Yesterday's game was a lot of fun to watch and I congratulate the Chiefs on a game well-played. But can we please, for the sake of the rest of the season, put together two solid halves of football? The Chiefs are either clicking or self-destructing. There really isn't a middle ground. We can't survive the season playing only one great half of football. Before you start, I'm all over the map with this recap so bear with me.
The Kansas City Chiefs had their second highest offensive output of the season against the Cincinnati Bengals, totaling 354 yards on 69 plays. The Chiefs dominated time of possession by holding the ball nearly eleven minutes more than the Bengals. As with nearly every game this season, the Chiefs played well for one half and struggled offensively in the other. This week though, the Chiefs were able to find an offensive rhythm early, scoring their first points in the first quarter this season on a Dave Rayner field goal and a 3 yard Tony Gonzalez touchdown reception.
With the exception of holding on to the ball too long on a few plays, Damon Huard played his best football of the season on Sunday. Huard went 25/35 for 264 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, he did not throw an interception. He completed passes to six different Chiefs and did what every Chiefs quarterback needs to do: He consistently threw the ball to Tony Gonzalez. I'll give Damon credit in this game. He's never going to wow us but Sunday was about the best we'll see from him. Anytime Huard doesn't turn the ball over, I'll consider his performance a success.
Lazy reporting alert...Lazy reporting alert...
Randy Covitz's article last night on Larry Johnson began with this: "This should have been a day for laughter and smiles for Chiefs running back Larry Johnson. He bounced back from last week’s 12-yard rushing performance against Jacksonville with 119 yards in the Chiefs’ 27-20 win over Cincinnati."
Its easy to look at the final box score and write an article. To Covitz's credit, he does seem to have glanced at the play by play at the end of his article when he cites that LJ was stuffed on 12 of his 31 rushes. But why would Larry be happy about yesterday's performance? Why would he be all smiles?
76 of Larry's 119 yards rushing came on three plays. He gained thirteen yards on fifteen carries in the second half. If you take out Larry's three long runs, he only averaged 1.5 yards a rush over twenty eight carries. I want to hit my head on my desk our running game is so weak.
When Larry did selfishly get the delay of game penalty called on him on the 4th quarter, it happened after the Chiefs ran three of the worst plays they've ran all season. Three straight runs for negative yardage. Frustrating? Yes. Justification for his penalty? No.
When the Chiefs needed to run the clock down in the fourth quarter, they were unable to do it. This offense is unable to produce first downs through the running game. Out of the twenty first downs the Chiefs got on Sunday, only four came via rushing.
Larry Johnson himself could be playing better as well. He isn't really able to bounce outside like he used to, despite showing flashes of last year on a couple of longer runs to the outside. His emotional outbursts are hurting the Chiefs team. He is not a leader. He is not trying to be a leader. I don't know whats going on with him.
I said it last week and it bears repeating. The Chiefs offensive line is playing horribly as a unit. Left tackle Damion McIntosh, who had been one of the two bright spots on the o-line, was thoroughly dominated by the Bengals defensive line. The Chiefs pass protection, which was the relative strength of this team, gave up five sacks to the dismal Cincinnati pass rush. Bengals DE Justin Smith had 1.5 sacks on the Chiefs first two drives.
Congratulations to Tony Gonzalez on his record breaking touchdown catch in the first quarter. After a six play drive that started on the Bengals 44 yard line, Damon Huard lofted a pass to TG in the right corner of the end zone for the record breaker. Gonzalez continued performing like the best tight end in the league, catching nine balls for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Tony is the rock of the unstable Kansas City offense and is the only consistent offensive performer on the Chiefs team.
Dwayne Bowe's name was barely mentioned during the game because of a great game by veteran Bengals' CB Deltha O'Neil. Bowe had an average day, catching four balls for forty six yards. Jeff Webb, despite a late third quarter fumble, played possibly his best game as a Chief. Webb managed seven catches for seventy eight yards and a couple of those catches were fantastic, tight rope catches along the sideline.
The Soundbite: The Kansas City Chiefs offense was able to put it together long enough in the first half to score enough points for the game against a suspect Bengals' defense.
Offensive Player of the Game: Tony Gonzalez
Watching the Chiefs' defense play football in the first half of Sunday's game was a thing of beauty. Jared Allen had 2.5 sacks in the first half alone and he led a relentless Chiefs' defense that pressured Carson Palmer on almost every, single play. Truly, the first half was a fun half of football to watch.
Before the game, I mentioned that my biggest fear playing the Bengals was a big pass play for a touchdown. Well, I was right. Fourteen of the Bengals twenty points came on passes of forty two yards and thirty yards to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. With the exception of those two plays, the Chiefs defense did manage to hold the "high-powered" Bengal offense in check.
Pat Surtain was able to step in front of a lofted Palmer pass in the second quarter to make an interception. Surtain showed veteran savvy by waiting on the route and breaking exactly when he needed to.
The box score says the Chiefs forced three turnovers but it might as well have been four. With eight and a half minutes left in the third quarter, the Bengals went for it on fourth and short and the old man himself Donnie Edwards burst through the line to tackle RB Kenny Watson for no gain. If you were looking for a energy sapping, heart breaking play for the Bengals, there you have it.
Just a bit more on Jared Allen. He forced a fumble and had 2.5 sacks. He was within an arm's length of Carson Palmer innumerable times. Like Tony Gonzalez said to the media after the game, "If Jared Allen doesn't go to the Pro Bowl, its your fault." This guy is better than Neil Smith...
I'm not going to delve into much more detail about our defense because I'm just repeating the same thing each week. Our defense is fantastic and makes these games fun to watch. Sunday was a huge test for the Chiefs D and they passed. Now only if Eddie Drummond and the Chiefs special teams can capitalize on the stops the defense gives them.
Soundbite: The Kansas City Chiefs defense held a potent Cincinnati offense in check by dominating the line of scrimmage and creating turnovers.
Defensive Player of the Game: Jared Allen
I know I've been hard on kick returner Eddie Drummond and its not because he doesn't take the ball to the house each time. He looks slow, ineffective and shows bad judgment from time to time. I'm not a big fan of kick returners who fair catch the ball on the nine yard line. Field position talk will come tomorrow.
Great win for the Chiefs. An important win for the Chiefs. On paper, this game was ours and it went generally according to plan. But that doesn't mean that our offensive problems have disappeared. I'm going to beat this into our collective heads. The porous Chiefs offensive line and the poor play of Larry Johnson will prohibit this team from sustaining any type of winning in 2007. Plain and simple. If your team is unable to make first downs in the running game, its only a matter of time before the losses begin to pile up. We're still looking good in the surprisingly mediocre AFC West though. It could be worse. We could be...the Bengals.
Note: The open threads below are a great chronicle of the entire game yesterday. Make sure you check them out.