From the FanPosts. You can find rockchalk over at his blog rockchalktalk.com. I also tweaked the title to be a little more search engine friendly :)-Chris
This site, today, is hilarious. It's a healthy dose of people on the two sides of the spectrum. There is a decent-sized group that, I swear, thinks we're going to the playoffs. Sorry, folks. It ain't happening.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm more no your "side" than the other side, and I was very encouraged with today's game (as I'll get to in a second). But while looking good on the road in Baltimore is impressive, it doesn't necessarily mean we will play that well all of the time. Or, more appropriately, block a punt for a TD and get 76-yard INT returns from linebackers. Other crazy stuff will happen instead, sure, but I'm sure you get my point. Yes, the start was encouraging. But no, that doesn't mean we are a playoff team.
Of course, then there's the Negative Nancies. The Debbie Downers. The people who need to take a deep breath and think. Baltimore is a good team. We played well on the road against said good team. We had a shot to win. A legitimate one.
I don't know about y'all, but I wasn't really expecting that. I was hoping we'd have one, but certainly wasn't sold. Not by a longshot. We played well today. There really isn't much of a reason why we shouldn't win 5 games this season. We didn't play like a doormat, today, just as much as we didn't play like a playoff contender.
So, yes, I'm sitting in the middle. A happy medium, some might say. Why, you might ask? Well, it's pretty effing simple. Some things were very positive signs today, and others were worrisome. Some of the strengths were expected weaknesses, while some of the worries were...expected weaknesses. Hey, when nearly your entire team is an expected weakness, at some varying level, it can only go up. Except Dustin Colquitt. He was Dustin Colquitt.
Here are my thoughts, unit-by-unit. I'm neglecting my own blog to write this, so I hope you read it.
Who knew Brodie Croyle could play so well? I may be using selective memory and blocking 2007 out of my mind, but I think I just witnessed the best regular season game Brodie has ever played. He didn't panic. He didn't rush throws. He didn't make any bad throws. Like, at all.
I don't recall a single throw that, after the fact, it was like "BRODIE! WHY DID YOU THROW THAT?". Not one. A lot of people, including Rich Gannon and Todd Haley, talk about how he "gave us a chance to win". Which is correct, I suppose. It just matters as to how you interpret that. It seems as if it means that he was a game manager, that he merely didn't screw the game up. And that part is right -- he didn't screw nothing up. Not a thing.
However, the implication that he didn't do stuff to win the game just isn't plain true -- just look at the rushing statistics. Our offense did diddly-poo in the first half, with a run-first focus. When we aired it out more in the second half, Brodie was on fire.
He was on target with nearly every pass. We were inches short of a 1st down twice on 3rd-and mid-range, with Mark Bradley failing to recognize where he was on the field both times. They were both perfect throws. When he threw deep to Mark Bradley, it was right on the money. When he found Dwayne Bowe in the back of the endzone -- money.
I don't want him to start over Cassel. And I would have liked Thigpen to get in there a little more often, especially in the first half, because he could have added a spark to our offense. But, I'm not so sure that Cassel is better than Croyle.
I hope he is. Because that means Cassel wasn't a fluke last season. Because Croyle was good today, folks. If you didn't see it, I don't know what to tell you. He was on the money with nearly every throw. He didn't turn the ball over. Didn't make a mistake. Didn't even offer up a chance for a turnover, really. Didn't have happy feet back there. He was throwing behind a pretty bad offensive line, and he still confidently stood back there and delivered the ball. Plus, he didn't take too many sacks. He timed his time back there just about perfectly nearly every time. Couldn't ask for anything more.
Brodie Croyle: congratu-freaking-lations. A
Yikes. Now, it's also partly the offensive line's fault, obviously, but they struggled. I wish we could have seen some Dantrell Savage, but he might have been inactive, IDK my bff Jill. In any case, this was an awfully good run defense, so it's tough to read too much into it.
I wish we could have gotten Charles out in space more, like on a screen or something, but I understand why not. Their front 7 was just way too much for our O-Line to handle. So, while the RBs don't get entirely punished for the embarrassingly bad output, they don't get off scot-free, either. C
Wide Receivers + Tight Ends
As a whole, they did a pretty solid job. It's tough to tell too much watching the game live on a computer screen, so blocking and stuff is tough to get a read on, but they did pretty solid. Mark Bradley had that really good catch downfield, but also had those two beyond-stupid plays where he came up just short of the markers. Mark, either run your route farther or just dive up field to make sure you get the first down. On 3rd and 5, the play is designed for you to run 5-and-a-half yards, not 4-and-a-half. Please, learn this.
Dwayne Bowe had a couple of nice plays, but was entirely absent from M&T Bank Stadium in the first half. If you want to be a real #1, D-Bo, you can't disappear for an entire half.
Sean Ryan had the nice catch and touchdown. That was a good play. Especially the dive into the endzone. He knew where he needed to go. Bradley could learn a thing or two.
And hey, even Bobby Engram got into the action with a key catch.
As a whole, the unit wasn't bad. They could have done more, particularly Bradley with the near-first downs and Bowe in the first half, but as a whole it was pretty solid. B
In all seriousness, it was a tale of two lines. When we dropped back to pass, they weren't awful -- certainly not the worst O-Line in football. They did an all right job of giving Croyle enough time to go downfield. However, I didn't see a clear hole for a RB to run through all day long. Not one.
Again, I know it's Baltimore. I do know that they have Kelly Gregg and Haloti Ngata back there. So, it's tough to get too big of a read. But let's just say that all of the worry about this unit should remain. It will be the determining factor between us winning 8-9 games and being a fringe AFC West contender (assuming San Diego chokes again) and scraping together 5 wins and narrowly beating Oakland in the AFC West basement.
The onus is on you.
I'm more optimistic than most, I think. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think they played well by any stretch. But in the first half, they were quite fantastic on Ray Rice and the Baltimore running attack, with fresh legs and all. The big boys needed some more rest on the sidelines, and need to learn how to at least push Flacco a couple steps this-a-way or that-a-way, but they weren't entirely awful. Tank Tyler played the best of the bunch, from what I saw. It seemed that he was always the one stuffing Rice for a 2-yard gain, and he was the one who forced the safety before someone screwed it up in the secondary.
So, good on you Tank. Congrats. I'll give Tank a C+ and the rest a D+. The Ravens have a really strong offensive line, as well (ever wonder why they are so good?), and that certainly didn't help. More importantly, they definitely showed promise (especially Glenn Dorsey), and there is talent to work with here. I can't say as much with the next unit.
Derrick Johnson showed up, consistently being around the ball when he was in and, of course, making a brilliant read and picking off that pass and returning it for a long gainer. Gold star to you, DJ. Mike Vrabel had a pretty solid game, too -- about what I expected from the veteran. Some nice, savvy plays, while other plays he showed that he has lost a step. Not a bad stopgap, by any stretch, though.
What's worrisome, though, is that he will have to be a stopgap for more than a year-or-two, unless we plan on hardcore focusing on fixing the LB corps. I love Corey Mays as much as the next guy, and I realize he is a nice story and all. But he sucked today. Absolutely sucked. There is no other way to say it. Todd Heap ate him for breakfast, second breakfast, 11sies, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, second dinner and midnight snack. All of 'em. He couldn't cover me, I'm pretty sure, if I went out in the flat.
Plus, he got pushed back when he tried to make tackles. He has been a star on special teams in the past. I'd imagine he could do the same for us. Just please, please tell me we have somebody better. Because if we don't, this season just got a whole lot worse.
Demarrio Williams generally looked poor, as well. I don't remember anything standing out about him, so I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong. But from the few plays I focused on him, I wasn't impressed.
As a whole, they are the unit that started to tire out more than the d-line. When the D-line stopped stopping Ray Rice for short gains, and he reached the second level, he went right on to the third level. And the brunt of the passing yards were in the middle-range, nearly always Todd Heap covered by Corey Mays.
So, let's hope that Jovan Belcher or Pierre Walters can do something, anything, to move up the depth chart. Short of stabbing the guy, Northern Colorado punter-style, of course. Because if I see Corey Mays out there next week, I'm going to cry. F
P.S.: They can't blitz very well, either. Nearly every blitz we dialed up, it was picked up seamlessly. That's the linebackers issue. Learn how to avoid a RBs block, please, and at least get a hand up in Joe Flacco's face. Thanks a million.
Maurice Leggett might have been my favorite player last season. He's a fan-favorite, and for good reason -- his story is a really good one. UDFA out of a tiny-ass school (Valdosta State, right?), and now he's a spot starter. For awhile, I bragged about how the Chiefs had three rookies last season that could all start.
That isn't true. Leggett is a fine nickel corner, and isn't terrible as a fill-in. But if he was back there 16 games a year, it wouldn't be pretty. Cam Cameron smelled fresh blood, and attacked Leggett on seemingly every play. After a slow start, Leggett really improved, and his improvement directly correlated to the time when the Chiefs got back in the game. Brandon Carr must have been playing really well, becuase it seemed every time Flacco couldn't throw it to Leggett's side, he looked to the other side, then quickly turned to Heap and found him 18 yards away from Corey Mays. So, good job, Brandon Carr.
And I thought the safeties did a good job, as well. I still miss The Bonecrusher out there, but Mike Brown made some solid plays and, unlike Bernard Pollard, was always in the right place. Jarrad Page is a half-step too slow, and that's the difference between being an average starter and a Pro Bowl caliber one. If he was a half-second quicker with his reads or a half-step faster, he would have had a pick-or-two today. But there's a reason he slid to the 7th round. He's a good player, one that you can slot in while you focus on more pressing issues. But it's frustrating, because he's thisclose to being a star. Nothing he can really do, either. Some are given Ed Reed-type ability and some can't.
As a whole, the secondary did pretty good. I know I'll get bashed for this, considering Flacco lit us up, but look at the attempts. Look at how many times Flacco dropped back. And he always had as much time as he freaking wanted back there. Little-to-zero pass rush on most plays. When we blitzed, the linebackers were awful at it. Just awful. Flacco had his way with the secondary because he had enough time to balance his checkbook.
Considering all of that, they did a pretty good job. I'll give them a B-.
So, what went wrong on Special Teams? Colquitt shanked that one, yes, but he made up for it with some other classic Colquitt boomers, 55+ yarders that stay up in the air plenty long enough for gunners to get down there and practically wait on the returner to catch the ball.
Yes, Leggett fumbled that one punt. But we did recover it.
And everything else was glowing. Ryan Succop is a kicker's kicker, nailing a 53-yarder in his NFL debut. That's some serious leg, folks. He had it plenty high up, too, and that thing would have gone down the drain from 60. Sixty. Oh, what it's like to have a good kicker. I just hope he really is this good, and doesn't get worse.
The block punt was awesome, as well. Jon McGraw, love him or hate him, grocery-bagger or not, is an awesome special teams player. And should be a model for all collegiate players who might not be quite as skilled to get into the NFL as either an offensive or defensive player. I know McGraw was a second round pick, but still -- he's built out an entire career not out of playing safety, where he is average at best, but being a special teams-a-holic. He's on nearly every team, and makes an impact on all of them, too. I <3 Jon McGraw. Even if he is a grocery bagger. A-
I liked the gameplan. I would have liked us throw it a couple more times, but hey, we were trying to give our D some more rest. It's okay. Those things happen. As far as defense goes, I was fine with the game Pendergast called. If our 'backers knew how to blitz, we get to Flacco, and they don't score a TD late in the game on the post.
If anything, I would have blitzed more. But for the most part, I was pleased with the coaching staff's output.
Now, the real key is the adjustments that are made this week. They need to make some alterations to the depth chart, and learn how to teach linebackers how to play the position. If they can make the necessary adjustments for next week, this grade soars. As for right now, I'll give them a solid B-.
Don't Worry About Third Downs
Don't worry about the poor third down conversion. These things all even out. It's like in a baseball game, where you complain about the lack of production in clutch situations. It sucks at the time, but in the grand scheme of things, it isn't really that bad of a thing.
It isn't that some teams are "more clutch" than others. It's just variation in data. In football, unlike baseball, there really isn't enough time in the season to make all things regress back to where they should be. But still, it isn't like converting on third downs is a tangible difference. If Mark Bradley dives forward, we have two more third down conversions and the percentage looks a helluva lot better. Nothing different we do there, really, except just lunge forward. That's all. Simple stuff. Don't worry about it. At all.
One More Thing
MAWK -- I still don't think they were trying to run up the score at the end. The way I look at it, Harbaugh thought the odds of a FG miss were higher than the RB not making it into the endzone. Plus, if the RB doesn't make it, the Chiefs are stuck inside the 1, or at the 1, or whatever, while a missed FG sends it into the 20. I don't know why he felt this way. I think it might have had something to do with the punt we blocked earlier, or maybe the FG the Ravens' kicker missed earlier in the game.
And yes, I understand it was extra point distance. Even shorter, even. Still, weird shit happens. What if we get a hand on it? The game was far from over at that point. The difference between a 10-point win and a 14-point win means nothing to people who didn't bet on the game. I don't really see how an extra 4 points is running up the score.
But even if it was, as I said, it doesn't really matter. It was the right call, at least in Harbaugh's mind, for his team to have the best shot at winning. I can dig that.
Thank you all. I'll come back next week. Drive safely. Go back to KC Star message boards if you can't form coherent sentences/think the Chiefs are the worst team in the NFL. You couldn't be more wrong. We aren't no playoff team, but this team will win some games. And get better. And progress.
As a whole, I'm definitely optimistic about the output. We played better than I thought we would. Way better on offense, about as good as I expected on D. As a whole, though, like I said, better. For sure. I'll take it. We should be able to beat Oakland next week.