark and that could bode well for the Colts because his teammates believe in him.

ET:  The Chiefs have only scored a total of six points in the fourth quarter over the last three weeks. And they haven't scored more than seven in the fourth since mid-November. Can you spot any reason why they seem to fade in the last fifteen minutes?

NA: I think part of that is the fact they've been either protecting leads or they've been trying to play catch up. But more directly, they've been turning the ball over and that has hampered this teams ability to score points in the fourth quarter.

This offense is designed to take time off the clock late in games, but they can't afford to be too complacent on Saturday if they have a lead. The Chiefs know that keeping the ball away from the Colts high-octane offense is a priority so they'll be more methodical if they have the lead in the fourth quarter. Herm Edwards is far too conservative late in games because he uses the clock as his ally when the team is ahead.

The Chiefs offense is so different than the one the Colts faced three years ago in the playoffs. It's not as explosive because of a patchwork offensive line. But they can still put up points when they need to, although they haven't done much of it in the fourth quarter all season.

Kansas City's Ty Law (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
ET:  Ty Law is an old nemesis of Peyton Manning's from their playoff matchups when Law was in New England. But from what I'm hearing he's lost a step and is giving some generous cushions these days. Is that accurate? And how do you think the he and the rest of the secondary can hold up against Manning & Co.?

NA: Law has lost a step or two, but his ineffectiveness at times is more due to a lack of pressure by the front seven. Remember, the Cover 2 concept for corners is predicated by the linebackers dropping back in coverage in front of the receivers. The corners' job is to keep the receiver in front of them and the safeties chip in to cover the ball deep if the linebackers are not in front and the corners have to take that spot in the zone.

Bottom line is that the Chiefs don't play a lot of man-to-man defense, but that could change on Saturday. You can say what you want about Ty Law but he has Manning's number and Marvin Harrison's. But he doesn't have the closing speed he had when he was in New England. However, that shouldn't matter very much on Saturday because he knows Manning's tendencies.

The rest of the secondary is solid. Cornerback Patrick Surtain has been the biggest beneficiary of playing opposite Law. He's more free to make plays. Surtain has a nose for the football and even though he doesn't pick off a lot of passes, he generally doesn't get beat deep down the field.

Veteran safeties Greg Wesley and Sammy Knight have been solid. Wesley is better in pass coverage but Knight is a hard hitter and is outstanding supporting the run. But the one to keep an eye on is rookie Jarrad Page. He's made some big plays defending the pass and his speed to the ball is lightning quick.

ET:  What do you see as Kansas City's biggest weakness that the Colts are most likely to try to exploit?

NA: The Chiefs biggest weakness has been their lack of aggression in putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Chiefs defense is designed to function off the basis that it can get enough pressure from there front four to create opportunities to get turnovers from the back seven. When the Chiefs do get that pressure, they generally get those turnovers. When that happens, they generally win football games.

The Colts should expect the Chiefs to blitz often on Saturday, and if Manning has the patience he should find receivers open in the middle of the zone. The Chiefs are not as quick to the ball in the secondary and that has allowed team to gain 10-15 yards with little resistance.

However, if Manning constantly goes for the homerun there is enough talent in the secondary to bridge that distance and pick off some errant passes.

ET:  When you look at Larry Johnson's splits, he's been most successful right up the middle (4.8 yards per carry), had decent success to the left (4.2 yards per carry), but has just 2.5 yards per carry when he runs right. Is that a weak area for the offensive line or is it just a freakish stat?

NA: I think that is a freakish statistic, but I don't think that'll be the case on Saturday. With both Colts defensive ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney undersized, Larry Johnson should find plenty of room between the guard and tackles to gain chunks of yards. Both of the Colts defense ends are better suited to rush the quarterback and they tend to over commit against the run. They don't have the ability to slide down the line. LJ will exploit that and could have a banner rushing game.

The one thing about LJ that has been so great this year is his patience at the line waiting for his blockers to open up the holes. It doesn't take much to get him free and if the Colts don't close up those holes it could be curtains for the Colts defense.


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