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.
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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.
_

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Chiefs Preview 2016

13-14-15.

Those are the numbers. Yes, 13-14-15. These are the numbers that should be the key to the fine Chiefs success everyone is expecting from Kansas City's professional football franchise this year.

If you haven't already got the idea here, these numbers represent the past three seasons of Chiefs football. Even though we have only one playoff win in that time, in each of those three years the Chiefs have had a winning season. Not just average 8-8 type seasons but winning seasons. The worst of them, 2014, we went 9-7 because of critical injuries on our defense suffered in the very first game (Derrick Johnson probably being the most damaging) and just a few crucial breakdowns in games we should have won (San Francisco and Arizona the two that stand out).

What this tells me is that over the past three years Clark Hunt, John Dorsey, and Andy Reid have been successful at building a quality football team, and it appears they are ready to take the next step into the elevated genuine Super Bowl contender class. While I have kept myself from seeing a thing from previews and predictions from the pundits who do these things, I have heard in the distance references to the Chiefs as a team being ranked pretty highly.

Yes, I can't deny that I am with all the other Chiefs fans in being extraordinarily excited about this season. What I believe is a telling indicator of how well a team should play is to look at their drafting from two years before the season. It is those players who should be forming the core of the talent of any football team. So I did, I looked, and here's the list of all those players drafted from 2012 to 2014. They are listed by order of overall draft selection irrespective of which year's draft it was.

Eric Fisher (1-13)
Dontari Poe (11-12)
Dee Ford (23-14)
Jeff Allen (44-12)
Travis Kelce (63-13)
Donald Stephenson (74-12)
Phillip Gaines (87-14)
Knile Davis (96-13)
Nico Johnson (99-13)
Devon Wylie (107-12)
De'Anthony Thomas (124-14)
Sanders Commings (134-13)
DeQuan Menzie (146-12)
Aaron Murray (163-14)
Eric Kush (170-13)
Cyrus Gray (182-12)
Zach Fulton (193-14)
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (200-14)
Braden Wilson (204-13)
Mike Catapano (207-13)
Jerome Long (218-12)
Junior Hemingway (238-12)

There they are, all of them. It is obvious that Scott Pioli's last draft was pretty much a bust, the only player worth anything Dontari Poe. Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson were okay, but they're gone.

The key guys from Dorsey's first two runs, however, are definitely big-time players (in bold above): Eric Fisher, Travis Kelce, Phillip Gaines, De'Anthony Thomas, Zach Fulton, and Laurent Duverney-Tardif.

I understand Gaines still has to be healthy and Thomas has to prove he can last a whole season for them to be fully big-time. As I think about it, you could probably also put Knile Davis in there, but as fast a runner as he is he struggles to find his blocks.

I also note that this does not seem like as many players as it should be. Do other NFL teams have a three year period with this number of authentically promising draft potentialities that is like this? Better? Worse? I don't know. It does seem like there should be more impact players in that mix.

Here's what I see from all this, however. It is that Dorsey means business when it comes to shaping a full roster. He seems to have a keen sense of what to do to get the right players when he must. I mean, tell me, didn't you see this rigor missing with the Pioli's and the Peterson's of the past several years? I sure did. Dorsey's been showing that he not only has the industry but the insight and insistence to be a top notch GM.

To make up for those missing players from that draft he's gotten decent free agents, like Justin March and Albert Wilson. He's also got some studs playing for us both from last year's and this year's draft. From last year Marcus Peters, Mitch Morse, and Chris Conley; from this year Chris Jones, Parker Ehinger, and Tyreek Hill.

Nkay, so, what does it look like for the Chiefs in specific areas? First, the concerns.

Pass rush. With Justin Houston missing the first half of the season, if not more, this is a huge concern. Dee Ford has just not shown he's the guy to get it done off the edge (note that I did not mention him among the big-timers from the 12-13-14 drafts). With the possibility that Tamba Hali may slow a bit because of age, this is even more of an issue. Here's my thought, just a crazy idea from a random blogger: How about moving to a 4-3 and putting Chris Jones on the line? This may give Ford a bit more flexibility about where he can rush, and I did hear somewhere that Ford is improving his run defense.

Run defense. Sure enough, I wonder if we have the linebacking strength outside of D.J. to stop the run. The Chiefs really struggled in this area against Los Angeles and Seattle in the preseason. We won't have Josh Mauga all season, we've just waived Ramik Wilson -- this does not bode well. On the other hand, I think back to the Minnesota game from last year. Yes, it was the last of the losses from that excruciating start to the season last year putting us at 1-5, but do you remember that we stuffed Adrian Peterson cold that day? He could go nowhere. On the other other hand, a colleague at work mentioned (I sometimes get these kinds of unsolicited notices, so, oh well) that the Chiefs said their main concern was their safeties. Yes, there is Eric Berry, but will Ron Parker be as decent as he was last year? And who do we have beyond that without stalwarts like the now-retired Husain Abdullah?

Finishing. Believe it or not, this Chiefs team has done a decent job of finishing games, but that is mostly because they've built modest leads and held. Except, remember last season's Chicago game? We didn't do that. Notable among our successes here was the Cleveland game, but we were facing a very flustered Johnny Manziel who is pretty much now out of football. The key question is how we do when we're six points down with two minutes left and the ball on our own 30. Can we win that ballgame, really, can we? All true Super Bowl contenders do, they just do. I'm going to be very concerned if we don't and all we've got is lots of 'splaining we feel we have to do. Seems like the Chiefs brass in the past have always done far too much 'splaining and not enough crowing about clutch wins.

Okay, enough of the concerns, now to the encouragements.

Offensive line. Last year it was a Chinese fire drill on the O-line. There were, what, 4,293 different O-line combinations? This year it seems we're set. The key question mark is how well Parker Ehinger can hold that left guard spot as a rookie. But dang, getting Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle is a John Dorsey coup. Zach Fulton and Jah Reid are terrific back-ups. The key is the protection they've got to give Alex Smith. I really really really don't want to see Smith ditch his progressions all the time and I think a stronger line will really help with that.

Wide receiver. Damn, how great is it to have a full slate of wide-outs who actually, truly, genuinely look decent for once. Remember the Chiefs wide receiver history? I didn't think so, too ugly, yes. Maclin, Conley, Wilson all look terrific, and everyone is raving about this new kid, Tyreek Hill. I was also one of those who really didn't want the Chiefs to give up on De'Anthony Thomas, and I'm glad they didn't. The Chiefs are high on rookie DeMarcus Robinson, too, enough to trade away Rod Streater the free agent they'd just signed over the summer.

Field position and time of possession. Lest we forget the Chiefs bread and butter. The Chiefs special teams is clearly on the front lines of making these two things happen, but keep in mind that all those people who blab that the Chiefs aren't exciting enough don't get the Chiefs. Andy Reid is ruthlessly methodical, it's one of the things that make him such a good coach. We'll start a series at midfield -- great! -- but then it takes nine plays for us to score -- that's our game. The advantage is it wears down the defense, and I think it is one of the most significant factors that make it so we can hold on to games like we've done these past three years.

Obviously there are other positives like our running backs, and other not-so-positives like our somewhat poor 3rd down conversion ability (yes I too am hoping we don't have to watch Alex try to run for a 3rd down every other time we need one). Questions too, like how effective will Jamaal Charles be when he comes back, and how will two offensive coordinators work?

All of this does have a distinctively different twist to it all, don't you think? Have you discovered that we're raving about our explosive offense, but expressing most of our concerns about our very real potential defensive liabilities? This is why it is refreshing to see our leadership being unabashed about addressing our key needs -- yes Dorsey drafted three defensive backs this year, but at least he means business up there to get the best we can get down here.

I have to close with this very fun reminder about games of note over the past three years -- remember the number? 13-14-15. At some point in those seasons the Chiefs destroyed the eventual Super Bowl winner twice (in 2014 it was New England, 2015 Denver), I mean we pasted them -- and each time we forced to the bench their future Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks (Brady and Manning). Who has ever done that? Also in 2014 we defeated the previous Super Bowl winner, Seattle.

It is said that if you can do something really really well -- and handling all these fine teams as we did was something done really really well -- then you can do it again. I see the Chiefs having a tremendous amount of self-confidence this year that starts with the fine work Clark, John, and Andy have been doing.

There is no way that can't pay off in a major way. Maybe this year will be the year in which the only number that counts is 51.

As in Super Bowl 51.

And it does look like they're going back to the roman numeral thing.

So yeah, looking at Super Bowl LI. That's a fine number.
_

Saturday, September 03, 2016

2016 Chiefs Season Preview Note

Yes! My Chiefs season preview is on the way! I do want to post one this weekend so readers can get a feel for what I'm thinking well before our opener next Sunday, but I've been so busy lately that I haven't been able to get to it. Even today, a casual Saturday, has been booked, a lot of that is just putting in some much needed resting -- my work is exhausting! I really want to put a decent effort into my writing. We've also been having computer issues at home here, so, well, there ya go.

But enough of my whining. I'm chompin' and chompin' to get writing!

It'll be up soon!
__

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Chiefs Exhibition Game Today

I felt I should put a blog post in today as the Chiefs exhibition season begins, but I generally say nothing about preseason football here. None of the games count except to see which of our finest players will be injured for when it does count.

I know most NFL'ers feel they must have four whole grueling preseason games for the expressed purpose of seeing which players can handle the pro game so rosters may be filled out. Thing is, if there were only, say, two exhibition games for all the teams, then wouldn't the amount of game time for seeing-how-good-your-guys-are be the same? So what difference does it make?

Anyway, just putting this post here too to let you know that I will soon be putting up my regular Chiefs season preview post. There are indeed a number of things on my mind about this upcoming Chiefs season, as always. I try to be the voice of one who has not been paying much attention to things because of my avowed sports celibacy, but I do confess that I have been peeking at a number of Chiefs things this offseason. Not a lot, but enough to color my impressions about our prospects.

I'd love to write more here, but today's exhibition game is on the NFL Network, so I'm off to enjoy it, well, enjoy it as much as I can while cringing every time one of our most valuable players gets clocked.

Until the Preview Post...

Go Chiefs!
_

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Ten Most Memorable Seasons

A few years ago I wrote about the best Chiefs seasons and the worst Chiefs seasons with a variety of different conceptions considered. After enjoying a pretty danged great 2015 season, I thought I'd compile my selections for the most memorable Chiefs seasons. I'm excited about having you read them, think about whether or not you agree, and just join me in reminiscing about some truly fun times in Chiefs history.

I am making one critical qualification with this list, however. I am only including seasons since the merger. Yes, that does mean since the Chiefs last won the Super Bowl, I know. But if this list included the entirety of Chiefs history, the 1969 season would be at the top hands-down. Thing is that's just too easy. I've taken on the challenge of picking the most memorable from seasons when there was no Super Bowl to be had, indeed barely a single AFC Championship game in the mix.

I must also confess that I only really started following the Chiefs fully after our Super Bowl win. I was nine years old, about the time most youngsters start getting a veritable conception that the Chiefs are the most important thing in the universe.

There were a number of memorable seasons, definitely, in some ways more memorable because you'll note most of them occurred after severely painful times for Chiefs fans, and yes, there've been many of those. The thing that makes them memorable is thrilling to the fact that, yes, this season we're a good team! after we'd been so bad for so long.

I'm also only including seasons that were favorably memorable, which means seasons like 2012, while memorable indeed, was atrocious. Yes, the most honestly sincere among us may openly revile lots of things within these seasons, I know there is a lot for a seasoned troller to mercilessly ridicule. I got that. But this effort is all about identifying the very best of Chiefs football play. Every season on the list is one in which for much of that time, in some way in some form, Chiefs fans could be exceptionally proud of our team.

Which ones would you pick? Here're mine, counting down to No. 1.

10.  1997  Key players: Tony Gonzalez, Marcus Allen, Rich Gannon, Derrick Thomas, James Hasty, Dale Carter, Joe Phillips, Kimble Anders, Will Shields, Donnie Edwards, Andre Rison, Jerome Woods, Reggie Tongue, Dan Williams, Elvis Grbac. Featured game: Nov 16 vs Denver, Pete Stoyanovich hits a 54-yard field goal to win it at the gun.

Sure this was the season we got hosed in the Divisional Playoff against the Broncos, and I think because that game leaves such a putrid taste in our mouths we forget about how extraordinary this team really was. I have to confess I think that game also keeps me from placing this season higher on the list. Note I included Rich Gannon as a key player, but this is not to dismiss Elvis Grbac because I'm not one of those who think he shouldn't have started that playoff game. Gannon did however play exceptionally well for us after he was pretty much languishing as a career backup.

Don't forget, too, the Chiefs defense that year was one of the best in NFL history -- sorry, not hyperbole from a rose-colored glasses-wearing Chiefs fan. It was just lost in the mess of that unceremonious playoff loss -- but yeah, I guess we're just such a podunk midwest puddle to the east coast elite sports blatherers who'll never recognize that fact.

9.  2010  Key players: Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Mike Vrabel, Eric Berry, Tamba Hali, Matt Cassel, Tony Moeaki, Thomas Jones, Brian Waters, Glenn Dorsey. Featured game: Sep 13 vs San Diego, Dexter McCluster takes a punt return to the house to seal the win on a sensational opening day after three of the most abysmal years in Chiefs history.

Just a note, if I don't include the key players you remember, forgive me, the ones I cite are just some, in no particular order. All-Pros and Pro-Bowlers will always be on the list -- some players will show up more than a few times, certainly.

Naturally 2010 is there because the '07, '08, '09 period was so depressing. We played well enough to make the playoffs, and I just think of that interception return for a touchdown by Eric Berry in the Titans game that was the clinching play.

8.  1986  Key players: Bill Kenney, Mike Pruitt, Stephone Paige, Carlos Carson, Nick Lowery, Deron Cherry, Bill Maas, Lloyd Burress, Boyce Green, Henry Marshall. Featured game: Dec 21 vs Pittsburgh. Those three splendid, wonderful, fabulous special teams touchdowns to get us the win and the playoff berth.

Before the win over the Steelers, we pasted the Broncos at home, a team that would go on to the Super Bowl that year. We intercepted John Elway four times. The following week we got by a good Raiders team, with our defense doing the job again, this time picking Jim Plunkett four times. This was another season that followed pathetic Chiefs years just before, so making those playoffs was exciting, especially since it was the first playoff berth we'd had in 15 years.

Of course our fantastic defense went limp against backup Jets quarterback Pat Ryan in the Wild-Card Game, but the season was still tremendous fun.

7.  2006  Key players: Larry Johnson, Tony Gonzalez, Trent Green, Bernie Pollard, Ty Law, Jared Allen, Will Shields, Brian Waters, Damon Huard. Featured game: Dec 31 vs Jacksonville. While we were pretty much in command of the game, beholding what happened through the evening to see if we'd miraculously get that playoff spot was unforgettable.

This was the year after a very promising 2005 season ended with the Chiefs barely missing the playoffs. It started off well at 7-4 when a crushing give-up-the-big-lead loss to the Browns and an insane loss to the Chargers put us at death's door. We scratched out a win against the Raiders and then discovered before the final day of the regular season that we had a 1 in 16 chance to make the playoffs.

Lo and behold: (1) we won, (2) Tennessee lost, (3) Cincinnati lost (with the help of a missed Bengals field goal, of all things, that would've won it for them), and (4) Denver lost when the Niners' Joe Nedney hit on his field goal late in overtime to get us in. Again, it can't be said enough -- Wow.

6.  2013  Key players: Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles, Dexter McCluster, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Dontari Poe, Eric Berry, Brandon Flowers. Featured game: Sep 19 vs Philadelphia. Andy Reid wins against his old Eagles team in a Thursday night nationally broadcast game, taking us to 3-0 giving us more wins than we'd had in the entire 2012 season.

This was probably the most pronounced example of the joy of winning right after a wretched previous Chiefs experience. 2012 was indeed the worst of them all, and yet this 2013 Chiefs team stormed out to a mind-boggling 9-0 start. We simply could not beat the horse teams, however, losing twice to the Broncos, Chargers, and Colts, each, the last loss that abject heart breaker in the Wild-Card Game. Still, winning and winning and winning through that streak was a beautiful, beautiful thing.

5.  2015  Key players: Alex Smith, Charcandrick West, Spencer Ware, Travis Kelce, Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Jeremy Maclin, Derrick Johnson, Sean Smith, Dontari Poe, Josh Mauga, Eric Berry, Marcus Peters. Featured game: Nov 15 vs Denver. We clobber the Broncos, finally, at their place, forcing Peyton Manning to the bench and solidifying the legitimacy of our ferocious run to get back into playoff contention.

It is so fresh in our memories. We start 1-5 and even the best of us knowing this team was much better than that were feeling the worst despair. Then against Pittsburgh we won. We went to London and annihilated the Lions, then Denver, then an impossible streak that ran the table. The Chiefs won every single other game of the season, and doing it with style and resilience and fortitude that made this easily one of the best seasons in Chiefs post-merger history.

Of course honorable mention for the featured game must be the playoff win against Houston. The week before the game knowing we had everything in place to win a playoff game we hadn't won in 22 years, the game itself -- just a rapturously dominant win, and the week after joyfully anticipating taking on an elite playoff team in the Divisional. A very memorable two weeks of Chiefs enjoyment.

And, I mean, 2015 -- only 5th among the 10? Which seasons could be higher? Well, here're my top four picks. I think you'll like them.

4.  1993  Key players: Joe Montana, Marcus Allen, Kimble Anders, Keith Cash, Willie Davis, Tim Grunhard, Dale Carter, Harvey Williams, Neil Smith, Dan Saleaumua, Derrick Thomas. Featured game: Jan 8 vs Pittsburgh. The most exciting game of the post-merger Chiefs playoff history, by far. (And yes, we all know, our playoff history is not very expansive.) Anyway, the late blocked punt, the Montana-to-Barnett TD connection to tie it, the Lowery field goal in OT to win it. Awesome.

Joe Montana brings his magic to KC and helps get us the deepest into the playoffs of any year since Super Bowl IV. What a ride. Just that alone is the highlight of this very deserving memorable year.

3.  2003  Key players: Priest Holmes, Trent Green, Dante Hall, Tony Gonzalez, Eddie Kennison, Tony Richardson, Will Shields, Willie Roaf, Gary Stills, Jerome Woods, Greg Wesley. Featured game: Oct 5 vs Denver. Down 23-17 in the middle of the 4th quarter, Dante Hall does it again, only even more spectacularly. Take the punt at, like, his own 5, then weaves all the way back around behind the pursuit and outruns everyone to score. Easily one of the most iconic plays in Chiefs history.

We start 9-0, but our weak defense wilts even more late in the season, and can't stop Peyton Manning in the Divisional Playoff Game. Even with that, this season ranks as one of the greatest ever simply because our offense and special teams (can you say "Dante Hall"?) were so nfmgnking explosive.

I mean record-breaking explosive. Trent Green slingin' it, Priest Holmes slashin' it and Will Shields et al poundin' it (you know Holmes with this O-line scored 27 touchdowns. Get - out), Tony Gonzalez leapin' the length of tall buildings in single bounds, and Dick Vermeil gleefully calling it all. So - much - fun.

2.  1981  Key players: Joe Delaney, Bill Kenney, Henry Marshall, Carlos Carson, Gary Barbaro, Gary Green, Mike Bell, Nick Lowery, Art Still, Jack Rudnay, Billy Jackson. Featured game: Sep 6 vs Pittsburgh. The opener was a thrilling see-saw affair between the supposedly pitiful Chiefs and the certainly powerhouse Steelers -- and we actually kept up with them. The Steelers and their fans had to be shell-shocked. The Chiefs were rewarded by coming out on top at the end, a very encouraging portend of more to come during the season.

This year was plopped right in the middle of a bunch of crappy Chiefs years, and is one of the reasons it is ranked this high. Even when the Chiefs have won five or six Super Bowls in the next several years and justifiably push their way into this list, I really can't see how this season can ever drop out, no way. Even though we didn't make the playoffs, it is so memorable because it was a sublimely delightful oasis in a sea of Chiefs ineptitude.

They actually got to 8-4 after trouncing Seattle -- even hammering the champion Raiders twice along the way -- before they couldn't hold it. It was truly a miracle team. This team will forever be one of the most endearing in Chiefs' fans hearts.

And Number One among them... What do you think? Everyone has their own opinion, here's mine...

1.  1990  Key players: Steve DeBerg, Christian Okoye, Albert Lewis, Todd McNair, Stephone Paige, Derrick Thomas, John Alt, Mike Webster, Barry Word, Nick Lowery, Kevin Ross, Dan Saleaumua, Neil Smith. Featured game: Dec 9 vs Denver. Reigning AFC champion Denver was in a major rut -- they'd lost a bunch of games in a row, I don't remember how many. They came into Kansas City and John Elway encountered fans so loud he couldn't hear himself think. He whined about it, so the referee stopped play to tell the fans to be quiet. Yee-eah. 

In the 4th quarter when the game was still close at 24-20, DeBerg hit Robb Thomas on a crossing route and he didn't stop running, down the sideline for the game-clinching score.

For some reason I will never forget that play. It was just such an in-your-face-Broncos play. It was just such an it's-for-real,-now's-our-time kind of play. Phenomenally memorable.

For you see, there are a number of reasons this year gets the No. 1 nod from me.

It was the true launching point for the decade of dominance for the Chiefs. They owned the '90's. In the entire NFL only one other team, Buffalo, had a better overall regular season record than the Chiefs from 1990 to 1999 (yes, even better than Dallas' or San Francisco's record during that time). Now, the Chiefs playoff record was another story, and that requires a whole other story as to why -- which, sadly, we all know all too well. That didn't take away from the memorable nature of the great Chiefs play during that decade.

Steve DeBerg had a quarterback season for the ages, he really did. Bounced all over the place his entire career, maligned as a choker -- and much of that was justified, yes -- DeBerg was still a gamer, a hard-worker, a leader, a warrior, and you know what? When he was on he was a damn good passer. He was smart, accurate, and his play-action was some of the best you could ever see. In 1990, he put it all together and was the most important factor in giving the Chiefs their most memorable post Super Bowl IV season ever.

Yes there was Derrick Thomas and his ungodly ability to sack the quarterback. Yes there was the Nigerian Nightmare Christian Okoye still running over people. Yes there were several players of note that got us this season. All of them made this splendidly memorable, yes.

For one thing DeBerg had 23 touchdown passes to 4 interceptions. Damnnn. Do you know that this interception ratio -- 0.9% -- is the 3rd best ever? In all of NFL history? And even that isn't the greatest thing about him. He broke his pinky finger on his non-throwing hand in something like the fourth-to-last game of the season, something like that, and he never went out. He never missed a game. The backup Steve Pelluer attempted 5 passes all year. Those were the only non-DeBerg quarterback passes thrown all year. In the last game against Chicago, DeBerg was in there, the pathetic cast on his finger flapping about as he stormed down the field with his team to score points and win the game.

Do you remember this fun fact? That later Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl-winning head coach Bill Cowher was our defensive coordinator that year? And that later Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl-winning head coach Tony Dungy was our defensive backs coach that year? And that now Arizona Cardinals team-turning-around head coach Bruce Arians was our running backs coach that year?

The crushing thing was that insane loss to Miami in the playoffs when we were up 16-3 at the start of the 4th quarter. It was indeed just another of those ridiculous unluck losses the Chiefs are so famous for. The stupid things you can't blame anyone for, not even Steve DeBerg. That just-missed interception by Albert Lewis -- those kinds of things that are just killers.

I truly believe this team could've made it to the Super Bowl, I do. I honestly think with our strong talent, our youthful enthusiasm, our fine coaching, and the career year DeBerg was having, we honestly could've made it.

And I loved that team.

I don't know what you think. Your list may be different. A lot of it depends on the personal attachment to players, coaches, games, plays, events, experiences -- all perfectly valid.

In fact, my opinion itself has changed in the way I've looked at these seasons. When I made that list of best Chiefs seasons ever back in 2013, I had '81 above '90. I think I've just become more fond of '90 as more of a memorable one. Again, what are your picks?

Here're my honorable mentions, by the way. How about 1971 for those who remember that great season before the infamous overtime loss to Miami in the Divisional Game? There was also 1989 with the Christian Okoye explosiveness, 1991 when we beat the Raiders to finish the season and then beat them again the following week in the playoffs, 1994 when Joe Montana played in his final season, 1995 when we had another dominant 13-3 regular season, and 2005 when we went 10-6 but barely missed the playoffs.

I'm actually looking forward to being able to add some years to this list that include seasons with some thrilling playoff wins, some deep runs into through the postseason, even a Super Bowl victory or two!

Here's to expanding this list to add those seasons very soon!
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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Chiefs 2016 Preview - Post-2015 Season Remarks II

When I was in the 5th grade my school's PE class had a softball league. I was elected a captain and got to pick players for my team in a draft, held in the main office with the other captains. Because I was in Little League and the other captains weren't, I knew I had an advantage. Even though I was a poor baseball player myself, I knew who the better players were.

Sure enough, "David's Demolishers" crushed everyone. My lineup was a murderer's row of hitters. We won every game we played by several runs, putting away each opponent early. Their defeats were so mercilessly demoralizing, the contests so tediously anticlimactic, that the PE teacher literally ended the season early.

I say this because, as I've shared in this blog before, my favorite NBA team is the Golden State Warriors. I've been a fan since my parents took me to Oracle back when it was simply the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum or something like that in 1971 to watch the Warriors play Lew Alcindor and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Yes, there was that very cool Rick Barry-led championship in '75, and yes, everyone reveled in the Chris Mullin-Tim Hardaway team of the late '80's-early '90's, but other than that, the Warriors had been traditionally one of the more pathetic doormats of professional basketball. I can honestly say I've been a fan though all of the worst of it, and believe me, there was so much of it. That was until the new Lacob-Gruber ownership radically transformed the Warriors leadership climate, and plugged in great management people to build a team around a healthy Stephen Curry.

Wow.

Stephen Curry hitting his patented teardrop jumper
The San Antonio-Golden State game last night was
the best regular-season matchup by combined 
winning percentage in NBA history
Last night the Warriors welcomed a historically great San Antonio Spurs team into Oracle, and they demolished them. I like that term because it makes me remember my 5th grade softball juggernaut, and because the term was notably used by this Slate writer in this very fun piece.

I share this too because Stephen Curry's favorite NFL team is the one from his home state, the Carolina Panthers. He is best buds with Cam Newton, who himself is arguably the best player in professional football. The Warriors are much like the Panthers, talented, well-coached, unrelenting, all those other kinds of adjectives that describe teams that pretty much demolish their opponents. Not only does each team have the best player in their respective leagues, but they each have arguably the best defensive player in their sports. The Warriors have uber-stopper Draymond Green, and the Panthers have uber-stuffer Luke Kuechly.

I also see the Warriors and Panthers as two teams the elitist media-darling-favoring ivory-tower-dwelling powers-that-be would rather not showcase. They're not from the larger or more favored markets -- I think the Powers had been juuust fine with the Warriors and Panthers being in the dregs of competition while the New York teams (Yankees, Giants, Rangers) and the Boston teams (Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics) and the Los Angeles teams (Dodgers, Lakers) and a few other darling teams (Packers, Steelers, Heat) were ruling the roost.

But see, when those Powers do the messing around with competitive integrity -- which I firmly believe they have particularly in NBA basketball when the Lakers and the Celtics have always been handed advantages to keep them winning so the league could stay afloat -- when they do that, they must still sustain some level of authentic integrity to keep the fans knowing their team has a chance.

Enter a team like the Warriors and a team like the Panthers, who've been so committed to excellence, and so dedicated to the hard work it takes from top to bottom, and so exceptionally skilled at making great teams with the tools they have, that they've actually outdistanced their competition by miles to get to the place where they are now. (The Powers must be going apoplectic with baseball's Kansas City Royals doing the same thing right now, but we'll save that for another discussion)

And I wonder. I really wonder how much the NBA is looking at the Warriors and going, "Damn, did we create a 12-headed monster. Is anyone going to keep paying attention when they run the table this year -- again. I mean, if the Spurs look like, as their own coach said, "Boys against men out there," then who can take them on? And if no one can, will fans stop watching?"

Oh yes Stephen Curry can still keep everyone's attention, he is so good. The NBA can still try to prop up some team who can beat them, and maybe they can! Golden State has yet to play the one team I think has the best shot, Oklahoma City. Don't worry, the NBA is doing just fine, and I don't think the fine play of the Warriors hasn't contributed to that in some measure no matter how dominant they've been.

Look at the Panthers. Sorry, but I don't think the Super Bowl contest is going to be anything other than a 49-10 Carolina blowout. I can't see for the life of me how the Broncos have the smallest of chances.

All I saw from the Broncos-Patriots game was the Broncos demonstrating that the Chiefs still could've beaten them in a playoff game. Very frustrating, but I accept it. There is a part of me that believes it was probably best we didn't get into the Super Bowl, because to be honest, I don't think the Chiefs would have a prayer against the Panthers, either.

But you know what else?

I like what John Dorsey can do, and I'm really looking forward to him blowing the lid off that elitist media-darling-favoring ivory-tower-dwelling powers-that-be crap and getting the Chiefs in the mix of being an AFC juggernaut.

Do you know one of my students asked me this question the other day. He asked, "So, what would you think if the Chiefs traded Jamaal Charles?" For a nanosecond I thought, "NO! No way!..." But then it dawned on me.

I realized I had a refreshing and profound confidence in a Chiefs front office that I'd never had before. That Clark has complete trust in the proven abilities of John and his team to make the right decisions. I actually found myself responding to the student, "Know what? If we can get a 1st round pick for him, I'm great with that."

Even so, I'm great with whatever Dorsey thinks is best. Please know I don't for a second want to trade Charles or think he's expendable or any of that.

But it's not my call. And I trust the people whose call it is because I know they'll make it in the very best interests of the Chiefs and their success on the football field.

Really, have you ever really had that feeling before? I admit I did a little with King Carl when he was in his prime. And for good reason -- I mean, the James Hasty acquisition, that alone, very sweet.

I don't think during the Peterson-Schottenheimer regime, however, we ever truly appreciated the gravity of not having a D&D quarterback, or D&D wide receivers for that matter! Even though, yes, we still don't have that quarterback today, we've seen that Alex Smith has the potential to get us to that elite place until we get that guy. And if not? Here's the thing.

I really like the confidence Chiefs fans can now very justifiably have in our leadership.

Already I know we've got to sign our free agents. Every year there are those guys. Yes we want to keep Eric Berry. Yes we want to keep Jeff Allen. Sure it'd be nice to keep Sean Smith too but it seems he's considered as good as gone. I've always worried what would happen if we lost this guy or that guy.

There is much less of that now, and it is so good. Again, we've got the leadership. They know what they're doing. They've got this. They'll stay the course courageously building the culture and deftly constructing the team for that major step to the next level.

Steady now, steady as she goes.

Is that great or what.
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(This weekend, wait for it! The top ten memorable Chiefs seasons in history, according to this writer! See if what I think matches up with what you think!)
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