Chiefs 28, Redskins 21: Keim's Take

The Redskins are inching closer to being a playoff contender. Here's the proof: they've played quite well the past two weeks on the road -- at two of the hardest places to win in the NFL. In each case they came away thinking they should have won. Last year they'd play close games yet there wasn't a feeling they were any good. Just the benefactors of a good defense. This year they're good.

But here's the proof that they're not quite there: they keep losing these games. They keep finding a way to hand the game to the opposition. They did it in Denver and they did it in Kansas City, with three turnovers and untimely big plays allowed by the defense (while once again not creating any).

The Redskins could be building something. Or they could be headed toward another season like last year, with maybe one more win because the offense is better (but the defense has slipped). And it's no longer good enough to play well in close games and console yourselves with the ''if we hadn't turned the ball over'' line. In the end, the Redskins have lost two straight. They get no power points for these losses.

Yes, these were tough places to win. But so is Pittsburgh and Jacksonville won there. So is New England and San Diego won there. Point is, good teams find a way to win those games. The Redskins clearly are playing much better and, I think, they're building something nice. They remain too confident not to keep putting themselves in position to win. But until they stop the self-inflicted wounds, the playoffs will remain elusive for the sixth straight season.

Biggest problem: The fumbles. Blame Mark Brunell heavily for those -- obviously. His first fumble was the worst because it not only started a Chiefs' scoring drive, it wiped out a chance for at least three points. It wasn't Brunell's fault that there was pressure, but he is usually good at stepping up in the pocket when he feels it. This time he didn't, allowing Jared Allen to swipe at the ball. Had he stepped up, he would have avoided disaster. The second one was bad because he ran too freely with the ball; it was not even tucked to his side as he ran, an egregious mistake. The most costly fumble was Rock Cartwright's, which led to an 80-yard touchdown return by Sammy Knight. Cartwright needed to cover up the ball as he ran into a swarm of defenders, yet he only had one hand around the ball. However, considering he barely plays, it's a mistake that's somewhat defendable.

More Brunell: But it's hard to pin the loss solely on Brunell considering he threw the ball so well, throwing for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns. And he received little help from his line, which acted like a sieve all game. Only steady guard Randy Thomas was immune from the problems.

And then there's: the defensive problems. No turnovers. Again. Little pressure on the quarterback. Again. Is Gregg Williams a smart coordinator? Yes. He's proven you can take smart and tough players and craft a solid defense. But when plays break down, you need superior athletes to make plays. And he has one on the bench, but refuses to use him in LaVar Arrington. My guess? He does not have universal support even among the coaches for this decision. There's no way some of these coaches, who had players such as Dexter Manley and John Riggins and Gary Clark in the past would think the best way to deal with an athlete such as Arrington would be to sit him until he's 100 percent compliant. Had Williams coached the Redskins in the 1980s, it's obvious some of the players who helped win Super Bowls would have been shipped out.

Williams' question: After the game Williams asked who would he take out in favor of Arrington? How about anyone? Has anyone seen Warrick Holdman make a big play? OK, he tipped one pass in the opener on an ill-advised pass from a rookie. Other than that, zippy. And has anyone seen Chris Clemons get near the quarterback? If you want to play Holdman in front of Arrington, that's fine; justify it by saying you'd rather not give up big plays than make them (though they are giving up big plays). But it's hard to imagine Clemons being a better bet at rush end than Arrington. In fact, it's downright silly.

Big play: Santana Moss did it again, finishing with a career-high 173 yards and a 78-yard touchdown reception. Moss is even better than I thought he would, or could, be. And his impact is felt all over. Just watch how defenders play him, staying off him to not get beat deep. That creates a sliver of an opening on underneath routes, giving him a chance to make moves that lead to big gainers. And he makes ultra-quick cuts, darting in then back out on his four-yard touchdown reception.

Big help: Moss benefitted from the focus on the big tight ends in the red zone. With defenses now keying on the tight ends and H-backs in the scoring area, Moss was able to draw one-on-one coverage and easily broke away for the score.

But: On the fade pass in the final minute, Moss hesitated as he ran downfield. Had he kept going fast, he might have been able to outleap the defender for the ball. But that's a tough pass to complete against that defensive look with the safety coming over the top; especially to a smaller receiver. It became a jump ball and few 5-foot-8 wideouts can win those.

Give 'em credit: The coverage units were superb, turning Dante Hall into a nobody the whole day. They did an excellent job staying in their lanes, preventing any cutback alleys for the speedy Hall. Punter Derrick Frost did a nice job with his hangtime, even on long booming punts. The only knock I had on Frost came when he booted a punt out of the end zone from the Chiefs' 40. That's inexcusable. As a golfer might say, Frost's short game needs work.

Game plan: I liked the way Washington attacked the Chiefs. As they did against Denver, the Redskins opened some holes in the running game by hitting big plays downfield. KC's run defense is solid, but its pass defense is weak and the Redskins exposed it. They could use more offensive balance, but they didn't lose this one because of the game plan or playcalling.

Rating the rookie: This is getting repetitive when it comes to rookie corner Carlos Rogers, but I really like him. He plays so physical against the run and he's one reason the Chiefs didn't run as well outside as they would have liked. Also, did you see how Rogers came up hard to tackle Tony Gonzalez in the open field. It was textbook, going down at his legs and wrapping him up. He's a complete player.

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