First of all, can I point out how ridiculous it is that so many NFL analysts are harping on the Chiefs' defensive performance? Nevermind that the final 7 points the Ravens scored against them were in garbage time and nevermind the fact that the Chiefs didn't get a first down until the final moments of the first half. The Chiefs' defense played poorly primarily because their offense couldn't get them off the field. Come on, football analysts. You're better than that.
For the record, I understand that the Chiefs' defense isn't that great. I'm just saying that statistics can be misleading.
The Chiefs aren't that bad, even though almost all of the Power Rankings have them listed as one of the bottom 3 teams in the league. The Chiefs showed a lot of encouraging signs in Sunday's contest against the Ravens. They're playing tougher, they're playing fundamentally sound football, and they almost pulled off a win against a really good football team.
The reality is that the Chiefs are a below average football team that will likely overachieve all season long. That's actually great news for me. I would rather have a lesser talented team play beyond their potential than have a very talented team play like they don't care. After all, once the Chiefs acquire some talent, they'll have both talent and heart. While I usually don't agree with Pete Prisco, he brought up a great point in his recent Power rankings when he said: "...they are just undermanned against good teams." Where I disagree with Prisco is that I don't see that as a fatal flaw. The Chiefs can still beat good teams that aren't motivated to play by executing, playing smart, and playing with guts. That makes them a lot scarier to face on any given Sunday than a lot of the bottom-feeder teams.
Brodie Croyle did play well in the second half under the circumstances, but there is only so far he can carry an offense that doesn't know how to block. The Ravens extended drives; the Chiefs did not. It's that simple. And because the Ravens extended drives, they controlled the clock and the game. I remember telling everyone beside me that the Chiefs' defense was bound for second half collapse. "They're gassed," I said repeatedly. And that is exactly what happened. The Chiefs' defense was more tired than they were bad.
The reason the Chiefs can't control the tempo of the game is that their offensive line is horrible at run blocking. That was the part that frustrated me the most last Sunday. The entire right side of the offensive line is a swinging gate, Brian Waters doesn't seem to be the same guard without Willie Roaf by his side, and I'm beginning to wonder if Haley was wrong to force Branden Albert to play at a lower weight. For as hard as Albert worked this offseason, he seems to have gotten worse. He looks out of sync and I hope that's just a temporary thing.
I can only hope that the light at the end of the tunnel is that Ndukwe can bump Goff out of the Guard position and that O'Callaghan will seal up the starting Right Tackle position. Both would be upgrades at their respective positions. I don't think either move will significantly improve the Chiefs' pass protection, but it should improve their run blocking. And let's be realistic here. Those are only modest upgrades.
On defense, the coverage was pretty solid given that the defensive line is just as bad as last season. Granted, the word "defensive line" is sort of a fluid concept, since the primary pass rushers aren't technically considered defensive linemen. Maybe I'm alone here, but I don't understand the commitment to the 3-4 so fast, so soon. A lot of our players don't look right. It pains me to watch Dorsey play 5 technique and 2-gap. At the pro level, he would be at his best lined up in the 3 technique, where he can play more like a traditional 4-3 lineman.
What makes the Chiefs' "defensive line" situation worse is that the two players with the most upside on the defense are two guys who aren't supposed to be playmakers. In a 3-4, Dorsey and Tyson Jackson's job is to free up space for the back 7 to make plays. But that assumes that you have some semblance of talent in the back 7 to make those plays. The Chiefs don't need to have pro bowl playmakers in the back 7, but they need to have somebody with at least some ability to make plays. They don't have that right now.
Vrabel didn't look too swift last weekend, and Hali looked surprisingly below average as an OLB. He's not attacking as I thought he would. He's dancing around. Corey Mays and Mike Brown are effective every once in a while on a blitz, but realistically, these guys aren't pass rushers. And so, our rushers were never even in the same zip code as Flacco. Flacco looked really good, but I don't know how much of that is due to offseason improvement and how much of that is due to the Chiefs' complete inability to put pressure on him.
The good news is that there is still hope for incremental improvement. The offensive line will continue to be flawed, but they might improve to serviceable. And if Hali can eventually find his way, then the Chiefs might be able to finally put a little bit of heat on the quarterback every once in a while. For now, we'll just have to deal with the fact that the foundation of both our offense and defense is going to be built around a set of players that are going to do as much as they can with the limited talent they have.