KANSAS CITY MO - JANUARY 09: A fan of the Kansas City Chiefs reacts in the stands as the Baltimore Ravens defeat the Chiefs 30-7 in the 2011 AFC wild card playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 9 2011 in Kansas City Missouri. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Could the Chiefs have beaten the Ravens? Of course. Should they have been expected to? Absolutely not. Not at this stage in the Chiefs' "process."
Understandably, some fans will be in a panic.
"The Chiefs were outcoached."
"The Chiefs were a product of their schedule."
"The Chiefs were an embarrassment."
While there's an element of truth to each of those kinds of comments, let's be real about one thing: the Chiefs weren't supposed to make the Super Bowl this year. Most of us didn't even expect them to make the playoffs. They were David and Baltimore was Goliath. We watch movies every day that mislead us into thinking that David has a fighting chance against Golaith, but the statistics tell us otherwise. Baltimore has a lot more talent than the Chiefs and won a game they should have won.
And that in no way upsets me. More after the jump.
To the Chiefs' credit, there was a pretty good chunk of time where they acted like they belonged in that game. Their defense kept the Chiefs in the game and their running game was an absolute force to be reckoned with. Going into the second half, I felt an uneasy confidence that the Chiefs could actually pull the game off. My expectations pretty much define my feeling about the entire season: I let myself become disillusioned to what was really happening.
The reality is that the Ravens are a team that's been doing it for years. They have a terrific front office that has built a deep team through successive years of outstanding drafts and personnel decisions. They are 53-deep, well-coached, and have veteran leaders like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed who know what it takes to win. The Chiefs, on the other hand, are the new kid on the block. They are flawed. They have significant gaps at key positions and limited playoff experience. The Chiefs were basically trying to win a race with faulty brakes and a subpar engine. If you think that's a bad thing, realize that last year their entire car needed an overhaul.
Given the significant talent gap, the Chiefs had to overcome those gaps by playing perfect, mistake-free football. It doesn't help that Baltimore subscribes to the same "control the clock" type offense that the Chiefs do. There's only so long that a defense can take getting abused in the Time of Possession game. We talk a lot about how the Chiefs suddenly collapsed. They most certainly did, but let's not ignore the fact that the Chiefs were pretty much using human bodies to push against a freight train before that point. That doesn't go back to Romeo calling a poor game. That doesn't go back to the defense quitting. When you only have one guy who can legitimately get to the passer, you don't have the luxury of playing aggressive coverages. When you have some key gaps on the interior, you have to make some adjustments that take away your ability to do other things. They were simply outmatched and they were making the best of it. They did a great job of keeping the Chiefs in the game for 2 quarters in spite of the adversity.
That's not to say there weren't some areas that concerned me. There were a few that stuck out to me, such as the absolutely dreadful passing game. We have all offseason to talk through some of those issues. But in games like this, we have to put the game in perspective. The Chiefs aren't a team built for now, they are a team that is learning to be a team that can do big things later. And that should happen, if the Chiefs continue to build the team in 2011 as they did in 2010.
The Chiefs made a lot of dumb mistakes, the playcalling was spotty at times, and they could have used better production from some of their key players. But the truth is, the Chiefs lost to the Ravens because they were outmatched and they are outmatched because the team is on the cusp, not on the prowl. So let's be sure not to get too hung up on trying to find parties to blame for a game where the underdog expectedly lost and didn't pull off the superhuman effort necessary to win. The loss hurts, but it will hurt a lot less when we realize that they weren't supposed to win in the first place.