Though NFL games are won in the second half, the Kansas City Chiefs won the game in the first quarter and never relinquished a thin lead. Their own efforts to pad their lead were sabotaged by their own mistakes, none worse than the string of goal-line mistakes that led to the Barry Richardson tirade. It was a victory, nonetheless and one that the New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers would have been proud of. The Chiefs took care of the ball and sustained their drives, giving the defense a rest and keeping the clock moving.
Now comes the game that we have anticipated but with the San Diego Chargers‘ loss to the Oakland Raiders, the Chiefs – owner of the largest division lead in the NFL – can snuff the Chargers’ playoff hopes with a win. With Oakland currently holding a better division record than the Chargers and the Chiefs, the Chiefs will want to win this game to keep Week 17′s game against Oakland from mattering. A part of me was hoping that today’s game would have more at stake than it does but I am thankful that the Chiefs can finish this division off before January and they are in the driver’s seat. One problem, however: Matt Cassel will most likely be outskies today!
Kansas City Chiefs 10, Denver Broncos 6
After Tamba Hali sacked Kyle Orton on Denver’s initial drive, I knew the Chiefs weren’t going to let the game get away from them. After Matt Cassel found Leonard Pope in the end-zone, it felt like the game was in hand. It’s not rational to think as such but my intuitions proved to be correct. My intuitions before the game were way off – 65 points off to be exact.
On offense, Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones and the o-line did their part. Dwayne Bowe was covered well throughout the game by Champ Bailey but Matt Cassel was finding receivers open in the flats on either side of the field. Kansas City played Denver’s game and the execution was better than the Broncos’. The scoreboard doesn’t reflect it but the Chiefs rarely gave the ball up on a 3-and-out and the pass-blocking was exceptional. The penalties kept the Chiefs from reaching their average amount of points scored in a game. The game isn’t anything to be disappointed about because that game was theirs and they didn’t give it away.
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Tamba Hali was an animal against Denver as he recorded two sacks and he forced fumble that he recovered. He was definitely in the spotlight but he had not previously been in a slump. Tamba Hali remains in the Top 10 in QB hurries and hits. Javier Arenas was in on a couple of sacks. Romeo Crennel called a great game. His blitz calls were timely and the defense rarely got burnt when they blitzed.
The secondary really came to play. Brandon Flowers surprised us with his presence. The way the Chiefs had “leaked” that Flowers would be out despite him being questionable on the depth chart was well-executed. Kendrick Lewis was missed but not that much. Brandon Carr was defending passes left and right and Eric Berry was getting in on coverage. The defense played well enough that Kyle Orton completed 32.1% of his passes and recored a 43.6 passer efficiency rating. Both numbers are season lows by a long shot and the Chiefs defense deserves high praise for disarming Denver’s only weapons.
I’ve gotten on Todd Haley about going for it on fourth down but I thought that he made the appropriate decision in the 3rd quarter from the DEN 2. The Chiefs are capable of scoring in that scenario but they come up short too often. I question whether or not they are the kind of team that should be doing that more often than not at this point in the season because of their track record. Sure, there were a lot of miscues that led to them even getting to 4th down but if the Chiefs are going to be playing Jets-Ravens-Steelers-type ball, shouldn’t they take the 3 points? Either they need to go back to the drawing board, work Shaun Smith out or play it safe because this doesn’t seem to be the year or the squad to prove a point in or with.
High-Voltage Game Ahead In San Diego
Before last Sunday, the Chargers looked invincible. Now, they are desperate because a string of four wins in Norvember isn’t enough to make up for all the special teams blunders and turnovers that negated a team with a great offense and defense. The Raiders took advantage of a poor Philip Rivers performance and converted when they needed too. The Chiefs are going to have to come up with some big time 3rd and 4th down conversions of their own if they want to duplicate what Oakland did to the Chargers.
The Chiefs don’t have to win today’s game. It would really add some credibility to the team’s morale and would boost their confidence if they did. Both the Chargers and the Raiders are capable of playing some great football games when they are on. When they are off, though, they give up the ball and, in turn, the game. The Chiefs are the opposite of that and if they can put pressure on Rivers like the Raiders did, he will make the same mistakes. Rivers will will be lacking targets to throw to but he will find ways to win if he has room and time to work with.
I am going to be watching Tony Moeaki (he is going to have to find ways to get open as he runs through the pressing San Diego defense), Wallace Gilberry (he is going to have to move linemen into the pocket to disrupt Rivers) and Dexter McCluster (he will be running the other way on misdirection plays akin to the ones that were effective for Oakland last week). A team has to play the schedule given to them and the Chiefs have had a soft one. This game will be one of few challenges given to the Chiefs. If the Chiefs win this game without Cassel, they could potentially win the last seven games of their schedule. That would be an accomplishment for any team that would have the Chiefs’ schedule.
The Chiefs have the ability to go in and do what Oakland has done. In every recent week, they demonstrate strength in a facet of their game that they have been weak in at another time in the season. If they can stop from shooting themselves in the foot, they could duplicate what they did to San Diego in the opening week. Every time I hear that San Diego will defeat the Chiefs, I don’t like it yet I agree with those that proclaim that the Chiefs will lose. I don’t think that the Chiefs will be fortunate to get another bad Philip Rivers game and we will be getting a Brodie Croyle game. Perhaps he can win his first game as a starting QB. Anyone who still wants Brodie Croyle to get a shot, he is getting his chance. It’s not a good thing that Croyle is getting the start for this game but if you take a look at the list of back-up QB’s that have started, I don’t think he is worse than any of those, save for Michael Vick.
Here is my prediction (under the assumption that Matt Cassel doesn’t play):