I find myself in a bit of an unusual mood, in that I don't really feel like taking the time to think of a running theme or joke to base this post around. I'm assuming you'll be able to get over it if I skip my usual attempt at being Mr. SuperUniqueGuy and just get right into it with a few thoughts following the Chiefs win over the Raiders.
Oh, but first...
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! In your FACES Raider fans that have been telling me all week how the Chiefs don't stand a chance and are primed for a blowout! I was polite all week, smiled and took it! Especially the several dozen of you who told me how overrated our CBs (in particular Brandon Flowers) are! How does it taste? TASTE IT!
OK, I'm calm again. Honestly, most of the Raider fans I talked to were perfectly nice people. That little rant is reserved ONLY for those who spent all week telling me how our "soft" team doesn't have a prayer. Anyways, onto my observations...We're not a victim anymore
What I mean by this is that there was a perception last year both here on AP and elsewhere that the Chiefs were more of a "finesse" team. Punch us in the mouth and we'll fold. A lot of factors contributed to this... Jamaal Charles, our best player, was a finesse guy. Our offensive line was smaller than most and relied on a zone blocking system rather than power. Our FBs were mediocre, our defense more fast than strong. We just didn't have very many players who hit the other team first. We were a finesse team, to put it bluntly. And when we met up with a bully (like the Raiders), we generally got knocked around.
No longer. In part due to new additions (Kelly Gregg and Le'Ron McClain) and some of last year's guys stepping up (Tyson Jackson, Derrick Johnson, Jackie Battle, Jon Asamoah, and Jovan Belcher), we've become a MUCH more physical team.
Look no further than that goal line stand. No way do we make that stand last year. Let me give everyone who bashed the Kelly Gregg signing (you know who you were, people. And there were a lot of you. Does the phrase, "He's the exact same player as Ron Edwards" ring a bell?) a moment to reflect on how wrong they were. And the effect he's had on T-Jax has been huge. Those two are playing PHYSICAL ball up front.
Big Jon Asamoah and big Jackie Battle continue the trend on offense. Ever notice that Battle ALWAYS gets an extra two yards after he's hit? That, my friend, is a bully for a runner. Jackie, I'm so, so sorry I ever called for you to get cut. I'm an idiot. While we're talking about Battle...
Don't pull another "starving the best RB on the roster" routine, Todd
Remember after 2.7 was finished with the team? And then Haley simply refused to give JC the lion's share of the RB duties? I'm very, very afraid we're going to see another version of that this year, this one not so much denying one great back, but giving the ball to one very bad back.
For starters, Thomas Jones should not have gotten 10 carries yesterday. He had exactly one run (ok, maybe two depending on how harsh you're being) in which he looked even kind of good. Every other run he looked slow, hesitant, and just... well, bad. The guy isn't getting it done unless he receives phenomenal blocking. There's just no reason why he should get those carries when Battle only had 16 on the day, or when Le'Ron McClain only had 1.
(Yes, I know Le'Ron had a fumble on that carry. And I don't care. Unless it presents itself as a consistent problem, I see no reason to use it as an excuse to deny Le'Ron carries. And as of yet, he hasn't been given the ball enough to show any kind of problem. So that reason for giving the ball to TJ over Le'Ron just doesn't hold up).
Battle and McClain are bigger, faster, and stronger than TJ. And they don't dance out there, they get vertical and run, you know, forward. Between those two and Dex we've got 40 carries a game covered. There's no reason to give TJ the ball. None. All it does is set our offense back. Crap, I'd rather see Javier Arenas run the ball than TJ (although to be fair, Arenas looks pretty comfortable following blocks. More wildcat in his future? I sure hope so!).
Part of being a coach is realizing who should be getting the ball and who should not. And Thomas Jones should not be getting the ball 10 times in a game. Especially when our primary back is getting an absolute minimum of 3 yards every time he carries the ball. TJ's a locker room leader and yada yada yada, but you can't keep feeding the ball to a RB who can't do anything with it.
Please don't do this to us again, Todd. Give the ball to your best players.
This week's "what to think of Matt Cassel" thought
It's interesting. Normally Cassel looks worse than the stats show. Yesterday, I'd say he looked better than the stats showed. Granted, his stats were pretty terrible, but still. He had one absolutely pathetic throw (the 2nd pick) but other than that, played all right.
Of course, seeing as the offensive line was giving him all kinds of time and our receivers were playing like MEN out there, "all right" is pretty sad. But his throws were still showing zip and he made some good downfield passes. He was even going through progressions and converted some third downs by looking off his primary receiver ( know, right? I almost fainted)! As per his usual, it's a mystery. On that note...
Were many of us here correct in thinking we're going to see more of an aerial attack?
Hey, a Baldwin sighting! It produced mixed results, to be sure. He clearly isn't in sync with Cassel yet, and they need to get on that ASAP. However, after reviewing the tape, he got himself open more than a couple of times and looks like he belongs out there.
Add in that Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston are playing great, great football right now and methinks that we have the start of something. Of course, I'll have to reserve judgment for next week. I'd like to see more three receiver sets with Baldwin and more of him and Cassel being on the same page. But it looks like we definitely have the potential to air it out a little, especially if the O-line can keep blocking like they did yesterday.
More 3 WR sets with blocking RBs, less of Leonard Pope. There's my formula for a better Chiefs passing attack. Throw that in there with "no more TJ" and I think our offense can be pretty good. Of course, the real story of the day is the defense. So many good points, so little time...
How GREAT did our D look out there?
-Again, thank you Pioli for getting Kelly Gregg. What a difference a legit NT makes.
-T-Jax continued to look solid, and even provided some pass rush! Where'd THAT come from? Pass rush? From T-Jax?
-On a downer note, Michael Bush again made our D look silly at times by breaking arm tackles and showing amazing speed and agility for a guy his size. I hate that guy. Honestly, if I'm OAK I'd trade McFadden this offseason and use Bush primarily. He's a stud, and McFadden's (again) dinged up. Sell high, OAK. Sell high. Actually, don't. I like the idea of you guys having no draft picks next year.
-If what we saw yesterday is the standard for Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers for the rest of the year, I don't see a lot of teams throwing the ball well against us. Clearly they both remembered last years games (especially Flowers) and were determined to show the OAK receiving corps that we do, in fact, have a great CB duo here in KC (contrary to the constant chatter at S&B Pride that Flowers is terrible because, yanno, Ford owned him that one time). Great game by those two.
-Derrick Johnson is an animal. What a player. In addition, what we're seeing in him this year is what happens when a talented 3-4 WILB has a solid D-line in front of him eating up blockers. Pro Bowl this year for DJ.
-And what about Jovan Belcher? The guy keeps getting better every year. He's not afraid to get physical, and I no longer view him as a weakness in our D.
-Justin Houston quietly had what was (in my not-much-tape-reviewed-yet opinion) his most solid game to date. He had some pressure on the QB, did a decent job against the run (for the most part), and looked much better in coverage than previous weeks. Good job, rook.
-Tamba Hali makes a living embarrassing guys who are supposed to be good LT's. No sacks, but he (along with the rest of our defense) was in the face of Boller and Palmer all day. It's tough to throw the ball when you know you're about .2 seconds from getting smacked.
(Side note worthy of separation here. It cracks me up when fans [other teams' and our own] claim that QBs "gave away a game" when the defense was beating the tar out of them and causing bad throws, while having great coverage and making plays on the ball. Seriously, were Boller and Palmer both pretty bad? Sure. But our defense made it happen. It wasn't a fluke. We owned your line on passing downs and our secondary was blanketing your WRs. That's what happened. You didn't "give" us anything, we took it. Just like you took games from us last year. We had to deal with it then, you have to deal with it now.)
-He's technically not a defensive player, but Dustin Colquitt may as well have been yesterday with the punts he was making. When you manage to put the other team inside their own 5 a couple of times, and inside their own 20 a couple of more, you've done your job as a punter. Well, done.
Great game by many aspects of the team. I walk away feeling pretty good about what we can do, but still a little concerned about the offense. Seriously, Todd, take my advice on this offense. Here, I'll even put it in simple numbered form for you:
1) Stop giving the ball to Thomas Jones. Use Battle, Dex, and McClain.
2) Run fewer formations with Pope and more with Baldwin. Have Bowe, Breaston, and Baldwin at WR and 2 RBs (any combination of Battle, Dex, and McClain) on the field in most of our formations.
3) Use more play action when the run is working. This should be a no-brainer, but I wasn't seeing much of it.
4) Continue to take shots downfield.
5) Use what is working on a drive. If Battle has just run for 6 yards on first down, try running it again sometimes. Remember, you don't need to alternate pass/run/pass/run every single play.
6) Watch the first downs and points accumulate.