Thursday, December 08, 2016

Raiders at Chiefs - Week 14 - Record: 10-3

It is now the beginning of the 4th quarter and because I have work early tomorrow I'm going to begin this now. I simply won't do a 4th quarter play-by-play like I did with the recent Broncos game, but I thought as we move along here I'd just put in the standard Chiefs Game Today thoughts.

I will say that right now it is 21-13 Chiefs, on the strength of a Tyreek Hill deep pass TD reception, a short Charcandrick West TD run, and a Hill TD punt return -- all happening within an eight-minute span in the 2nd quarter.

First first first first first-first-first. That loss of D.J. was crushing. We are all holding our breaths wondering if it really is that Achilles heel again. Even though our defense has been stout in spite of the horrible Chiefs offensive play in the 3rd quarter, there is just that major concern.

As it is Ramik Wilson has made some plays. Daniel Sorenson has made some plays. Eric Berry is right there leading the charge. Alex Smith had two miserable turnovers early in that quarter, a pick and a fumble, but our D held them to only three points. That's big.

We simply aren't running the football. They showed a stat on the television that said the Raiders have the 20-something-th run defense in the NFL, and in the first half we gained a whopping 20 yards rushing. Whuh? We did run the ball a little better in that 3rd quarter, with Ware getting some fine yardage, but we're still not doing anything with it. We had 0 points in the 1st quarter and 0 points in the 3rd quarter.

Our defense has been a bit bendy, but to be honest, it is just looking like Derek Carr is off. He's never had the best games against Kansas City, and he's just not been connecting sharply tonight. It is about 20 degrees out there at Arrowhead and Carr has a wobbly pinky. His receivers have just not been tracking well either, lots of missed connections by everyone -- there was just one right there not completed to a wide-open Amari Cooper. That was a major whew.

Meanwhile, Travis Kelce has been amazing. He has made catch-after-catch-after-catch. And nice deep long ones, too. He has stretched the field like crazy, and it is just head-shaking that we haven't been able to take advantage of that on offense.

Alex Smith will make a phenomenal throw one time -- I mean that pass to Hill for the Chiefs first touchdown was a truly beautiful thing -- but then at another time he'll just do something ridiculous. Towards the end of the 3rd quarter we had a 3rd-&-2 and Smith just threw the ball into a blob of Raiders. Um, wasn't somebody open somewhere else?

This is just the thing. This Raiders defense I'm told is just not the best that there is. And we're just flopping around out there against them. Travis Kelce is really the one exception. Jeremy Maclin had one nice reception on his first game back in a month but he's been invisible. Spencer Ware has had a few nice runs but we're just doing nothing with them, and the runs aren't that much -- again he's gotten more in the 2nd half but our offense... ::sigh::

Yeah, so I said I wouldn't do this, but right now there are about four minutes left in the game, and we're still holding that 21-13 lead. Oakland has the ball (but well in their own territory) and our defense has to stop again. I mention this because I'm just wondering what it would've been like if our offense had just gotten the job done when it should have. Right now the Raiders have a chance to tie this game, and it just shouldn't have been that way.

So many opportunities not consummated.

A colleague at work said he felt the Chiefs have five players who are game changers. Five. He pointed out any team would be lucky to have two or three. The Chiefs have five. And most would agree.

Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Justin Houston, Eric Berry, and Marcus Peters.

Unless we have a game-changing play of some kind here at the end of the game, the Raiders could steal this game. Marcus Peters just batted down a deep ball in the end zone. That could be a game-changer, we'll see.

This is where we need our depth to come through though, really. Especially without D.J. we are going to need our other players to step up. We've seen some of that tonight. As we all know, as I've mentioned a number of times in this blog, Dorsey and Reid have emphasized filling out the roster with players who can take care of business when they must step on to the field.

Okay, there's one. Terrance Mitchell. I don't even know where that guy came from, but he's had a fine game there in the D-backfield. Just now he batted a pass away on a 4th-&-6 with Oakland having driven the ball deep into our territory.

And we get the 1st down and proceed to run out the clock.

Nice. We're 1st in the West with all the tiebreakers.

Again, what won this game. Alex Smith making just enough fine plays. Travis Kelce being the best tight end in the NFL. Tyreek Hill being blazing fast. Our defense with Bob Sutton's strategy, Eric Berry's (and yes definitely Derrick Johnson's) leadership, and ever replenished depth getting it done every single time it was needed. (A TV stat showed that we are 2nd in the NFL in points allowed at around 16 a game. We gave up only 13 tonight.)

And just that passion. These guys play with passion and heart and ferocity and never give up and just plain get the job done.
___

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Chiefs at Falcons - Week 13 - Record: 9-3

Okay, so the number is now 13-14-15-16That's the number.

The number of years in the Andy Reid-Alex Smith era the Chiefs have had a winning season.

Today we clinched another winning season, our 4th in row -- how about that, four in a row after that horrific nightmarish 2012 season. You have to admit that this has been pretty danged great. As much as we can say this or that terrible thing about Andy Reid and Alex Smith... dang-it -- they've been winning football games as Kansas City Chiefs people.

As much as I want the Chiefs to go to and win a Super Bowl, as much as Chiefs fans have slavered for that for years and years and years, I mean to even get into the conference championship game for cryin' out loud, you can't deny that this little run here has been quite impressive. I'm not going to look it up, but how many four-year winning-season streaks do the Chiefs have in their history? Probably a couple in the 60's, and certainly some in the 90's, but that's it. Not that it happens all that often for any team except for the ones that are perennially terrific...

Which leads to this team, and what this game says about this team.

Needless to say we won this baby on some very strange plays, but ones that reflected our daring coaching (for once!) and our skill players particularly at the position of free safety.

Yeah, our phenomenally exceptional free safety none other than Eric Berry.

Before we get there let's get to the offense, which was decent in the first half but pathetic in the second, except for the time we needed to get 1st downs late. We'll get there in a bit, but first,

Alex Smith.

I don't know what to think about this guy. Did you know he was 21-25 today? Are you kidding me? How was he this good? But when you think about it, he really did make most every connection today. He had fine work from Travis Kelce today also, so that was big.

Here's the thing -- it is the standard Alex Smith aggravation in light of the fact that he still won us the game today. With about 10 minutes left we're up 27-22 -- and we can now run clock, it's what we do.

But Smith did something I just had to emphatically note Super Bowl-bound quarterbacks just never do, they just don't. On 3rd down close to mid-field he escaped the rush -- something he does very well and it is a good thing we have that in him -- but then he just flat-out threw a rotten pass to a wide-open Spencer Ware with nothing but green in front of him. Ware was open --  I mean wiiide open breaking up field past the coverage -- Smith saw him, had all day to get it to him, and just overthrew him.

When Atlanta came back to score the touchdown with about four minutes left to go up 28-27, I thought that misfire was our undoing. I mean it. I mean think about that: Alex Smith has great stats, he makes plays smartly and effortlessly, then he makes a bonehead move of some kind that should lose us the game -- and we still win.

What kind of quarterback is this guy?

Examples: two notes I made early. One was about a call off splendid play-action where Smith rolled out, resulting in an easy long completion to Kelce. I'm thinking -- whuh? -- WHY don't we do that a million times more often?

The second was when Smith gets in open space and has time. How many times does he throw the ball just 0.1 seconds too soon, when if he'd waited -- yeah the pass rush is bearing down but you still have time -- if he'd waited that extra tick of a second, his receivers would break that extra step and he could complete that pass.

But then, ahem, 21-for-25 today. Yeah, what am I complaining about? But then again, the Chiefs had zero points from our regular offense in the 2nd half. Zero! Zee---row!


But then what about about that call on Albert Wilson's fake punt run for a touchdown? Were you shouting with glee as Wilson streaked down the field, not just because it was a great touchdown play, but because the coaches called something like that? I was! And guess what else there was about that play that was really cool for the Chiefs?

If you remember the Chiefs lined up to go for it on 4th-&-1, and the Falcons called time-out. This is early in the 2nd half! Those are the time-outs you need at the end of ballgames! The Chiefs then went out in punt formation but snapped it to Wilson for the TD run. That the Falcons did not have that time-out at the end of the game allowed the Chiefs to run out the clock when they had the very surprising 29-28 lead.

I'm feeling very schizophrenic right now, I have to tell you. I don't know what to think of this team. We have the playmakers, we have the coaching, but we get ourselves in these predicaments that people like Eric Berry have to get us out of.

Yes, we could talk all about the pick-six from Berry that really did a ton to save our butts from this explosive Falcons offense, that's great. But what about what led up to the two-point conversion interception return to turn a 28-27 Falcons lead into a 29-28 Chiefs win.

It really starts with the blocked extra-point early in the 1st quarter. Remember that? You'd think those things would come back to hurt us, but just like Bennie Fowler's quick touchdown in the Broncos game last week actually helped us by giving us enough time to come back and tie the game, the failure on the extra-point actually helped us late.

What if that kick goes through and everything is the same, only towards the end of the game the score is not 28-27 Falcons but tied 28-28. Think about that. Atlanta doesn't attempt that two-point conversion Berry picks and takes to the house -- instead Atlanta just kicks through the extra point and now they're up 29-28.

This game is very very very strange, and very very very fun when the Chiefs win out of it all.

Still, I can't help but shake my head about how we're winning. They showed a graphic that yardage-wise, the Chiefs are 28th and 29th -- something like that and I don't remember which was for which, sorry -- but apparently we're 28th and 29th in the NFL in total offense and total defense.

Ahem.

That stinks.

And you know, you know it. You just see it. We get stuck on offense far too often. We get very bendy on defense all the time.

But we find ways to win.

And the thing they showed right next to that stat was our turnover differential, at +14, by far the best in the NFL. 25 total takeaways, by far the most in the NFL. We also do things like stop them on 4th down in key situations -- we did that today. We rise to the occasion when we need a big play -- like with the Wilson fake punt run and Berry's picks. We got a couple big 3rd down conversions that were key -- we don't convert those very often but when we do, it's been big. We get them to burn time-outs they could've had for later.

Can this extraordinarily opportunistic team take us the promised land?

Can we get there with the heart and soul of a winning team -- yeah, a winning team for the 4th straight year.

That's really cool.

Now we've got to go beat the Raiders this Thursday night at home with heart and soul and passion and the leadership of people like Eric Berry.

Very very cool.
___

Monday, November 28, 2016

Chiefs at Broncos - Week 12 - Record: 8-3, Part II

I wanted to put a quick post up the day after the Chiefs amazing come-from-behind-very-late-AND-in overtime win last night just to do what I promised to do in the preview post I wrote a couple days before the game.

What were some of the key things that got us the win.

I started to post last night during the game, in the middle of the 4th quarter, and as I wrote I watched us drop a 16-10 lead and despaired. I thought again about Alex Smith's bumbling and the coaching staff's stumbling, as we had the ball there deep in our own territory with only about three minutes left.

But there on prime-time, there at the Broncos stadium where we'd blown it so many times before,

The Chiefs meant it.

They put a drive together against the best defense in the league and got a touchdown and a two-point conversion to show the nation they can play good football.

That drive included a clutch 4th-&-10 completion to Tyreek Hill, who used his quickness to just get to the marker, and arguably was the player of the game.

Earlier he'd scored a touchdown on an after-safety free-kick, but the play he scored his running touchdown on was -- give credit where credit is due -- a terrific call by the coaching staff.

Spencer Ware was in the wildcat on a 3rd-&-2 close the goal, and he ran the read option to perfection, giving the ball to Hill on the sweep right, and Hill delightfully ran right around a grasping Von Miller to streak to the pylon.

Must also give a shout-out to the defense, which included stellar play from our make-shift defensive line, strong run defense from our linebackers, ferocious pursuit and finishing by Eric Berry, the wonderful return to form of Justin Houston, and except for a couple brain-locks by people like Phillip Gaines, a secondary that made fantastic plays on passes (including some by Gaines) when we needed key stops on Denver's offense.

A wild up-and-down game that saw the Chiefs, in the end, play and coach like they meant it.

(The play-by-play posting I did last night is here. The second part of my preview is here.)
___

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Chiefs at Broncos - Week 12 - Record: 8-3

There is a little over seven minutes left in the game right now, and the Broncos just scored on two straight long passes from Trevor Siemian to Emmanuel Sanders, the latter one a touchdown. As I look at the Broncos do that I still just wonder, I still wonder, why can't our very very very experienced Alex Smith do that with our good fast receivers?

As it is, I knew I'd be posting at the end of this game because I'm just not going to be able to stay up late finishing this. As I write Travis Kelce just dropped his third pass of the game on a pretty poor throw by Smith.

Anyway, the Broncos are now ahead 17-16. Alex Smith just threw another crappy pass on 3rd down, that makes ELEVEN 3rd down opportunities we've simply not converted in this game. Indeed that is the one thing I'm putting down as I watch this game, that's really it. How many 3rd downs we have and what we do with them.

Yes, it's been really crappy.

Yes, I know Denver has a terrific defense, and they've been playing it tonight. They've been terrific. But just like I shared in my preview blog post, our offense can take them if we play like we mean it.

As it is, about five minutes left, the Chiefs have the Broncos backed up against their own endzone. We still have a chance. It's only 17-16. Nine of those points came from our defense (a Justin Houston forced safety) and special teams (a nice long kick return touchdown from Tyreek Hill).

Just then Trevor Siemian throws a 3rd-and-long strike to get the 1st down. Clutch for them.

Again again again, how come Siemian can throw that key strike, but Alex Smith is just flailing about out there. Again again again again again AGAIN, it is (a) Alex Smith just not having what it takes to get it done and (b) the coaches not giving Alex Smith the plays he can make. It is both. It is a combo abomination.

The Chiefs are starting to burn time-outs, something around three minutes left.

Those eleven 3rd down non-conversions, many of them were 3rd-&-long, with too many of them because of Chiefs penalties. Yes the Broncos did their fine defense and sacking thing, that helped them. Give them credit.

Now they have 3rd-&-2.

Annnd... we have a blown coverage, they get a touchdown pass, 76 yards. Can you believe it. 24-16.

We are now starting a drive to try to tie with two minutes left.

We're still driving. Making a few plays, but sucking at some. We've gotten down to the red zone. The announcer just said we're one of the worst in the red zone this year. That's nice.

Now it's 4th-&-10, and dang-it Smith gets the ball to Tyreek Hill for the 1st down.

And then Hill catches it one inch from the goal line and is stopped.

Official review. One second left.

They rule Hill gets the touchdown. Wow. Because he bobbled it he had possession once he fell into the end zone.

24-22. Now the two-point conversion attempt.

We get it! We get the two-point conversion! Demetrius Harris uses his 8-foot 9-inch big body to screen out their terrific but smallish D-back to get it!

Now it's overtime. Sorry for all the italics there, but I'm keeping them because that whole Chiefs drive was surreal.

WIn or lose, this team had a drive where they meant it. They wanted to score, they made it happen.

That's pretty cool.

We still have major issues, major major issues. Even though Denver's defense is very good, we still have to beat them. Yeah, for a bright shining moment there we had them on their heels.

Our defense was dominant early, but now we're letting this little-experience quarterback carve us up. In fact right there as I write this we miss two shots at the interception. Through the hands of our linebacker and off the hands of the D-back.

And a lot of it is their wide receivers. They're just killing our smaller, inexperienced, and I'm sure mile-high exhausted defensive backs.

They get the field goal, so it's now 27-24, and we must score to keep this game going.

Another test of our meaning it. Of our coaches making the calls. Of Alex Smith making it happen like he can. Right now we'll get the kick-off, likely to start at the 25. Will there be play action? Will there be a moving pocket? Will Smith throw strikes? Will they mix it up with Spencer Ware -- they even said earlier he was a high school quarterback, how about a surprising halfback option pass?

And there's De'Anthony Thomas returning it to the 35! DAT is back! Maybe that's a start!

Nkay, so here're the plays. Might as well...

1. (After Denver penalty for too many men on field) Vanilla run to Ware. Little or no gain. That's nice.

2. Pass to Tyreek Hill at the marker. 1st down.

3. Counter run to West. Gains a couple.

4. Long pass to Kelce, right on the money! 1st down deep into Denver territory.

5. Ware gets the edge, good yardage. 2nd-&-3.

6. West with a nice little run, 1st down, in the red zone. Let's not suck here, please.

7. Davis run, little gain.

8. Incomplete pass, Smith's arm was hit when it was going forward. 3rd-&-9. Chiefs timeout. Smith may have issues with his arm. This is worrisome.

9.  Kelce can't locate Smith's lob pass, incomplete. Would've been a 1st down. Santos in for the field goal attempt, and he makes it. 27-27, with about four minutes left in overtime.

Yet again, here on offense, we did some fine things, and did some other things that were very messed up. Again, to me, it's just our fine players making plays when they can, but darn-it I just wonder why we're not making more of those plays earlier on. All those miserable attempts to move the ball early and just not getting it done.

Now our defense needs to not be too exhausted. Good luck with that. The Broncos already got a first down. They've already gotten to midfield. Now they're getting close to field goal range after another 1st down from a 3rd down conversion.

Next score wins.

Now they have 3rd-&-10 again, after Chris Jones bats the ball down. There's Chris Jones, very nice. And Phillip Gaines makes a great stop with the coverage. They have 4th-&-10 and it'd be a 60+ yard field goal. There's about a minute left.

Well, they're going to try it. It'll be a 62-yard attempt. Very risky.

And they miss it. Chiefs get the ball at midfield.

Okay, here're the plays. Here we go again.

1. Smith scrambles for some yardage, and the announcer just said one of our receivers was flying along the sideline, wide open -- there they're showing it, Albert Wilson.

2. Nice completion to Hill, we have the ball close to the 30.

3. Nice completion to Kelce, down inside the 20.

4. Santos in. The kick is up -- IT'S OFF THE UPRIGHT  -- AAAAAAAGH!

BUT IT GOES THROUGH.

Are you even kidding me. We actually get a goofy field goal thing like this to go our way. I'm watching that ball head toward the upright and at the last second I saw it swerve back toward the inside part of that upright, and thinking, yes, that could still slip through.

It did.

How did we win that game.

My faith is renewed. They fought and fought and fought and fought and fought and

Got it done in prime-time in an amazing show of Chiefs football.

Just talked with my son on the phone -- I just missed this factoid, but he said they mentioned it -- that Tyreek Hill is the first player since Gale Sayers in 1965 to score a touchdown run, touchdown catch, and touchdown kick return in the same game. Wow, yeah, you're right, tonight he did do that.

Whupp, got to go to bed, what fun it was to transcribe all this in the blog post. Hope you enjoy reading it all. How intense was it to watch, that's for sure.
___

Chiefs Preview -- First Broncos Game of the Season, Part II

I won't be able to pound out a post-Chiefs Game Today blog post tonight after a relatively late game. I've got work very early tomorrow, so much of what I would say then I'm going to say now. Really, I think as Chiefs fans we all know what this game means.

If we lose, we could probably guess why right now. If we win, we can make a concise note about the key reasons, celebrate a bit, and continue hoping for good play moving forward into a nice playoff run.

Before I get into the whys and wheretofores of tonight's game, I'd like to preface it with a bit more about The Quarterback Project. Yes, this enterprise doesn't end. It always has its continuing elements. Here's an additional one I'd just been thinking about.

As I've mentioned a few times before in this blog, besides being a Chiefs fan I'm a big Golden State Warriors fan, been so for over 40 years. Right now pro basketball's Warriors are considered the "evil empire" because they are so good, and I'm lapping it up. Even though adding Kevin Durant has made them close to unstoppable, they got good because of terrific drafting decisions and solid coaching/management skill.

Case in point: the 2009 NBA Draft.

I thought about this because last night the Warriors played the Minnesota Timberwolves, and beat them convincingly 115-102. Back in 2009 the Timberwolves had the Nos. 5 and 6 picks in the draft. With those picks they took two point guards, Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn, respectively. While Flynn has been out of basketball for years, Rubio did play last night, and he went up against the No. 7 pick in the draft, a player by the name of Stephen Curry.

Here were last night's lines for each: Rubio, 2-5 shooting, 0-2 on three-pointers, 6 points scored total. Curry, 13-19 shooting, 4-8 on threes, 34 points.

The Timberwolves are a team loaded with top-draft pick talent including two future superstars, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, and they may indeed be a force in that future, certainly. But they have a very disappointing 5-11 record so far while the Warriors are at 15-2. What's the difference? I believe it is the critical distinction in the organization, the management, the coaching, and the overall atmosphere these top people bring to the play on the court, or in football's case, the field.

Kevin Durant is thriving in Golden State, much of it because he wanted to come to that kind of environment. The coaching is significant here because the Warriors play a fiercely free-flowing kind of basketball, with lots of passing off of crisp court movement, good looks, and open shot opportunities. They are blistering the league in assists, and it shows on the scoreboard.

Now you have my favorite NFL team, the Kansas City Chiefs.

Back in 2000, the New England Patriots selected Tom Brady and the rest is history, of course. Point is since then the quarterbacks for the Chiefs have been Elvis Grbac (2000), Trent Green (2001-2006), Damon Huard and Brodie Croyle (2007), Tyler Thigpen (2008), Matt Cassel (2009-2012), and Alex Smith (2013-present). Seven different quarterbacks combining to get the Chiefs a single playoff win in that time period (the one we got just last year against the Texans). I'm pretty sure Tom Brady has 157 post-season wins over the same time period, something like that many.

This is all a standard violently wrenching part of the Quarterback Project, as is this part:

All of those Chiefs quarterbacks were not drafted, except for one. That one was Brodie Croyle, but he almost doesn't count he was so bad. While Croyle lost all ten of his starts for the Chiefs, he did have tools -- that were not well-developed by coaches who could do the job of getting him there.

Now I don't believe Croyle was going to get us anywhere, he just wasn't that good, so it may have been a good thing we didn't hang our hopes on him. And I appreciate the hard work any player and any coach contributes to this thing Kansas City Chiefs, it is hard to win NFL games, I'm not putting anyone down. Everyone compares their team to the Patriots, I know that -- everyone likes being a Monday morning general manager. 

If only my team could be like the Patriots. Everyone says that about their team.

But for these purposes here, it is, yes, indeed the whole thing with the

Drafted and developed quarterback.

The key addition to the project but one that is very not novel at all:

Putting that guy an environment that drives players to win football games.

All this stuff about the Warriors and Timberwolves and Chiefs and Patriots comes down to this about tonight's game:

We win if we play like we mean it.

Everyone knows the Chiefs have the talent. Our defense is good, and we face a Broncos offense that has a rookie quarterback and a shaky running game. The Broncos defense is exceptional with no injury issues, but ya know?

The Chiefs offense can take them.

They really can, and everyone knows it. Tyreek Hill flies past everyone and has great football awareness. Chris Conley is a strong go-to receiver. Spencer Ware finds holes and runs over people. Charcandrick West is quick and slippery. Travis Kelce is one of the best tight ends in the game, not only strong and quick but wildly competitive. Our offensive line is solid and stable, bookended by two of the best tackles in the game.

And then there's Alex Smith.

For the 38th time in this blog and the 5,291st time anywhere -- he's smart, he's versatile, he's athletic, he's a strong, careful manager of the game plan. These are all things that contribute to a team scoring at least 30 points a game.

But we all know, we're not. We are so not. We're struggling to score touchdowns and have the worst time converting 3rd downs. It's like a disease, it really feels like that watching it.

And as I emphasized in the previous preview post, this is because our coaching is simply not getting him untracked. Where is the play action? Where is that jet sweep and all the things that can happen off that? Where the read option? Where are the quarterback draws to use Smith's running ability to open things up? Where's the halfback option pass? -- Don't tell me we can never do that because if we took some chances especially against this kind of defense, we'd practice it and make it work.

I visited my passionate Chiefs fan uncle this Thanksgiving, and he asked, where's the no-huddle catch-them-by-surprise offense? Great call!

Here's another one: Where in blazes is De'Anthony Thomas? He was used splendidly in 2014 and half of 2015 to open up that offense. He's there, he's right there, but I've only seen him a handful of times out there.

Where are all these things?

They're not there because I'm not convinced we have the gravitas coming from on high to make those kinds of things happen. Sure Clark Hunt runs a top-notch organization -- that's awesome, I actually think he's done wonders for the Chiefs. Sure John Dorsey has made some terrific calls in acquiring these fine players. Sure Andy Reid is one of the most respected coaches in the NFL, that's true.

But are these guys filling our players with the deep, incisive, ferocious drive to win?

Um, kinda like you see in the eyes of the players on a team like the Patriots?

Do you see this too?

Here's the key for tonight:

We're playing tonight.

Here we are, in prime time, and sure enough, over the past several years, the Chiefs have generally sucked under the lights and cameras of the big time. You know what I'vd seen? I've seen the Chiefs players overwhelmed by it all and for some reason they just seem to be always playing on their heels.

The Patriot way is totally opposite that. That team rams it down your throat in prime time -- and just about every other time they take the field. They are the ones who make you play on your heels.

Ironically, the one prime time game I think of when I think of one of the very few Chiefs prime time successes was the game on that Thursday in late September, 2014, when the Chiefs shellacked the Patriots, 41-14. But ya know?

That's about it. There isn't much more. You can check out the disconsolation of prime-time Chiefs football from this great fan post at Arrowhead Pride.

Some of the worst lowlights: Against the Broncos in prime time the Chiefs are miserable. Since NBC had Sunday night football games the Chiefs are 0-5 whenever they've played in that prime-time slot -- and it seems like they've played the Broncos in every one of those games. Guess what? The Chiefs play the Broncos again in on Sunday night football in four weeks. At least they're scheduled to.

So what about tonight? Let's be honest. We do have a good enough team to win and show the country the Chiefs are for real. We have serious injury issues, but Dorsey and Reid have worked hard at infusing this team with some decent depth. Really, we have no excuse. You know the talent we have, the major question of all questions is

Will we take it to them?

Will we really look like we mean business in the NFL? Will we play like we can and be coached to play like we can and watch Alex Smith throw the ball down the field out of sets that get those receivers open like we can and

Win this football game?

So yeah, for tonight's blog post I'm not going to write much. I may even blog during the game, we'll see how I feel. But I do know about what I'm going to behold, I really think all Chiefs fans do. It'll be either the same-ol same-ol in prime time, seeing a flaccid wilting effort, or we'll joy to a team alive and energetic and inspired to do what it definitely can pleasing everyone who is a fan of good, solid football.
___

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Chiefs Preview -- First Broncos Game of the Season

It is a lazy Thanksgiving day and I have a moment to pound out a brief preview of the most critical game of the year for us. It is so major that NBC flexed the game on Sunday into prime time, even going so far as to bump off the yuuuge-market New York-New England game.

But this "preview" isn't as much a preview of this game but of the entire remainder of the season. We've got Denver next, but then it's Atlanta, then Oakland, then Tennessee, then Denver again, then San Diego. These are all good teams, and it is not beyond the realm of possibilities we could be out of the playoff picture even after starting 7-2.

I simply wanted to remark on three key things that may be our undoing, or if we can overcome them, would be our "doing" as we head into Super Bowl contention. Indeed, we must have these things working in our favor if we're going to be meaningfully Super Bowlish this year.

1. Injury issues. To truly be playoff ready you must have a team that is healthy. The Chiefs have actually been pretty good with the health-throughout-the-season in past years, but this year it seems we've had more of our key players go down. This will hurt us -- it already has. I believe not having Jeremy Maclin in on offense, Marcus Peters in on defense, and Justin Houston not at full strength cost us big-time against Tampa Bay this past Sunday.

There's not much you can say about this, we'll have to go with who we can go with. Every team has their injuries -- heck, Denver is without their top running back for the year because of an injury.

This is where depth comes into play, and while the Chiefs have actually been able to benefit from pretty decent depth,  depth can only go so far in the NFL. Will we reach critical mass where those key losses keep us from winning games? We'll certainly see.

2. Coaching liabilities. I believe Bob Sutton has been doing wonders with this defense. Our young defensive backfield should be getting lit, but they're not. Our injuries affecting the run defense should be hurting us, but they're not. They're not largely because Sutton has been showcasing defensive strategies that have been getting the most from who he has.

On the offensive side? Not as much. Who is it? Is it Andy Reid? Is is Brad Childress? Is it Matt Nagy? I've always been concerned about having two "offensive coordinators" -- in quotes because I've been very concerned about this potential confusion.

Fact is, the Chiefs are abominable on 3rd down, absolutely abominable.  Look at these coaches we have, they're good coaches, they should know better. Look at who we have out there, very smart Alex Smith, very reliable Spencer Ware, very fast Tyreek Hill, very resilient Travis Kelce, and very much several others. Here's the thing.

How can we be so crappy on 3rd down?

I honestly think it is those coaches. It is simple.

They are just not using all their weapons.

I do believe these coaches do some bold, innovative things, I do. But it isn't enough, it just isn't. It simply isn't enough for us to take advantage of the skill set we've got out there. This is what is so frustrating.

As I mentioned, it is Thanksgiving afternoon as I write this. I'm here right now sitting in front of the television and the Cowboys-Redskins game is on. Sure enough, the Cowboys put together a drive to go ahead of the Redskins 24-12, and the announcer just said this, just as I was writing these words.

"The Cowboys just used all their weapons," something like that.

Oh my that the Chiefs would have that said about them.

Seriously, the Chiefs have the weapons to score 30 points a game, they do.

How on earth are they not?

3. Absence of the drafted and developed quarterback. What? The D&D quarterback? We don't have one of those, so why's this here?

That's exactly the point -- We don't have one.

And because we don't have one, we are really going to have a hard time getting into the Super Bowl. I am very very sad about that. I'm very very sad that I'm watching on TV this Cowboys team play like crazy with a Dak Prescott at quarterback, and they are world-beaters with him in there. This is Dak Prescott, 135th pick in the entire draft.

Now yes, anyone can say they should've picked this player or that player, anyone can be a Monday morning general manager, I got that.

But let's be honest, the last time the Cowboys won a game with a quarterback they drafted was last week. The last time the Chiefs did so was September 13, 1987, six years before Dak Prescott was born. This preseason the Chiefs piled up quarterbacks to see who'd back up Alex Smith, this is apparently what Andy Reid likes to do. Our No. 1 backup turned out to be Nick Foles, who got dumped by the Rams. Everyone else was pretty much jettisoned except for Tyler Bray who Andy Reid likes but (as far as I know) has never had a regular season snap.

Please.

Nothing against Foles, he's done well for us in his fill-in play, or Bray -- who knows how he can play? -- or even Smith -- I personally like Alex Smith. But...

Please.

Know that I hope the best for Alex Smith. I hope he shows us all that he can get the job done. The next few games will truly tell the tale, I hope for the very very best for an offense that could be the very very best, it really could be, we all know it.

But dang it, the history of NFL success just says different. It says for a team to win the Super Bowl

You -- have -- just -- got -- to -- have -- a -- long-term -- fine -- DRAFTED-&-DEVELOPED -- quarterback.

I'm just saying it now, and I've said it a million times before, belaboring the point, but why not? It is my blog -- and it is SO TRUE.

Next year the Chiefs simply must take the best available quarterback in the draft. First round. It doesn't matter who it is, just get him, develop him, coach him, groom him, and get him ready to take the Chiefs to the promised land in 2021. Now yeah, I understand that quarterback may not be there when we draft, but dammit it never has been and much of that is because we've somehow had a humongous brain fart anytime we have the opportunity to make a solid quarterbacking selection decision during the draft.

So yeah, what of it.

Alex Smith is who we've got at quarterback.

And Denver is who we've got to play this Sunday.

Will the coaching staff get a reasonably talented, smart, and versatile Alex Smith to use all the Chiefs weapons to start doing some convincing winning?

That's the major question of the season so far.
___

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Buccaneers at Chiefs - Week 11 - Record: 7-3

I can't help but start by saying how great it has been for Chiefs fans for quite some time. Just about every game since that last game of the 1-5 start from last year, that loss in Minnesota, has been pretty cool for us. 10 straight regular season wins after that. A long-awaited playoff win in Houston. Most recently a 5-game winning streak.

We've been able to start 7-2 and have everyone talk about us as if we're really an elite team, a team that could beat New England in a playoff game, a team placing highly in the power rankings. It's been fun. It's been hard to experience what it is like to lose, very fun.

But as it often happens, there's the wake-up call.

Today was that day.

It's time to wake up to the liabilities of this team.

Yes, we could say Marcus Peters was inactive, we've got serious injury issues on the D-line, Dee Ford left with an injury, Justin Houston looked tremendously rusty today. But I truly believe our issues go far deeper than that.

The Buccaneers had their way with us today, and ya know? This game looked very much the same as it did with Jacksonville and Carolina, two teams we also should've put away easily. We struggled against them too, and only won those games when we got some late game ferocity and clutch plays. Today the Bucs just ran the ball way better than we did. Their O-line played way better, not only with the run but keeping their QB well-protected for the pass.

Here's one thing to take away from this game that was major.

We simply can't beat a team with a world-beater wide receiver. Their Mike Evans had his way with us today. When you have a WR who is as good as he is, he can be the difference maker. He was phenomenal today, and again, our smallish D-backs simply could not stop him. Yes, Steven Nelson made a phenomenal play against Evans in the end zone. Yes, Nelson is a godsend making solid plays much more than we've ever expected. That's terrific.

But those fast oversized receivers we seem to face week after week after week... I'm very nervous right now.

This hurts a lot mostly because the Chiefs have had the worst wide receiver issues throughout their history. I made a special blog post about it a while back, might be worth looking at again if you have the emotional stamina.

At one point during today's broadcast they showed the 2014 draft class of wide receivers, and they showcased eight players on the screen. There they were, a whole batch of highly drafted, currently top-class wide-outs out there doing great things for their teams right now. Can you take a wild guess how many of them were Chiefs?

Ahem, yeah.

Now then we did use our first round pick that year to take Dee Ford, that's fine.

But when will the Chiefs themselves ever have that kind of a wide receiver?

As it is we've got Jeremy Maclin. Fantastic, but right now he's injured and isn't the long term solution. We've got Chris Conley who has potential but is still not all he could be -- I think everyone knows that. We've got Albert Wilson, he made a fine touchdown catch today, but he's not long term. Yes we've got Tyreek Hill and he has tons of potential, that's great, it really is, but dang it...

When in the world will we get that smart, agile, bigger-sized wide receiver?

Why did Jonathan Baldwin's name just pop into my head right now? Yeah, I know, what a nightmare.

Well, there's that, I know, but what about now.

Sure enough, there was Alex Smith in there doing something great like actually executing the play action beautifully to make an easy connection to Travis Kelce way down the field to get the ball to the Tampa Bay 10-yard line -- this was with the Chiefs behind 12-10 at the beginning of the 4th quarter. Here we were poised to get a touchdown and go up 17-12, take command, do that tough-it-out thing through the last few minutes of the game and go home.

Except that Smith did something that keeps me feeling like I did in this post.

He threw a pick -- again off play action -- in the end zone. The Bucs D-back took it all the way out the mid-field and they scored a touchdown a few plays later. 19-10 Bucs. That was the game. We did come back to score a touchdown but simply ran out of time.

We're now 7-3. They flexed the Chiefs-Broncos game into prime time next Sunday, when we'll play another 7-3 team. How are we going to do in any of the next six games? They're all against solid winning teams. There's Denver, then we get them again the second-to-last week of the season. There's an exceptional offensive team in Atlanta, in Atlanta in two weeks. Then there's Oakland again, then an improved Tennessee team. Then there's scary San Diego in San Diego to finish things up.

Sheee... We struggle so much against these last few teams we've played? I mean everyone says we're an opportunistically big-play team, but darned it you just don't win games on a regular basis ripping the ball from ball-carriers' hands. I'm taking nothing from Marcus Peters' great play last week, but you just can't do that very often. Playoff contending teams control things. They regularly move the football down the field. They make plays on a consistent basis -- and the Chiefs just don't do that, especially on offense. With the talent we have there, that is just inexcusable, it really is.

The Buccaneers' offense was something like 11-15 on 3rd down today. That shows our defense was pretty crappy -- yeah we stopped them enough down the field, but we're letting them get there too easily. Our offense, on the other hand, was still crappy on 3rd down. We are just not making those conversions, and yes, I believe a lot of it has to do with Alex Smith.

Not to belabor the point, but he just does too many goofy things that put our chances to be Super-Bowl-serious in serious jeopardy. It's the Alex Smith dilemma -- on one play he shocks you, as when he runs for a touchdown (as he did today) or he makes a fine strike for a touchdown (as he did today). But then what about all those other 3rd downs we had to convert to make sure we could secure this win way before it slipped away at the very end?

Errgh errgh errgh errgh errgh...

Meanwhile, it's yet another win by the Bucs over the Chiefs, their fifth in a row over us. Remember the last time the Chiefs beat the Buccaneers? Remember? It was Joe Montana's debut game way back at the beginning of 1993. How exciting was that win, if you remember it. It was really exciting, seeing Joe in a Chiefs uniform and doing his thing so well for us. Since then, though, Tampa Bay has had our number.

At least this loss was against an NFC opponent. If you're going to have a loss, might as well be against one of those teams.

Still, the Chiefs have a lot of work to do to show they can compete and be competitive against an NFC team in the Super Bowl. Come on, do you really think we could beat a Cowboys? A Seahawks? Any team in the NFC East?

::Ohh-ohhhh...:: We have a lot of work to do.
___

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Chiefs at Panthers - Week 10 - Record: 7-2

Might as well just not pay any attention to the first half of a Chiefs game. Really, the first half today was atrocious. It was beyond atrocious. I guess because we're a decent team we'd kept the score at 17-3 at the halftime break.

I will tell you, I regularly take a few notes while watching the game, and the number of mad faces, you know, ":(" were at 14 when the half ended. Okay, okay, here they are. You'll see they were very very well-deserved:

:(  Another dropped pass by Demetrius Harris.

:(  Tyreek Hill underthrown, again, on a deep pass, and they get the interception.

:(  ANOTHER drop, this one by Albert Wilson. These are professional receivers in the NFL. Come on.

:(  They said on the television we're 27th in the NFL on 3rd down conversions. We were crap in that area again today. (Later I discovered we'd gotten a grand total of two conversions on 3rd down -- whole game. Expletive. See text on Alex Smith a bit later here.)

:(  After a great sack by Dee Ford on 3rd down, Phillip Gaines gets holding call. They get new life.

:(  3 penalties so far, for a team they say doesn't get penalized.

:(  Interception dropped. Now this was a tricky one, but we missed it twice and it still got a :(

:(  Marcus Peters barely missed the pick, they get the long pass completion on 2nd-&-20.

:(  Kelvin Benjamin makes a key play. Our D-backs really struggle against those big quick WR's.

:(  We try that wide-out screen yet again and it goes for a loss.

:(  ANOTHER drop, this one by Kelce, but the throw was low from Smith.

:(  Spencer Ware out, looked like he was concussed (he came back in later).

:(  Another Carolina TD on a play in which our pass rush was completely non-existent and Peters got burnt.

:(  Smith will absolutely refuse to step up in the pocket and throw the damn football down the field.

There ya go. 14 times with the :(. We're down 17-3. I had predicted before the game this was one we'd lose. Here we were, away from home, playing the very much underperforming Super Bowl Panthers -- remember they were 15-1 last year!

And sure enough all our weaknesses were laid open bare -- ugly and pustulant and writhing.

We really struggle covering those big fast wide receivers. Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess had their way with us. For three quarters our pass rush was invisible, and without Allen Bailey, Jaye Howard, and Justin Houston we're in trouble in that area.

And Alex Smith -- oh Alex Smith. He was cah-RAPP today. Yes, you can give him credit he ran the offense, he's a smart guy, he didn't mess up with the things your brain can get you to do football-play-management-wise.

But oh my was it a horror show out there watching him. He did the dancing-then-getting-sacked thing. He did the abject-REFUSAL-to-step-up-in-the-pocket-and-throw-the-ngkcgking-ball-down-the-field thing. He did the bad-throw thing, you know when he just doesn't make the good throw he needs to and he really really can. He did the completely-refusing-to-see-wide-open-receivers-down-the-field thing. Late in the game he even caught a batted pass and threw it again on the same play. It was all the typical Alex Smith insanity that makes you really really really want to write posts like this one.

To be fair, however, Smith had to have been rusty after that Colts game when he was mauled. Apparently he never had any concussion stuff, they said he was totally cleared medically, but I wonder after seeing him googly-eyed after those two whacks at Indy. Today, to give him some credit, he did make some key throws to get us into field goal range a few times. We sure did need those field goals.

Okay, with all that out of the way, now for the really good stuff.

I mean, we nkcfnkgkncing won the game for nckwxpqckgrrdvxqing out loud...

First of all, we hung in there through the full total entirety of this game. The Chiefs are actually good at that. They won't give up. They'll scratch and claw and dig in, they'll outlast you, even wear you down -- emotionally even. It just seemed as if as the game wore on the Chiefs were getting stronger and the Panthers were playing on their heels. The entire team gets the kudos for that.

After the Panthers chewed up almost the entire 3rd quarter clock on a 20-play drive, the Chiefs stiffened and, believe it or not, forced them to punt. The defense was especially fierce in getting the job done when it was needed.

Here are notable individual players of note:

No. 1, to me, by far, was Eric Berry. This was even before the pick-six. He was a monster out there. For every time the Chiefs sucked, there was Berry making a phenomenal play -- a key tackle, and critical stop. And then of course: the pick-six. After a blitz Berry swooped under a Cam Newton duck, picked it, and simply refused to be tackled. He made a couple spin moves Tyreek Hill would've been proud of, raced to the far pylon, and scored. A Kelce catch at the goal line (yes, a decent pass from Alex Smith yay!) for the 2-point conversion made it 17-14.

Another was Tyreek Hill. Whenever Smith could get the ball to him, he was amazing out there. Streaking, spinning, squirting wherever he could to get yardage.

Another was Dee Ford. How great is his play. He seems to have solved these offensive linemen and their blocking schemes, and he is making plays. A couple more sacks today, some pressures, solid run defense. His play is really helping make up for our woeful injury issues on the D-line.

Another was Spencer Ware. How great was it to have him back in there. When he could he did his splendid power running through little holes and getting a few extra yards with his Herculean effort. That last run to get the ball in even more secure field goal range at the end of the game was a thing of beauty.

I could name a few others here, yes, Chris Jones, Dontari Poe, Cairo Santos with his four long field goals, Travis Kelce (whew, no suspension for last week's meltdown...) there were others, yes, I can't see everything out there, everyone had some positive hand in this win for sure, but...

Mention must be made of -- controversially -- Marcus Peters. Controversial because he'd actually been having a pretty miserable day. He'd gotten burnt, he'd overplayed balls like crazy, he even almost put us out of field goal range with his punting stupidity on the sideline.

But he made what could've been the play of the day. -- Well, except for the Eric Berry play.

With about a minute left, Carolina got the ball with the score 17-17. Newton completed yet another pass to Benjamin, but just as he was about to go down, Peters yanked the ball from him.

With sheer ferocity he pulled the ball from Benjamin's grip.

Chiefs ball on the turnover, deep in Panthers territory, 20 seconds left.

Whuh-OWW.

Can you believe it.

Santos comes in, boots it through, time expires...

Chiefs come away with the win.

So they are 7-2 now, in 1st place in the AFC West tied with Oakland who has a bye this week. Denver won today on what I saw was a screwy return 2-point conversion, so they're 7-3.

We've still got Denver twice, and that Thursday night game with the Raiders on December 8th is looming -- when was the last time a KC-Oak game really meant something for both teams that late in the season?

As for now, this game was won by our grit and guts and heart.

At least we've got that.
__