October is long gone. The month of the win streak has passed, and the scraggly, gray-spattered, pubic-bush looking beard will be shaved away. (Not a moment too soon IMO. Haley has spent the last month looking like a train car hopping hobo. I bet he went out Halloween night carrying a broom pole on his shoulder with a red kerchief tied to the far end of it.) November (the month of the great Turkey slaughter) began with a THUD for the comeback Chiefs. The picture above represents not only the new month, but also the new game day uniforms of the Chiefs offensive (and believe me, their play was definitely offensive) linemen. Hint for the slower thinkers among you: In what country will you find Istanbul?
Let me back up a step; I'm not here to whine about the loss or to blame one group of players above others. Every member of the Chiefs squad (players and coaches) worked hand in hand to stink up the field against the Dolphins. That game was a perfect storm of ineptitude, failed execution, unpreparedness, and inability to adjust. The soaring eagle that was the October Chiefs flew south for the winter, to be replaced by a a flock of lame ducks. The Dolphins gutted, de-feathered, and slow cooked our team and then hung them in the front window of the local Chinese restaurant to be served up as Peking Duck to the starving anchors of every NFL game-day recap show on the air. Worst of all, it happened right there at Arrowhead Stadium. Chiefs fans could smell the BBQing duck in the parking lot, where only hours before they had been tailgating. All trace of the wondrous odors of burnt ends and sausage links gave way to the stink of scorched feathers and rendered fat. The previously win-less Dolphins feasted on 5-star gourmet meal of a 4 game win streak.
Does that mean I'm officially off the bandwagon? (I can hear the suck-for-Luck crowd and the scavenger bird-like negative Nancy's licking their lips at the prospect of stumbling upon another rotted corpse) Of course not. My Chiefs passion never would have survived the Vermeil and Edwards years of complete defensive failure if it were so weak as to be shaken by a handful of bad games. All it means is that I have to focus my keen eagle eyed vision on the big picture, rather than the latest debacle.
In bowling, a streak of 3 consecutive strikes is called a 'turkey'. As much as I'd like to apply that same winged moniker to Carson Palmer's 3 INT game, I'll have to choose a different flying creature to represent his second straight game with 3 passing turnovers. (perhaps quail, because it sounds so much like fail) I expected the Raiders to lose to the Donkeys last weekend. And make no mistake, that's what happened. The Raiders lost. The Broncos did not win. The Raiders are the worst team in the league against the run. They give up 5.9 yards per carry. They are ranked 29th in the league in overall run defense. They can't tackle, and that's why they made Tim Tebow look like an actual NFL QB. Watching the Raiders try to tackle a runner reminds me of a flock of squawking penguins diving headfirst into the ocean with their wings down flat on their sides. Worse yet for Oakland, the run defense isn't the worst part of their team. The QB play (and the huge price they payed to get Palmer) will be the undoing of their team. Carson Palmer has been out of football for far too long. He looked only slightly better after 3 weeks than he did after one. He has no timing down with any of his receivers, and with only 1/2 a season left to play he won't be firing on all cylinders until mid December. Scooping T.J.
Houshmanzada Houchmandadeh Houshmundza....... T.J. Spellcheck-Killer off the scrap heap is quite obviously a desperate attempt to bring in a receiver that Carson can develop some kind of report and timing with soon enough for the Palmer addition to translate into a few wins. Oakland isn't dead in the water yet, but they may very well be out of the race by the time you sit down to eat your Thanksgiving fowl.
Tim Tebow has played 3 NFL games. He was absolutely terrible for 55 minutes of his first game, and ran enough to give him the ability to toss up a couple wobbly ugly passes in the last 3 minutes to pull out a win. His second game looked worse than his first, and he didn't bother to look good for 5 minutes at the end of the game. Tim Tebow has the heart of a winner. Unfortunately, that heart is stuck with the arm of Tyrannosaurus Rex and the throwing mechanics of Foghorn Leghorn on a 3 day bender. To make matters worse, Denver traded away the best receiver on their squad after naming Tebow the starter. Even if he's able to create late game heroics for the Donkeys he doesn't have the down-field weapons to sustain a winning streak. I take no joy in bursting J-Man's bubble, but the Broncos' goose is already cooked. They are not going to win the division, and every single one of the 'oh so few' wins that Tebow manages to get from here until the end of the season will simply make it more and more expensive for Denver to trade up in the 2012 draft to get a quarterback. The Donkey's are already a corpse, even if they don't know it yet. Buzzards are, right now, circling above Mile High Stadium (or whatever stupid corporate sponsored name it has now) intent on picking the last morsel of meat from the bones of Tim Tebow's NFL career in Denver.
In my view, that leaves just the Chargers (led by a black throated warbler QB) and the Chiefs to fight it out for the division crown. Popular opinion will tell you that San Diego is the more talented team. If Moeaki, Berry and Charles were on the field I wouldn't agree; but without them I'll have to concede that argument. The Chiefs have a lot of talent on the field. The majority of their players are either still in the chickadee stage of their careers, or just now passing it. Over 3 seasons they have drafted, and developed young players to build a team that can sustain itself for many years. Bowe and (I believe) Baldwin are going to become the dominate pass catching force of the AFC in years to come; while Jackson wants out from under A.J. Smith's thumb and Gates continues suffering form injuries.
Forgetting about the long term sustainability of the 2 teams for the moment we should look to the injury charts for a better understanding of this years chances. Castillo and Dielman are out. Phillips is doubtful. Diggs, Floyd, and Mathews are questionable. Tolbert, Jackson and Gates are listed as probable; and if Mathews and Tolbert don't play...Brinkley is listed as questionable after a concussion. The Chargers roadrunners are all sporting club feet while their wide outs have clipped wings. They still have the better QB (did someone just stab me in the side as I typed that) at least in terms of talent. But I wouldn't trade Cassel for Rivers straight up if they made the offer. The last thing the Chiefs need is a crybaby at the helm.
The Chiefs have McGraw doubtful and Arenas questionable. We seem to be snake-bit when it comes to secondary injuries. Pioli should invest in a couple Serpent Eagles (so named because they eat primarily snakes) to fly circles over the game day field. Obviously I'm leaving out the 7 foot tall yellow big birds that are already out for the season. but all in all the team is relatively healthy. They have more than a fighting chance to win the division and make the playoffs. Anything can happen in the playoffs, so I won't be throwing in the towel on our season just yet.
The carrion birds are in the clouds circling the AFC West, but at this point no one can say who their next target might be. With all 3 division leaders losing in the same week the Chiefs aren't any worse off after losing to Miami than they were before the game was played. They didn't gain any ground, and they threw away a golden opportunity to add on another win before heading into the scariest part of the schedule. But with a win this coming weekend against another division opponent the Chiefs would be in the kingfisher seat in the division. True, a bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush (please don't make me type bush anymore. It brings back memories of Sunday's game), and I shouldn't be counting the chickens before they hatch (have I reached the requisite number of bird references yet?) ... but I firmly believe that the Chiefs can shake off a 3rd terrible blowout like water off a ducks back by the time this Sunday rolls around.
It's all up to Zorn and Muir now. The two of them together have to convince Gonzo the muppet and his troupe of dancing chickens to vacate the field in favor of offensive linemen that can block and a QB that convinces his receivers to break off to a hot route when a blitz is coming so that he can deliver the ball quickly. Already once this year Haley's team has shown the ability to shrug off a couple of bad losses and grow closer as a team moving forward. These little chicks may have lost their way vs a hapless Dolphins squad, but they will right the ship to pick the eyeballs out of the Donkeys this week. The playoffs are in our future THIS year! Mark my words: when I'm carving my Christmas turkey a lot of you will be forced to eat crow for writing this team off.