I am not suggesting that the Chiefs went into the San Diego game thinking that they were willing to give up a loss. I am also not suggesting that they did not think that they could win the game without their starting QB. After watching the game again (yes, I wanted to look more closely at the play along the line both on offense and defense) I saw some interesting things and one thing stood out. This team played hard vs. San Diego.
What I saw was a defensive line that was playing alot of four man fronts in an effort to get one extra guy after the passer. I saw an offensive line that was trying to block straight up against the defensive line that was often stacked to the gills in their face. Given that, it is not surprising that they offensive line performed more like the line from last year than it had so far this season. I think that this 'quarter of the season' mentality that Haley embraces may well have had an impact on how this game played out.
Think about it. The Chiefs head into a road game that we know will be hard to win, hamstrung even further because we have to have our backup QB come in to play because of a medical emergency. Looking at that scenario from atop Haley's perch on the HC throne, one would think that prudence could suggest it's time to batten down the hatches. Get through the roughest waters we will face by just hanging onto the boat until the captain gets over his sickness and we can challange the seas again. If we lose with a vanilla game plan, we still have three games versus (relatively) weak foes that can net us the 3-1 quarterly score we are looking for.
I don't mean that we intentionally gave away the game, but I think that any trickery or unusual plays were decided against before Friday because we were 0-0 in the fourth quarter. The goal is to get to 3-1 in each quarter. With Haley and Weis staring straight down the barrel of having Tyler Palko as the starter in St. Louis should Brokie go down with injury (as he has been wont to do) , I think that any fancy blocking schemes or wild cat trickery was shelved for the next game. With Cassel out, we really only have two QBs and if it were to come down to Palko, the offense would be drastically limited because the guy just hasn't gotten the reps.
I, of course, have no proof of this. It just seemed to me after watching the game again that the offensive line in particular, played a very different game than they had up to that point in the season. San Diego's o-line routinely had two blockers releasing off the line and making second level blocks on line backers for running plays. That is why they kept getting 7-9 yard running plays instead of 3-5 yarders. It is also why they occaisionally had big blocks made for short passes or screens in the middle of the field. Watch the game again. It was truly amazing how their linemen were nearly jumping foward off the line like they were coming out of the blocks in a track event.
What I did not see was a lazy defense that was simply not trying. They were playing with the same intensity that they have had most of the year. San Diego gave it back to them in spades. San Diego wanted this game very badly and it appears to me now that their level of determination went a long way to their winning that game. Tamba didn't sack Philip Rivers until there was only 4 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. Yes it was 21 to nothing at that point, but that defense had not given up. I don't think that really happened until after Jackson won that last battle with Flowers in the fourth quarter. They were in the game all the way into the fourth quarter.
All that said, we do now have our backs against the wall. There is very little room for error if this team is to make post season play. I think that Haley and Weis may finally be in a situation where they are forced to take low percentage risks in order to try and win games. I don't think Cassel will play vs. St. Louis either. If Haley knew this from the get go, it would seem to to make my argument that we were just trying to get through without losing players a bit more credible. Haley loves to play the odds with fourth down conversions, why not with quarterly win-loss records?
Who knows? We could see some really strange formations including Croyle and Palko in St. Louie if the "win at all costs mentality" takes hold. You know that our offense has those kind of plays in the book. With an 8-4 record, a two game lead in the division and a full quarter of football to go, we simply had very little reason to call those plays. Get Brodie a game under his belt knowing full well that he would have to play again the following week. Get the bugs out and get his comfort level up. It's going to happen. I hope it worked.