I guess I missed the end of this year's regular season. Just call me Rip Van Winkle because I sure didn't realize that the playoffs have already begun and the Chiefs misfired again. Based on Joel's post I guess it's time to throw in the towel.
Let me take a look at the standings here...Wait a minute...this just in...the season is NOT over.
You mean this team that is 4-7 and bears no resemblance to the NFL football team that was fielded during the preseason is still alive and in the playoff hunt? I know it's hard to believe but that is, indeed, the truth. From what I have been reading here you'd think the Chiefs had been eliminated from the playoffs this year. I know it's a popular past time here to look 2-4 weeks BEYOND the current game, but we should slow down just a bit and let this thing play out for real.
I know that I've already told you about that '89 Steelers team and how up and down they were in that season. They were also staring 4-6 in the face after 10 games. Guess what else? They weren't done losing games in their season either. They finished at 9-7 and miraculously made it to the playoffs. I know that this story seems like an extreme long shot to repeat (and of course it is), but didn't the Patriots game make you think the Chiefs had a chance, at least for the first half? I mean, come on! It was Tom freaking Brady on the other side! You can only give him so many chances without putting your own points on the board. Man, if you can look me straight in the eye and tell me that you weren't harboring the seed of hope for a win at halftime of that Monday night game though, you gotta be a great liar. We were all there, glued to the tube thinking the same thing. Could it happen? I know damn well that you were nurturing that hope. I sure was.
Just like I was last Sunday night when our defense looked like a playoff caliber unit. Unfortunately the win didn't come, but I still don't think it's time to completely despair. The Chiefs defense held Mike Wallace to 2 stinking catches? Big Ben held under two hundred yards passing? That was the Steelers that we held to 13 points folks. For the record, that ain't chopped liver.
In Week 10 of the 1989 NFL football season, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Chicago Bears to go 4-6 on the year. What's more, that team couldn't score a point in that loss to the Bears. Yep, they got skunked 20-0. In Pittsburg. In front of their home crowd (at least however many of the faithful that stayed to the end of that game anyway). This was the same Pittsburgh Steelers team was beat in their first two games by a combined score of 92-10. That's right sports fans! Even worse than the 2011 Chiefs got pummeled in their first two games by a combined score of 89-10.
(Look, I know it's not much but in days like these you have to take your pluses anywhere you can find them.)
In some ways, that Steelers team WAS worse than this Chiefs team. As bad as this Chiefs team has struggled this year, they have at least been able to put points on the board every week, even if it was only a Field Goal. That Steeler team lost three of those first ten games without putting a single point on that scoreboard. As hard as the Chiefs losses this season are to swallow (based on fan expectations anyway) wouldn't you think that those Steelers losses were even harder to accept? How many of their fans do you think gave them any shot of making the playoffs at that point in the season? I'm sure that if there had been fan blogs back then, most of what you read would have been exactly like what we are seeing here at Arrowhead Pride right now. The season's over. Time to put in all the rookies to 'evaluate' them. Let's cut our losses and make plans for future seasons when we have a chance. Blah,blah,blah. Waa, waa, wahhhhhh! This is what the defeatist in us does to our brain. It takes much kool-aid to overcome the defeatist my friends but it can be done!
There are still games to be played. AP user Texas Chief's prediction about picking up Kyle Orton has come true. Tyler Palko just does not seem to be able to pull the loose ends together to get it done. We just witnessed him go 43-of-66 for 403 yards with six interceptions and no toucchdowns in two games versus two of the most difficult opponents in the NFL in the Steelers and Pats.
What, exactly, was your expectation? He hasn't played enough in real games to develop any rhythm with these or any other receivers let alone take full responsibility for running the offense. That said, I thought he actually did pretty well running the offense. Haley has said as much in the press recently concerning how calm, cool and collected Palko has remained in the face of the biggest adversity his career has seen. Not being able to understand the play called in from the sideline pisses off experienced QB's. For an inexperienced one like Palko, it can cause the wheels to fall off. A four point loss to the mighty Pittsburg Steelers would indicate that this did not happen.
Palko's interceptions killed the teams chances at wins, but I believe given time and opportunity, Palko can be a serviceable backup in the NFL. Can he be a starter? Unknown, but he would have to prove that he can get his receivers on the same page with him better than he has so far. He'd also have to prove that he can make smart decisions and follow them up with accurate throws on a regular basis. I can't see how these two starts were any kind of unequivocal referendum on Tyler Palko--yet. Eventually he will see more playing time and he will either find the handle or go the way of Brodie Croyle. Either way, I have doubts about whether or not he will get the start next Sunday in Chicago. Neckbeard is now in da house.
With the window on this season nearly closed, drastic action had to be taken. I have followed Kyle Orton since he was the starter for the Bears. What was that? He started for the...Bears? Hmmm...could there be a little method to this Orton madness? Who better than their previous signal caller to be able to go into a stadium that he is very familiar with and defeat his old team? Few people would know that defensive scheme better than Orton, including some minute proclivities that certain defensive players for the bears might exhibit. Is Urlacher better at rushing the passer from the right or left? Orton should know. All other things being equal (a huge assumption), Orton is who I would rather see changing plays at the line of scrimmage against his old team.
Orton was sent packing from Chicago to a team that gratefully took what he had only to unceremoniously toss him out with the rubbish in favor of a young, untested player that seemingly can't throw a down field pass the following season. Do you think Orton would like nothing better than to have a chance to play spoiler in Chicago? With Cutler out and Caleb Hanie in, wouldn't you think that a defense that played like ours did last Sunday should put a muzzle on Chicago in terms of being able to move the ball or score points? I think that a defense that has proven effective against Adrian Peterson should be able to handle Matt Forte and Marion Barber. Especially with eight in the box--Will Tamba Hali finally feast on QB stew? Oh, would that it were!! Succop may not be Seabass, but he is capable of making 50 yarders. It only takes one to win if the other side can't score.
TC was correct in making his choice of what to do going forward based on when the team becomes eliminated from playoff contention. That is truly when you can begin playing rookies and second tier players to gain some information on them for the future. Until that time though, you simply cannot give up playing to win the game each week with the players that give you the best shot at winning. Right now, I believe that player is Kyle Orton. Orton is a solid quarterback that may never be considered great, but he certainly can deliver wins when he has defensive support and receiver targets that can catch the ball. I think that we have those things on our team right now. Sure the odds are long, but, oh, what fun it is to ride...
Those '89 Steelers that got skunked by the Bears? The went on the next week to eek out a win vs. the Dolphins. The final score was 20-17. Guess who the QB was for the Dolphins? You may have heard of him. His name was Dan Marino. How much chance do you think their fans gave those Steelers of beating Mr. Marino in Miami? Does the image of a snowball in hell give you any clues? Unbelievably, that's exactly what happened. The Chiefs by comparison need only to overcome Caleb Hanie--Huh? Add to this the fact that Haley wants a win at Soldier field where he was an assistant coach and you have a recipe for an explosive game.
Those Steelers could only muster ONE division win that year, yet they kept their heads, made the playoffs and proved that the season starts over once the playoffs begin. These Chiefs are 2-2 in their division with two left and only one division win behind the current division game leader (Denver) and tied with the division overall leader (Raiders). Those last two game versus Denver and Oakland puts the Chiefs destiny in their own hands if they can be within two games of the leader with two to go. The Broncos and Raiders still have to play their share of this schedule as well as the Chiefs. If you believe for one minute that Coach Haley has given up on this season (due respect Joel, but there is no way that Haley is just expressing faith in his team because he has no choice), then you don't know Todd Haley. It ain't over yet.
San Diego (4-7) has yet to play Jacksonville, Buffalo, Baltimore, Detroit and Oakland. Denver (6-5) has yet to play Minnesota, Chicago, New England, Buffalo and KC. Oakland (7-5) has yet to play Miami, Green Bay, Detroit, KC and San Diego. Many scenarios here will almost certainly end in at least two teams having the same record at the end of the regular season. San Diego is the one that already has three division losses and is tied with the worst record in the AFC West. I think they have the hardest road to make anything of their season. The way they have been playing, winning 5 straight would seem improbable. Denver probably has the easiest schedule but I think the Tebow wheels are about to fall off. Much boils down to Oakland vs. Miami on Sunday. If Miami pulls the upset, we have ourselves a new ballgame that gives the Chiefs some control of their destiny. All this of course assumes that the Chiefs can win four of their last five games.
In case you have forgotten, the 2009 Chiefs were able to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Kansas City in a season when they were only able to win four games (go here for a look). It took overtime for those Chiefs to win it 27-24 in a season when four wins was all we could get. Do you remember what that win felt like to win-starved fans back then? I sure do. It was like a cold beer on a 105 degree summer day in San Antonio. If you haven't experienced that, well, call Texas Chief. I'll bet he has. These Chiefs have four wins and that's after all the players lost to injury blah, blah, blah. The point is that this team is really much better than that team was back in '09. They won't quit while there is still a chance.
The window is closing for the Chiefs, but it's not yet shut. The bears are very beatable given their injuries. The Jets are after the Bears and the Jets are currently 6-5. They are a decent team, but they have not played well this year. Who knows what kind of injury troubles could befall that Jets team between now and then. They will be playing all out for their season as well.
Then of course, we have Green Bay. It would appear that this is simply an unwinnable game for the Chiefs this season. My question though, is who's gonna beat the big dog? I would bet that champagne that the surviving '72 Dolphins drink every season has been chilled and rechilled this season in anticipation of being drunk in celebration of no team since being able to match their perfect season. Green Bay will lose a game this year. Their defense is not a Super Bowl caliber defense any more than the Chiefs is. Take that however you want to, but Drew Brees and his Saints gave Green Bay all they wanted in the season opener and came up just short. That won't happen again. It seems like every year, the team that goes deep into the season without a loss has the rest of the league catch up to them. Why couldn't the Chiefs beat the Packers in KC? Injuries have hurt everyone else this year, it could just be time for the Packers to slow down. It's still not impossible.
Then the Chiefs are left with taking care of business in the AFC West. Right now, the Raiders have slid through a couple close ones and are standing atop the mountain. The novelty of Tim Tebow is wearing a bit thin as well and I have a feeling that somebody is gonna smack him in the chops pretty soon. With the schedules that remain for the teams in our division, it's nearly impossible to predict just how the wins and losses will shake out at this time. No, I would not say the Chiefs are out of the running in the AFC West just yet either.
The playoffs start for the Chiefs next Sunday in Chicago. The defense is playing about as well as we could ask right now, (thanks RAC, your contribution has not been discussed much this year but it seems as if it is definitely paying dividends) and it is perfect timing for a late season run at some questionable competition. Speaking of RAC and the coaching in general, I must take exception to Bob Gretz's recent CBS Rapid Report in which he gives the Chiefs coaching staff a D for their performance last Sunday. He says that Romeo's defense is the only reason that he even gave them a D. Given all that has happened to this team this season in terms of injuries, Gretz is gonna bag on the coaching staff for losing to Pittsburg by 4 points when playing an unproven backup with less starts than Cam Newton (who has 11 starts and only 3 wins for a .272 win percent), a backup running back that hasn't cracked a starting roster based solely on his own merits in four years in the league, and a rookie receiver that suffered a broken thumb in a locker room scuffle prior to the season even commencing? As Ochocinco would say, child please.
I hope Orton has been eating his Wheaties because he is being given a chance to do something that quarterbacks gain recognition for. Wanna play another playoff game Kyle? I'm from Missouri. Show Me.
(Actually, if Orton DID run the table for the Chiefs this season and make the playoffs, can you imagine the quarterback controversy that would exist next year when Cassel returns from injury?)
Can Orton resurrect this wonky Chiefs season for the Kansas City faithful? You already know my answer. Stranger things have happened, such as the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks making the playoffs last year and beating the Saints in their wildcard matchup. Bring on the Bears. Haley is laying a Bear trap and I hope they take the bait.