I woke up this morning with a hang over not from drinking but from watching Chiefs football. I am discovering that at times it is six of one, half dozen of the other. This Chiefs football hangover, and lets face it, part beer induced hangover, felt a little different than my previous football related ailments from this season. I didn't feel this way after the Eagles game. Certainly not after the Giants game. I felt a little bit like this after the Cowboys game but definitely not this bad. What is going on?
I think what is happening is the Chiefs brand of football is no longer light beer to me but is once again becoming the hard stuff. Ok, the Chief's play isn't quite spirit level yet but it is certainly a higher percentage alcohol content than it has been in previous weeks or even the last couple of seasons. No I haven't felt this bad since the last time the Colts spanked the Chiefs in the playoffs. The last time I had expectations of winning.
I think having "expectations of winning" is what caused the Chiefs to play so erratically on Sunday. It is said that when a young team is going through their growing pains that they will sometimes do things that blow you away and will then usually follow that up with something that will leave you scratching your head. Before last Sunday's game at Pittsburgh the Chiefs have pretty much given us all head scratching. Recently, however, the Chiefs have looked like a team on the rise. They had won 3 of their last 5 games and were as hot a streak as a team that has been as bad as the Chiefs can be on. They had just upset the defending Super Bowl Champions in a game where they put forth a total team effort making plays on offense, defense and special teams. Even the coaches came through, dissecting the Pittsburgh goal line defense and drawing up a play that lead to a touch down. We were excited, we were encouraged, and most of us frankly, were amazed.
Then came the Chargers. Then came the "head scratcher." I woke up this morning thinking of an article I wrote way back on October 3rd. The article was entitled "The Chiefs Are As Bad As They Seem." You can read it here.
Now if you remember on October 3rd, the Chiefs were 0-3. They had just been blown out by the Eagles and were coming off a game against the Raiders that, while they didn't win it, they showed some hopeful signs. I mentioned in my article that there was no mystery to the Chiefs. The Chiefs were near the Raiders in talent but didn't know how to win.
"They showed the level they are at right now in the Raiders game. Against another bad team the Chiefs can move the ball and play pretty good defense. However, they showed their lack of cohesion by blowing the game with mental mistakes and turnovers. What you saw in that game was that the Chiefs have a better QB and overall more talent than the Raiders but that the Chiefs were not disciplined enough to put the Raiders away. How soon the Chiefs improve will depend on how quickly they learn from their mistakes. If they played the Raiders today they may win with no problem, however if they have yet learn not to make stupid plays, they would have a chance of blowing it again."
The blow out loss to the Eagles should have been no surprise to us either I claimed.
"Each game will be a learning process for this group and this organization. Expect the Chiefs to play about as bad as they did in Phili against the Giants. It makes sense. The Giants are a superior team. Hope the Chiefs play like they did in Baltimore, which is a little more disciplined. Also hope for the Chiefs to force a few bad Giant plays. Hope for some forward steps but don't expect them. It is hard for a young team to make strides against a Super Bowl contender."
Way back on October 3rd I was hoping that the next time the Chiefs met the Raiders they would have improved enough to be able to beat them. I was hoping that by the end of the year the Chiefs would start winning the games they had a chance in. But even then I knew that the Chiefs probably would fair well against the better teams in the league. I expected them to get spanked by the likes of the Giants and the Chargers.
"Hopefully the Chiefs will continue to improve and the next time they come up against a team that is closer to their level, like the Raiders, they will put them away. If by the end of the year the Chiefs are beating teams they should beat, teams that have a similar talent base as them, then we will know that the team is improving and is learning how to win. Good teams rarely lose games they are supposed to win. Hopefully by the end of the year the Chiefs will be becoming a good team. With that base in place, as they add talent in the off-season, we can hope for further strides to be made next season."
What has happened since I wrote the above paragraph? The Chiefs have won games they were supposed to win. They met the Raiders again and took care of business. Was it pretty? No, but the Chiefs made the play at the end of the game when the Raiders were driving that they failed to make the first time around. The Chiefs also took care of a reeling Redskins team on the road. The redskins were playing poorly and the Chiefs took advantage. "Good teams rarely lose games they are supposed to win." The Chiefs have been doing that. When you are becoming a good team, sometimes you will do things you aren't supposed to do, like beating the Steelers.
As much as I hate to admit it my friends, the Chargers are a good team. They are playing as well as any team in the NFL right now and as we have learned, good teams win the games they are supposed to win. The Chargers were supposed to beat the Chiefs and they did. It doesn't really matter by how much. The Chiefs looked like a team trying a little too hard. Their success may have made them a little shaky and the pressed things a little bit. Nerves and pressing can cause mental mistakes and that is exactly what killed the Chiefs on Sunday.
It's ok, really. The Chiefs learned how they can beat a good team against the Steelers and they learned how they cannot play against a good team against the Chargers. The Chiefs are still learning. Were there good things to be taken from this game? Sure! If anything is evident it is that the Chiefs have a running game now. Jamaal Charles wasn't used much on the ground against the Chargers and still racked up nearly 100 yards rushing. How did 2.7 fair against the Chargers last time around?
LJ = 16 carries for 49 yards or 3.1 yards per carry.
JC = 14 carries for 93 yards or 6.6 yards per care. A TD. And a nice catch.
How about Cassel?
1st time around, with Bowe:.10 for 25 for 97 yards and a TD. And 3 picks.
2nd time around, without Bowe: 19 for 31 for 178 yards and a TD
Did Cassel make mistakes? Oh yes. Did Charles have a costly fumble? Oh yes. However this young team is showing a little spark on offense. They are showing the ability to stretch the field a little more with deep passes to Chambers and Charles. They are forcing teams to back off a little bit with the threat of handing Charles the ball.
Still mistakes were made, a lot of them, and that is why the Chiefs lost. Yes, the Chiefs need to play pretty much mistake free to have a chance to win right now but the difference is that the Chiefs HAVE a chance to win now. Had they not turned the ball over so much the offense was moving with enough rhythm that they looked as though they may have been able to keep the Chiefs in the game.
The last thing I said in my article back on October 3rd was this;
"I, like all of you, hope the Chiefs magically make the jump and suddenly become competitive this Sunday. However, we must understand that with this new regime and new philosophy that becoming a good football team will be a process. The Chiefs are likely to take a big step backwards after every tiny step forward.
But at least they'll be moving in the right direction."
I look back on that and it makes me feel a little better today. This was expected. Winning two in a row and beating a team like the Steelers wasn't a baby step it was a leap. A step back against a team like the Chargers was expected. It is those games against beatable opponents like Buffalo, Cleveland and may be even Denver depending on which team shows up next week, that matter now. It matters that for the rest of the season the Chiefs continue to move in the right direction, even if they have to take a step or two back along the way.