The rushing attack
Such a great time to be a Chiefs fan. 10-5, one game left to play in the regular season and they've clinched a home game in the postseason. Looking back, there was a lot of optimism prior to this season, some level-headed, some pessimistic, but overall there was a sense of something... special. Is this how the Patriots felt in 2001? Is this how the Steelers felt in 2005? Is it how the Arizona Cardinals felt in 2008? Maybe, maybe not. But the Chiefs worked to get here, and these are the reasons we as fans get to experience a complete turnaround of epic proportions.
Take away the names, the depth chart starter and backup roles, and just look at this webpage. Of ALL 32 NFL teams, the Kansas City Chiefs rank #1 in rushing yards per game with 167.5 on average. As a team, the Chiefs average 4.8 yards per carry, which is good for #3 in the NFL behind the Eagles and the Raiders (who are consequently the 2nd and 3rd ranked teams rushing in almost every other statistical category; it's amazing how close the top three are in everything).
With names, well it really all boils down to Jamaal Charles being the player we knew he would be after 8 games last season. 6.4 yards per carry average is one of the best in the NFL EVER. On 80, EIGHTY(!), fewer carries than Arian Foster, he has racked up only 50, FIFTY(!), yards less. That. Is. PHENOMENAL.
Then there's the ever-profession Mr. Jones, who is no slouch either. TJ is 121 yards away from a 1,000 yard season. I was not to excited about the addition of TJ earlier this year, but was more than surprised with his production early this season.
Anyone can look back now and see why the Chiefs have endured rushing success all season long: being flexible, limiting carries, and going with the hot hand. Jones has 20 more carries than Jamaal over 15 games, which to me is more than acceptable. Going into the post season, the Chiefs are going to have two productive and less worn down backs than probably any other team in the league. And just because I want to point this out; which other AFC playoff team is rolling with a two-back situation similar to the Chiefs? The Patriots with Green-Ellis and Woodhead.
The passing attack
Clearly, this is Matt Cassel's offense. After witnessing the
pig vomit game Croyle started, I think it's safe to say the Chiefs need Cassel more than he needs them. Even with Croyle's brief stint yesterday where he threw twice (once for -2 yards, and one interception) it is painfully clear the Chiefs have no recourse if Matt goes down. They're toast.
The Chiefs only rank 19th in passing yards per game, but hey, when you're first in rushing, you don't have to throw a lot. With 225.6 yards per game, Cassel has thrown 27 TD's and only 5 interceptions all year long. Stats don't tell the whole story as we all know and love to point out, but how does this sound:
Yep, Mr. Cassel is indeed the 5th rated quarterback in the entire league. The only guys better? Tom Brady, Phillip Rivers, Michael Vick, and Aaron Rodgers. Not bad company to be in going into the final week of the regular season.
Offense as a whole
The Chiefs are the 9th ranked offense in the league, which I believe after 15 weeks makes them a prime playoff contender based on what I've shown you above. But that's only 1/4 of the team.
I had thought about doing rushing/passing defense, but the Chiefs defense is ... well it's reliable. They're going to give up points, teams are going to get yards on them, but in the red zone they tighten things up and try to limit the damage. As a whole, the defense is ranked 16th in the league. The only team I can find that's in the playoffs with a worse defense? The Patriots (Colts and Jaguars are also both worse, but neither is in yet).
Now some things I've noticed over the course of the season:
Derrick Johnson is all over the place. If he had better hands, he might be having a record breaking season for a linebacker this year. But his play as it stands has been superb this season, and he's become more of the player we the fans expected him to be for this team.
Eric Berry has progressed faster than I ever would have imagined. He has gotten better by huge strides every week of this season, and I'm knocking on wood and crossing my fingers he doesn't have the rookie fatigue that occasionally happens. He has 4 interceptions, 104 yards, and a touchdown. I'm absolutely impressed.
Kendrick Lewis has been a great surprise for a rookie. He's a situational player that has shown a nose for the football... like 3 times (3 INTS). He has as many interceptions as the Chiefs corners combined (and they're not a shabby pair at all).
Tamba Hali has been in beast mode all year, and is tied for 5th in the league in sacks. He has really taken to his new position as a linebacker rushing the passer.
The one's they call "Brandon" are having what I would call an amazing year. Carr has turned it on lately, and Flowers has been having a pro-bowl caliber season.
Seeing all the individuals having such a great season on this defense boggles my mind how it's not ranked higher, but the system has been working as KC continues to take the ball away (+10 in turnovers) and outscore opponents.
Started out the season strong, but somewhere down the line special teams has been relatively lackluster. There have been a couple called back, but really after the season opener, not much has happened... and that's not really a bad thing. Personally, I'm much happier with a reliable special teams that consistently covers the opposition than one that gives and occasionally gets big plays.
The dark horse candidate for Coach of the Year definitely has to be Todd Haley. He's been an integral part of a franchise turnaround that is the best in Chiefs history. With the staff that's been put together, the changes made on offense and defense, and the position coaches showing the players how to execute, the Chiefs have put together a great season. The grueling training camp Todd Haley puts his players through along with the physical condition he expects them to be in have put this team at week 16 with a playoff berth and an almost totally healthy roster. His 4th down conversion decisions are admirable, successful or not. I think his old-school/new-school outlook is refreshing. To me, he has matured quite a bit as head coach while still making a few questionable if not straight out odd decisions, but that's his call. He's in control of the psychology of this team, and right now he has guided it into the playoffs in his 2nd season.
So AP, how have you felt about the Chiefs and it's parts this season? Any great stats that I've missed out on? Sound off!