Sunday, October 23, 2016

Saints at Chiefs - Week 7 - Record: 4-2

At a point around the very beginning of the game, they showed a graphic: "The Saints have given up an average of 33.6 points a game. If that continues it will be the worst in NFL history." Something like that.

Of course all of us Chiefs fans are salivating. Let's see, will we get 50? 60? 70 points against this team??? Of course of course that means if we're going to win the score will have to be something like 70-67, because the Saints offense is extraordinary. Their quarterback Drew Brees is still terrific.

Turns out we ended up winning 27-21, so what was this? Was this because our offense was pathetic or their defense is better than the stats say? Was this because their offense was pathetic or our defense actually did pretty damn good against this Saints team?

I think there was some of all that in the mix with this one, but there were a lot of other things that happened that got us the win -- some really really good that showed we earned this, some really really bad that almost cost us, and some really really lucky that were tremendously helpful for us.

Let's go over each item in chronological order.

1. On our first drive Alex Smith barely overthrew Maclin and Harris on consecutive plays. Errgh. We were driving down the field with great Spencer Ware running and I was afraid this'd be another typical Smith blow-it -- just not being able to make those connections. When the Saints got the ball they drove right down the field and scored a touchdown.

2. On our next drive Spencer Ware caught one of those Chiefs specialty wide screen passes, and he ran it all the way for a touchdown. Very nice Spencer Ware specialness.

3. Brees resumed carving up our young D-backs, until Eric Berry made a big-time play by batting a pass up enough for Daniel Sorenson to swoop in, grab it, and rocket through the Saints for one of the neatest pick-six runbacks I've ever seen.

4. The Kansas City fans were unquestionably a key part of this home win, as they often are. As the game wore on there were more and more false starts and delay-of-games by the Saints.

5. Alex Smith finally aired it out to Tyreek Hill and he made a splendidly acrobatic catch in the end zone for the Chiefs third touchdown of the first half. Finally finally finally.

6. Alex Smith was still, however, missing receivers breaking open. On one play he threw underneath for an incompletion, and the back-of-the-end-zone camera view showed Maclin and Kelce both getting a step on their defenders. Smith has shown he can make those throws. Why doesn't he?

7. The Saints get another easy-drive touchdown to start the second half, making the score 21-14. We get a decent drive and get a field goal, but of course I'm thinking: to keep a step ahead of the Saints we've got to get a touchdown -- a field goal is just not good enough.

8. On 3rd-&-7 Eric Berry makes another stud play, tackling a receiver after a catch just before the marker. The 4th quarter started shortly after that.

So with the score 24-14, here is that quarter:

9. Chiefs have the ball and simply must have a sustained clock-chewing keep-Brees-off-the-field drive. They start okay, with Spencer Ware running the ball well as he did all day. But then what could have been a key play against the Chiefs: Demetrius Harris drops a pass right in his hands on 3rd-&-6. Tuh-riffic.

10. Will our defense do the job? It looked bad yet again, as Brees resumed his carving-us-up activities. But then -- probably the most critical defensive play of the game, with the Saints in the red zone -- Ron Parker jabs the ball out of their go-to back's arm and we recover. Wow, was that big.

11. Alas, our offense dragged again. What was with this? At this point I'm screaming inside -- we have a total of 3 second-half points against this defense. Thuh-ree. Then we got another of those great clutch wonderful plays that meant a lot -- and Alex Smith was a key guy. On 3rd and 17, he fired a laser accurate pass to Chris Conley on the sideline, with Conley using his strong hands to hold it getting both feet barely in-bounds for the first down. The Saints tried to challenge, but it was clearly a good catch.

12. Thing is, right after that great play we stalled again. We tried a screen pass to our back and it failed again -- I just can't figure why, with this team, we simply can't get a decent screen pass to a back out of the backfield. 4th down.

13. Still 24-14, and the Saints start slicing-&-dicing again, and get in the red zone. With no meaningful pass rush Brees moves around a bit and fires a bullet to his receiver in the end zone surrounded by what I think was 57 Chiefs defenders. 24-21. You are kidding me. I kinda got the idea this was a team we should be ahead of by more like, oh, 49-21. This game could be lost simply because our offense wasn't getting any game-sealing touchdowns.

14. With a little over two minutes left, they try an onsides kick. Jeremy Maclin brushes the ball out of bounds keeping their guy from snatching it. Another of those good, solid, heads-up, and certainly somewhat fortuitous plays that was really good for us.

15. We just need to run clock, and run a few times without much success. But after one of those runs a Saints lineman body-slammed Spencer Ware to the ground. Personal foul penalty, 1st down Chiefs, now in field goal range. We run the ball a few more times, kick the field goal, leaving the Saints down by a touchdown with only a half-minute and no time outs.

They simply do not have enough time and we finish them off 27-21.

What happened with that? I'm thrilled that we won, but please.

We had the scantest of SIX points in the entire second half. Sorry fellow Chiefs fans, but against THIS defense? That stinks. And we got a ton of help from nine Saints penalties that netted us a total gift of 70 yards.

On the other hand, our defense did some terrific things. A pick-six. A forced fumble. Several key stops against this explosive defense. Great individual efforts in key spots and we needed every one of them.

That our offense scored only 27? That's crap. That our defense held them to 21? That's fantastic.

Sorry Chiefs fans. Yeah it's nice to be at 4-2...

But dang it we still have a long way to go to show we can confidently take care of business when we must against a very good team.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Chiefs at Raiders - Week 6 - Record: 3-2

I have that funny feeling again. I don't like it, I really don't. Do you have that feeling? Are you as nervous as I am about that funny feeling? Today, right now...

I like Andy Reid and Alex Smith.

It is a good, bad, good, nervous feeling. It is very bad, and very good at the same time. Please -- please tell me you know what I mean at this point in Chiefs history of things. Right now the Chiefs should be cruising through the NFL, mostly because it is the fourth year of the Reid/Smith regime. That's the time the Chiefs should be doing just about the very best that any Chiefs team has ever done in the history of Chiefsdom.

We've got good players.

We've got that Arrowhead spirit.

We've got vibrant youth, veteran leadership, solid health, and decent balance at every level of our game.

But is all of this just a fake-out?

Today we played a Raiders team I was told had an all-that offense. At the beginning of this game it looked to be true -- their QB Derek Carr carved us up and got the Raiders what looked like a far-too easy touchdown. But then they got bogged down pretty much the rest of the game. Was that because Carr just had a bad game or was our defense all that?

After the game had gone a few plays, the television people put up a "Keys to the Game" kind of graphic. The Raiders defensive strength? "Edge rushers." The Chiefs offensive weakness? "Pass protection." I thought, Great, that'll be our undoing -- they have a crappy defense, they say, yet Smith will get sacked every other play. Guh-rate. In fact, Smith got sacked twice on Kansas City's very first possession, but to be honest, I don't think Smith got sacked again the rest of the day.

We simply took advantage of the rest of the poor Oakland defense. Thing is, while that's great and all, that's just the thing. It was a very poor Oakland defense.

And know what? We still messed it up too many times. On our 6th possession Tyreek Hill got a terrific punt return into Raiders territory, then Spencer Ware did something great running it down to the three, then we went into one of the Chiefs play-fart modes. On third down -- about as obvious a play as you could have: quarterback draw -- we instead throw another of those wide screen passes and sure enough -- plotzz -- it gets stuffed. We have to kick another field goal.

On the other hand, who couldn't LOVE that screen pass touchdown thing to Dontari Poe at the one-yard line after another nifty Reid-constructed/Smith-executed drive. What a splendid wonderful splendidly wonderful play. And that the Chiefs did something crazy like that -- who has ever seen that before?! -- and it worked perfectly.

On the other other hand, the clock/game management at the end of the first half was, ahem, beyond abysmal -- ahem ahem, Andy Reid. With the score 13-7 and under two minutes left in the half, we get a fantastic long pass from Smith to Maclin to get us into sure scoring range and then run Ware a few times, only to see our O-line spittle on 3rd-and-1 and we have to try the FG with about 30 seconds left instead of 1. Santo misses (::errrgh:: in and of itself), and the Raiders storm down the field and kick their field goal, some of which was set up by an inexplicable failure to cover properly to prevent the field goal position to begin with. It was a joke.

Other things of note that were pretty darned positive:

Jamaal Charles was back and running well. If he's 100% through the rest of the season, what a trio we have with Ware doing much of the dirty work, Charles spelling him for more dynamic offense (although Ware is no slouch either, for sure), and Charcandrick West getting back in the mix.

And special mention to Spencer Ware. The guy was a workhorse out there. I think they said the Chiefs had a season high close-to 200 yards rushing today. Today it was pouring rain and a good running game is essential in those conditions. It really helped us today. Our O-line was serviceable, it did make it so Smith could do good things back there, and it did get some nice steady pushes so Ware could grind.

Our defense gets at least some of the credit for stopping this Raiders offense. The run defense was solid, and the pass defense somehow shut down Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree in the second half. It appears too that Marcus Peters does not have a concussion, that's a major relief.

Our most highly touted rookies, Tyreek Hill and Chris Jones, were terrific today. Both have that got-it, you can just see it. Both players instinctively know how to play football at their particular skill positions, and ironically both can inspire all the other players to play with that feel. It's great stuff, and they're just the greenest of rookies -- what'll it be like when their game gets more refined? It'll be even better.

Annnd, yes, Alex Smith had a fine game. Ergh. Ergh ergh ergh. There's that funny nervous really-good really-bad feeling again. He was something like 19 for 22, and at one point had, like, 11 or 12 straight completions. Oh oh oh oh oh would I like to see that against a really good defense. Next week we play New Orleans, and from what I gather they've got a good offense but a suspect defense.

We've now won seven straight against AFC West opponents. That has to be a record, at least in recent Chiefs history. Remember when it seemed we couldn't buy a win in the division? Maybe, just maybe, all that drafting strategy by John Dorsey specifically with AFC West opponents in mind is paying off. I remember the Dee Ford pick was specifically made to challenge the fine QB's in the division -- well, Ford had two important sacks today, one of them a strip to get the Chiefs the ball early in the 4th quarter.

Well, this was certainly one of those this-was-a-good-day-for-Reid-and-Smith days. We like them. They were good today. We like that a lot.

Please guys be as good when we really really really have to be good.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Chiefs Bye Week - Major Chiefs Concerns Yet Again

It really isn't any different, sadly. As I think about the 2016 version of the Kansas City Chiefs, I'm afraid I have concerns that are the same old concerns. Sometimes I look back at my blog posts from 2008, 2009, back then, when I screamed at the top of my lungs Get a good solid drafted and developed quarterback who can take us the distance and ya know what?

We still haven't done it.

I say this because I am yet again getting tired of Alex Smith and his ineffectiveness. I'm getting tired of feeling this way then watching him have some spectacular game and thinking, Huh, maybe I was wrong, and then we all watch him get right back to his surprising ineffectiveness.

I think back to the middle of 2012 when he was with the 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh kept him out of games in favor of Colin Kaepernick even when he was healthy again. I think about how we all marveled at the opportunity for the Chiefs to get him, and we did. And I think now, however, that maybe Harbaugh saw something that we just couldn't see.

I do know a lot of Chiefs fans see it, but I'm like most Chiefs fans, enjoying Smith when he does well, banking on how smart everyone says he is and how athletic everyone says he is, and it is true those things do shine and make us happy just enough to keep us from seeing through it all.

But the truth is Smith simply doesn't have all of the got-it he needs to get us the distance, he just doesn't. I hear things like "Smith is really successful at this, that, and the other thing so give him a break!" and he has led the Chiefs to winning records each of the past three years.

Buuut then I look at things like the caliber of teams we've played in those three years. Really, except for the New England and Seattle wins in 2014 and the Denver win in 2015, really, what really good teams have we beaten? I also look at something I've tried to rationalize away and think Whull we'll just prove them wrong won't we -- Alex Smith will show them they're wrong!

That something is the quarterback rankings NFL pundits, reporters, journalists, and media experts provide us mostly to help us get our fantasy league teams drafted. If you've ever looked at them, those pundits across the board rank Smith no higher than the 20th best QB in the league. Whuuut? That can't be right -- these guys have to have it wrong -- not smart athletic versatile sharp wise-game-manager once-a-No.-1-overall-pick ALEX SMITH!

I'm not kidding you. Smith may reach as high as 18 or 19 on somebody's list, but if you look you'll see that some them will rank milquetoast quarterbacks above Smith, some will even rank rookies or unproven quarterbacks or even back-ups above Smith. Seriously, not a single mention of "Alex Smith" in the top 20 from just about all of them, much less a mention remotely close to being among the top 10 QB's around today. There are 32 teams in the NFL.

I've tended to slough this off as anti-small-market anti-media-darling anti-Kansas-City-podunk-nowhere-midwest-cow-town bias, but I hate to say it...

Are these "experts" on to something?

I think back to that Niners playoff game against New Orleans in 2011 when Smith was extraordinary. Wow that guy will come to Kansas City and do that for us?! Buuut then, yes, I think about the game he played right after that. -- the NFC Championship game against the much less talented New York Giants. He was awful. Well, not really awful but definitely not-nearly-as-good-as-he-should've-been-when-he-should-have-been. Annnd, really, that's not much different than awful. Yes, I understand Smith could not rely on his receivers who did play very poorly in that game, but please, let's face it, it was a close enough game, and big-game quarterbacks get the job done.

What about this year? Have you really looked carefully at the Chiefs offensive production this year, in the four games we've played? Go ahead, look at it.

It has been pathetic. It really has.

We've had one quarter that has been any good, the 4th in that Chargers game (and you could say we should add that nice TD drive in overtime, but the Chargers defense was exhausted that whole time). Otherwise we've bungled and bobbled and buffooned our way around the field. The first three quarters of the Chargers game were a joke. How many touchdowns? One, that nice slant to Tyreek Hill at the very end of the 3rd quarter to make the game 24-10. Before that? Putrid.

The Texans game? Putrid. Some write that off as a bad day for the Chiefs. Okay, I understand. But the offense was not just off but atrocious. Some will say the Texans are a decent team. We'll have to see, but two years ago in their first 2014 game, at home, the Chiefs got clobbered by the Titans who ended up going 2-14 for the year.

The Jets game? Offensively anyway, putrid. The Chiefs won 24-3 but the offense scored one touchdown, a nice crossing pattern pass to Travis Kelce. The offensive ineptitude was overshadowed by phenomenal defensive play, but it could be pointed out that the Jets had a similar offensive meltdown the following week, so was it really all our defense or just the opponent's ineptitude?

The Steelers game? Super putrid. Our defense in this one was horrific, but -- yesss -- the offense was even worse. We scored two meaningless second-half touchdowns when it was already a blowout. Earlier we looked like the Keystone Kops (how many times did I use that reference during the abysmal '07-'09 years) this against a relatively poor and injury-plagued Steelers defense. There was just no excuse for Sunday night, none whatsoever.

I know many are blaming Andy Reid for all this, and I got that too. We've looked thoroughly unprepared in every single game we've played so far. Some will say we started off poorly last year and look at what happened. But let's face it last year after the 1-5 start we got a cushy schedule of teams to play to go 10-0, and even then...

We barely won the Pittsburgh game, at home, against a poor rookie quarterback.

We barely won the San Diego home game and almost lost it lucking out when their guy dropped an easy touchdown pass and Rivers couldn't get the ball in the end zone with it at the one-yard line and about a minute left.

We barely won the Cleveland game -- also at home -- when a flustered Johnny Manziel (now out of pro football) simply couldn't finish a drive deep in our territory at the end of the game.

What, with a terrific running game featuring Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, and a returning Jamaal Charles, with a solid core of receivers -- finally! -- featuring Jeremy Maclin, Chris Conley, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce, with a revamped offensive line... Look at this explosive offense -- really, I feel like Vince Lombardi on the sidelines miked for NFL Films: "Will someone tell me what the hell's going on around here?!"

I think I know, I do. I see Alex Smith out there. I see him not being able to measure the defense well enough to know which receiver he really needs to target. I see him ditch his progressions way too soon -- what's new? I see him have little confidence in his arm to throw the ball in those tight windows when he absolutely has to. I see him completely miss wide open receivers because he simply doesn't have the field vision to grasp where those receivers are. I see him throw passes that receivers just can't catch: too wide or too heavy or too off-target or too something-not-good, and if he doesn't even do that he just dances around before he gets sacked.

I'm sorry, but as I think deeply about all this and look at what's going on out there, I just can't see how Alex Smith is going to get us the distance, not even close. Again, outside the end of the Chargers game, in four games so far this season we have two meaningful offensive touchdowns. Unless Andy Reid starts doing the thing he does well and starts preparing us for games -- that's his talent, we all know it, and it hasn't been happening -- then we're going to be stuck in the deep morass for much longer.

I'm actually okay with putting Nick Foles in, really. I am. I know we're still light years from that good, solid D&D guy, that is still crushing us -- and I know we're still blistering our brains with wondering who can be our quarterback when the Patriotses and the Packerses and the Steelerses just never have to do that ::sigh:: --

But anytime now, let's go with Foles. I'm sorry, but when I saw his preseason play he stayed resolute in that pocket and found a way to get the ball to the open man. I'd like to see Andy Reid take his purported magic with quarterbacks and see if Foles can get back to his 2013 form.

How about Philip Rivers? A work colleague of mine keeps telling me we should trade for him. The Chargers are offering, and he's at the start of a four-year deal so there is the conception he's got at least a couple good years left. To be honest, I'd do it in a heartbeat, but I really think the price would be too high. But Philip Rivers, damn, how great is this guy, he plays with broken backs and torn knees, and if he had this offense? With his phenomenal field vision and passing arm?

I feel sad for Smith, I really do, but we all know there is the precedent with him here, in 2012 -- getting replaced by someone who just got the job done -- with Kaepernick the Niners went to the Super Bowl that year.

What do you think?

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Chiefs at Steelers - Week 4 - Record: 2-2

There is just something more.

There is. There is something about all this that goes far beyond which team has what talent, how a team is coached one way or the other. There just is. For those of you who read my blog and continue to read it, I'd like to think that you've given at least a bit of credit to this.

Call it the Steelers being charmed, call it the Chiefs being cursed, something like that, but any time our Chiefs go to Pittsburgh that thing whatever it is is just amplified like crazy.

Yes, I agree, I don't think we're as talented as we think we are.  We have young defensive backs who got schooled tonight. We have an offensive line that plays very inconsistently. We have a quarterback who will just not play the game that he truly can. And I'm not denying at all that Pittsburgh's three B's, Roethlisberger, Bell, and Brown are extraordinary players.

But a difference of this much? I truly don't think you can say it is just because of some difference in the two teams. Thing is, it is just too huge and

It just happens all the time.

In 2006, the Chiefs lost in Pittsburgh 45-7, and the whole game it felt like they had 17 players on the field on both sides of the ball. That was a year the Chiefs made the playoffs, and the next greatest point differential in a Chiefs loss that year was 13. In 2014, the insane things that went against the Chiefs were just too numerous to count, though I did try to. Go ahead, read my blog post from that game, you'll see.

Remember, this was a Steelers team that got shellacked last week 34-3. This was a Steelers team that had two of its key defensive leaders out of the game completely.

And so this one started fine. We made some fine plays, then stalled. We stopped the Steelers just fine, then got the ball back and

Spencer Ware fumbled it away. They got a touchdown.

Then Alex Smith threw a tipped pick. They got a touchdown.

Then Dustin Colquitt shanked a punt. They got a touchdown.

Our guy Tyreek Hill returned a punt for a touchdown, but it was called back after a very questionable call by the officials on an illegal block. Late in the 3rd quarter the Chiefs FINALLY sent Hill on a deep route and Smith threw a strike, but their D-back just barely got his hand in to push Hill's hand away just as he was about to grasp it. Really, that should be a PI, but, well,

That's just it.

There's that thing.

When Colquitt finally got a beauty of a punt off and Tyreek Hill et all were right there to down it inside the 5, the ball still squirted into the endzone -- it just skipped right past everyone. Guh? When the Chiefs got into field goal range with 8 seconds left in the 1st half, it started pouring rain -- really pouring. Sure enough, the holder slightly mishandled the soaking-wet ball, and Santos' kick bounced off the upright.

As I wrote after the last Chiefs game in Pittsburgh, you can't make this stuff up.

That's because, as sure as there are sure things...

There's that thing.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Jets at Chiefs - Week 3 - Record: 2-1

Major professional team sports leagues don't like the Royals and the Giants.

Yes, I'm opening this post with a baseball reference, because these two teams have dominated major league baseball postseason play over the past few years. And as a passionate fan of both teams, watching them over that time and getting a feel for how they are considered through it all, I can tell...

The powers-that-be hate it.

In fact, they hate when any team keeps the Dodgers or Yankees from getting into postseason play. Boston teams are always an acceptable alternative, and maybe a handful of others whose players can be showcased as media darlings.

People don't think much about the advantages a team has being one of the most valued. Did you know that the last time there was a baseball playoff run without a Yankees team or a Dodgers team was 1993. Go ahead, look it up. This "failure" was so bad that 1994 was washed out so the major leagues could regroup to ensure the Yankees got back into things and the Dodgers did so often enough.

I also preface this post with all of this because Forbes recently put out its updated list of the most valued franchises in professional sports. Some of the teams are European soccer teams and sorry, that's soccer, it's way over in Europe -- doesn't count.

Sure enough, every team at the top of the list is from a major media market in a metro area with an extraordinarily large population. The No. 1 team is the Dallas Cowboys, but seven of the next nine are -- well -- I'll just name them, in order:

New York Yankees
New England Patriots
New York Knicks
New York Giants
Los Angeles Lakers
New York Jets
Los Angeles Dodgers

Not far behind are the Chicago Bears, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Cubs, Boston Celtics, and Los Angeles Clippers. A handful of other teams showing up after them on the list are there because they've had recent winning runs that make them a bit popular at the present time.

Here's the thing. Fughedabowd getting any cred if you're a small market, media repulsed team like the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, were listed at 43 overall on the list. At first I thought, woo-hoo! -- We're up there at 43rd! Not bad! (There're 122 major professional sports franchises in North America.) Well, more bad than you think considering that 27 of the 32 NFL teams all appear in the top 50. This means the Chiefs among NFL teams rank at 21st.  Now there really isn't much difference, however, between our value of $1.53 billion and the others in that latter range, so, not much of a big deal.

Tossing the outlier of the Cowboys, there still is quite a difference between that value and that of the Patriots at $3.2 billion. In fact, all these numbers started getting inflated a year ago after Steve Ballmer had to pay the racialist premium on the NBA's Clippers to ensure there was nooo racism among ownership by ponying up $2 billion for a team worth half that. They get more stratospheric the more they realize how much we're all willing to pay for gratification of our aggressions and vicariousnesses.

My point regarding our Chiefs and this season is in light of what's against us through all this is the Chiefs absolutely need that intangible, that major got-it intangible to truly set them apart from other teams. In fact I could express my deep concerns about this from the text of an email I sent to my uncle this week. I thought it'd work here, I'd like to share it with you here, now (a bit proofed and edited):
"Regarding our Chiefs, my main concern is how much this team has it in them to be true contenders--or how little as the case may actually be. I wrote a blog piece two years ago when we played an abysmal game against the Steelers late in the season that essentially cost us the playoffs, and the contrast couldn't be more stark. That is when I discovered there is a reason teams like the Patriots, Steelers, Packers, simply do not lose -- they simply come through in the clutch in the playoffs. When they don't it is because they may not have the talent that particular year or are suffering from injuries, but each of these teams have that extra something that keeps them winning on a consistent basis.
"I called it 'got-it', as in, these teams just have that something deep inside of them, something that courses through them from the top down that makes them win. Last night the Patriots, with a 3rd string quarterback, won a game handily against a Texans team that pasted the Chiefs just a few days before. This just makes me sad, because the Chiefs are an extraordinarily talented team that do win games on their talent, but damn it I just don't think they have nearly enough 'got-it' to win. Alex Smith is a phenomenally gifted, smart, versatile, athletic quarterback, but for cryin' out loud he just doesn't lead his team down the field enough times to win like the contenders do. 
"Sure I liked the San Diego game. But let's face it, the Chargers defense was exhausted in the second half. Last year when we won a lot of games in a row we played teams that for the most part were pathetic. We won the playoff game largely because the Texans quarterback was a joke. In 2013 we won a bunch of games in a row against teams that, if you noticed, were using their 2nd or 3rd string quarterbacks. Then we do things like hammer New England in 2014 and Denver last year on the road. What gives?
"Apparently our defensive backfield is our greatest weakness. What's with that? For so long it was a strength, and then suddenly it isn't? This is what drives me crazy, how do we keep losing our strengths? And how do the 'got-it' teams continue to win through their weaknesses? When, WHEN will the Chiefs have enough 'got-it'?
"That is really the issue. When I start seeing us do amazing things against teams at full strength, then I'll know. Otherwise I'll continue to be as sad as Chiefs fans have been for some time."
Here is my uncle's brief response, I don't think he'd mind if I share it:
"We just don't have the winning tradition, like we had in the early glory days. And I hate to say it, I felt Marty Schottenheimer was starting to bring it back with his insistence on, 'Defend Arrowhead' mantra. But I really don't think it has been revised. The teams you mention have the tradition we will win period."
Yes, it'd be nice to have the tradition, the talent, the leadership, certainly the "got-it", and definitely the having all that for years on end. But ultimately the issue with relation to this post so far is that this is hard to take advantage of those things when so many powerful people ravish themselves getting the power and money from this whole major professional team sports enterprise. It's as if we need double the amount of those things needed to overcome that.

Of course, really, that is one thing that makes this Chiefs fandom that much more valuable. We know we're up against it, and rooting for our team to do what it takes is more fun than rooting for the teams who get all the helpful establishment cred. It is what makes rooting for a Kansas City team that much more meaningful -- how splendid to see the tough, gutsy Royals beat the all-that New York Mets in the World Series last year.

Which brings us to today's game. 

Now just so you know, the New York Jets is not a New York team I dislike. I actually like them. They are old-AFL. They are Joe Namath. They are that underdog team that beat the vaunted Colts in Super Bowl III. They've also had a tough run of it even being a large market team, joining the Chiefs (with their small market) in never appearing in a Super Bowl since their respective splendid championship runs in '68 and '69.

What did this game look like for us with respect to all those items we'd like to see on a regular basis?

Well, for one thing, we got tons of breaks. We grabbed eight turnovers at the expense of a fumbly, intercepty Jets team. Their QB Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions in the red zone, six altogether after throwing only 15 all of last season. Two of the endzone picks were tipped -- wow did we get lucky. Another turnover was a fumble recovery on a kick coverage that went right into the hands of Demetrius Harris who then had wide open field to score.

On the other hand, we used our talent to stretch the field, yes. Travis Kelce was terrific. Jeremy Maclin started to get a bit more untracked. Chris Conley and Tyreek Hill made fine catches for good yardage at critical times. Alex Smith was once referred to by announcer Mitch Holthus as "the fighter pilot not ejecting" when staying in the pocket to complete a fine pass -- how great was that! And Spencer Ware was a wrecking ball out there -- very nice.

Thing is, we had all kinds of issues with the game of inches.

 one of those key things that shows we've got the got-it, it really is. And the game of inches was a bitch for us today.

In the middle of the second half at some point, with the Chiefs up 17-3, we had that great talent-laden drive that ended with a fantastic Spencer Ware power run into the end zone... except...

Upon further review
, Ware fumbled it into the endzone just as he was stretching the ball to the pylon. In fact, it was crazy, he barely barely barely lost the handle. It wasn't even an inch but a nanometer of his finger. No touchdown, still 17-3, Jets have the ball at the 20. New York took it all the way down to the Chiefs red zone but we did get one of those interceptions.

How about this one? Another episode of decent ball movement in the next series, and we get a 4th-and-1 at about the Jets 40. That's where you just have to go for it. We do, and Ware pounds it up the middle, only to be short by another of those inches. Jets get it back, they storm down, and we get another of those interceptions.

Whew, whew, whew.

We got so many of the nice bounces, but we so majorly benefit from them only because we're not up 31-3 already. It's still a close game at this time, and without the nice picks it's easily 17-17.

Then there are the bad calls against the Chiefs -- mmmmmm I'm telling ya. At a critical point Phillip Gaines was called for pass interference when the ball was not remotely catchable. In a later series Fitzpatrick threw a pass that should have been an illegal touching penalty against a Jets offensive lineman, but the officials just blew the call. 
Ergh ergh ergh.

Thing is, with just under five minutes left in the game, Fitzpatrick threw, yes, another interception.

And this leads to the one thing that you have got to heap loads of credit upon -- our defense. The Jets moved the ball all over the place pushing pushing pushing against our defensive guys, and yet we held. It is easy to say we got lots of breaks -- and we did, yes, in droves.

But the defense had something to do with that. And the stamina -- they were out on the field for 10-play drives in the second half over and over and over again. All of it capped by the wonderful, splendid, fantabulous

Pick-six by Derrick Johnson.

Our defense won this game. Even though they kept saying the Jets don't give up sacks, we had so much pressure on Fitzpatrick, both at the D-line and with our D-backfield stunts, that he threw six interceptions. That's big-time defense.

The offense was actually good enough to win it, it really was, but the inches game hurt us. And so, we're back to the beginning of this post...

Can we finish with the gravitas that a contending team has in droves?

Can we do that all the time, when we just KNOW this team has got it?

And we can show it in a reprieve game next Sunday against the Steelers, at Pittsburgh, on national television, Sunday Night Game of the Week, 5:30 pm (PST, for me, out here on the west coast).

Do we got it?

(Quick note about the font in this post. I have no idea why Blogger can't make consistent fonts throughout, but I've discovered that if I cut and paste something like those email passages, Blogger can't cope with keeping fonts the same consistency, and wrestling with it only does so much. I just can't seem to make the fonts consistent, no matter how much I tell it to, and what you see above has taken me literally about 20 attempts to get as good as it looks here. So yeah, there ya go, for what it's worth. This is as good as I'm going to get it with my limited computer abilities. At least the Chiefs won, there's that.)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Chiefs at Texans - Week 2 - Record: 1-1

That's Chiefs football. Chris Jones gets a hand on a late field goal attempt, partially blocking it, but it goes in anyway. Blocking it would have given us a chance, down only seven with three minutes left -- but yeah, the ball barely makes it over the crossbar. That gives them the 10-point lead.

Then Tyreek Hill, who's been the only real player on the day, takes the kickoff to the house, butttttttt...

Holding call against us.

That's Chiefs football.

So we go down to defeat 19-12, you mean it was that close? (Cairo Santos got one last FG with a minute left.)

The good news? The Texans defensive line had their way with us. Um... why is that good news? It is simply we didn't have our two starting guards because of injury, and I was hoping hoping hoping our backups, decent Zach Fulton and Jah Reid would be good.

They weren't. None of them were. Our O-line today was worthless. It's nice to think that a "stable" offensive line means a good one. I'm still not giving up on these guys, but the offense was a total mess today.

Missed receivers, critical drops, errant passes, and sack after sack after sack, penalty after penalty after penalty -- mistake after mistake after mistake.

The last time we lost a regular season game was last October against Minnesota. Wow, it's been nice since then. Thing is, this game was more like the Cincinnati game, remember that one? We could just never get untracked, kicking a lot of field goals -- Santos had four FG's in this one -- still losing.

More good news is the play of Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West. Those guys are actually doing pretty well. Our running game is fine, really. Then there's our special teams, and damnnn, Tyreek Hill. Very nice. Santos, punter Dustin Colquitt, our kick coverage team, they were the only thing worth anything.

Well, our defense did show up a few times, that's fine. Marcus Peters had a couple picks, that was nice.

But our passing game -- ::whimper::

Our receivers were nowhere. Jeremy Maclin was flustered. Chris Conley was non-existent. Albert Wilson was a non-factor. Reminded me of The Wide Receiver Project, and that's a very, very ugly thing, trust me.

And the turnovers. What a mess. It was just a mess, that's all.

It was simple. There is no question.

The Texans did not beat the Chiefs.

The Chiefs beat the Chiefs.

I still wonder, can this team really be an elite team? Can we have that got-it enough to be contenders? I mean it was nowhere today -- so disappointing. This is not a steady, strong team right now, I'm sorry.

Again, let's see what happens. Let's see if our O-line can be back to respectable. Let's see if our passing game can get back on track and Alex Smith can get back to not getting back to mistrusting his arm and his receivers.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Chargers at Chiefs - Week 1 - Record: 1-0

Well whaddya know.

Very nice comeback.

Down 27-10 in the 4th quarter, how about that...

The Chiefs meant business and got the job done.

10 play, 70+ yard drive in overtime, capped by an Alex Smith option touchdown run, to win a game that was utterly, totally lost.

Yes, this is one of the greatest comebacks in Chiefs history.

Yes yes yes yes yes...

Our defense recovered from its sluggishness the first three quarters. Alex Smith finally finally finally decided to trust his arm and throw the football down the field. Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West were the heart of our team, running with focused ferocity.

That pass Smith made to Ware on the sideline in overtime is evidence enough. Smith can do the job. Can he just have confidence in himself to do it?

This was a tale of two games, really. It was the game of the 4th quarter, of the never-give-up final-10-regular-season-games-of-last-season team, and the game of the first three quarters, the one of the five-of-the-first-six-games-of-last-season choking flailing team.

Here's the story of the first three quarters of Chiefs football, really, transcribed as I was watching what looked like a train wreck. Everything written here between the *** marks was put down during the 3rd quarter when I was watching a listless uncompetitive team:


One thing you really need to have happen in order to be a truly Super Bowl contending team, no matter how good you are, is to enjoy your strengths staying strong and your weaknesses becoming strengths.

For the Chiefs this year, it is looking like the reverse.

Right out of the gate our weaknesses are very huge and unwieldy, and our strengths seem to be made of balsa wood. Shall we review?

A strength? Our resourceful quarterback and more experienced slate of wide receivers. When behind 14-3, then 21-3, then... can Alex Smith really be a class quarterback? Thing is, I'd thought these wide-outs would help him out, but they were non-existent after the first few catches of the game. This team will go nowhere unless they can stretch the field, and yeah, not being able to do so has been a weakness of ours for, um, how many eons?

A weakness? Our run defense. How long ago did I say we need a Ray Lewis type there to do his work. Well, he's not there again in a big way. Wide open lanes for their runners to slash into, just a great big void of any red and gold to stop them. And this makes a QB like Philip Rivers that much better. That's just a nightmare for any opponent, making Rivers better than he already is.

A strength? Our offensive line, stable and now including super stud tackle Mitchell Schwartz. Alas, we gave up critical sacks and could not get our runners untracked. Not crisp, not clean, and just not strong.

A weakness? Our defensive backs. Marcus Peters just had a nightmare of a game. Yes he was up against Keenan Allen who was schooling us before he was injured, but still. John Dorsey went all out and picked up three draft-pick D-backs, will they step it up? Right now that is a lot to ask for. As it is, today Rivers just carved us up like he used to.

A strength? Field position and time of possession. This has been completely reversed today. Colquitt was not great punting, the Chargers had amazing field position and Rivers -- well, you know. Last year in one of our games we did fantastic at keeping Rivers off the field, but today he's been out there all day, even once running 10 yards to pick up 1st down. Hey, hey Chiefs D-line? That's embarrassing.

A weakness? Getting some clutch 3rd down conversions. I saw the graphic, last year the Chiefs were 19th in the NFL in 3rd down conversion rating. Ugh. Today we were worse. Of course we were, that's the theme of this post, isn't it? And another thing related to this, something I've seen for some time. Alex Smith simply cannot beat a blitz. I don't know why teams don't just blitz every down! In one of those last drives Smith got blitzed and he escaped it! Yet he couldn't complete a pass -- where were the should've-been-wide-open receivers?!

I'm now concerned about that list of players I posted in my preview post, the one about the draft picks we'd had from 2012 to 2014. I'm concerned that I just didn't see the playmakers I'd love to have seen. Yeah, Travis Kelce was there, and De'Anthony Thomas -- and while Thomas was inactive today his "heir apparent" Tyreek Hill had a nice touchdown today.

But still, where are our playmakers?

Where where where?

I think too -- not that there isn't a Chiefs fan who doesn't think this -- that not having Justin Houston out there is just a very very very bad thing. Our pass rush -- another of those weaknesses -- was completely non-existent. Rivers had all day to pass. So Justin Houston isn't there. Where is anyone else? The Chargers pass rush got the job done. We were worse than milquetoast.

Our entire defense was worse than milquetoast. It seems with our offense can still be decent, but the key question is now...

Will we make the adjustments?

Ahem, can we make the adjustments?

I'd really like the think that there is genuine hope for this season because of our experience last year when we agonized over the first six weeks -- not unlike the experience of this game today -- and then thrilled to the Chiefs splendid reversal.

So, do we have genuine strengths or are they all illusions? I mean, really, are those strengths we just know we have on our offense just the result of looking at them with rose-colored glasses -- really? Do our intractable weaknesses simply mean this will be yet another lost season?

Really, this was a game we should've easily won, against a considered mediocre team, at home... What's with this?


Then there was the 4th quarter and overtime.

Now I left all those thoughts I had about our first three quarters there, left them all there because they are still concerns. They still are.

What happened when this team woke up?

Well, again, Alex Smith decided he wanted to play like he wanted to. That's key. One thing he did was started throwing to Travis Kelce. What a difference that made. And he reintroduced himself to Jeremy Maclin. Dang it Alex, trust your receivers. Maclin, I mean, wow. Add to that our O-line picking it up, albeit against a tiring Chargers D-line.

Another factor was that stamina. My son told me early in the game the Chiefs were deeper and would outlast the Chargers. That happened. We just looked sharper, faster, quicker from the end of the 3rd quarter on. Melvin Gordon was practically invisible in the second half.

You have to admit that the Chargers' loss of Keenan Allen was crushing. The Chargers had their way with us when he was in there. After he was lost the Chargers just slogged too much.

And how about winning the toss in overtime. Keep Rivers off the field and let our momentum carry us through overtime. That was critical too. Other fortuitous things like that 17-yard Chargers punt that put us in great field position for the game-tying score was terrific.

One thing we can take with us is that the Chiefs DO NOT GIVE UP.

How about that strength?

It is good to be a Chiefs fan today.