Let me start this off with an admission. I was just as angry, pissed, depressed, disappointed and demoralized as anybody here about the outcome of Sunday's football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills. The outlash of every single post here to express their upset with our team is understandable given a 41-7 thrashing by the Bills. No disrespect to Buffalo here, they played more than well enough to win that game and deserve their W.
On Sunday, during the second half of the game and immediately following it, I was ready to agree to any changes that needed to be made to move this team down the road. I found myself calling for Tyler Palko, saying very derogatory things about Dexter McCluster and Jamaal Charles' inability to hold onto the ball, and voicing my opinion that if our defensive players can't wrap up tackles any better than they were, they should be replaced by somebody that wanted to play the game without regard for anything but their desire. I get the prevailing attitude. To put it in the vernacular, I feel you. To a degree, I still share it but what good will come of sitting and stewing over this one game? For me, I learned a long time ago that it's more important to do some re-evaluation once the emotions have calmed down.
With that in mind, I have gone back and re-watched this game twice now. Thanks to the wonders of DirecTV, I get what are called 'short cuts' that show the entire game in 30 minutes by cutting out anything that is not a play. There are short breaks between quarters that show stats as well. What follows are my impressions about the game combined with some conclusions drawn by the circumstances that lead up to this extremely disappointing game.
I am not trying to convince anyone that what happened should be ignored, overlooked or accepted. Rather, I am trying to educate myself on what actually did happen, and possible reasons for why things went so poorly. If you are interested all you have to do is click. If you think Aiken is wasting his time, I completely understand. See you next season.
As I sat there watching the embarassment, I kept asking myself "What is going on?" This team is not this bad. The good thing is that after re-watching the game, I am more inclined to agree with this statement. The Chiefs really are not this bad. Maybe the way I should say it is this, the Chiefs are still producing pretty close to what they did last year. If you watch the hitting that was going on with the defense late in the game, take a look at pass blocking and how the running game went, you really have to admit that much of what the Chiefs were capable of last year was similar to what happened on Sunday. Don't agree? Well, lets look at the numbers a little bit.
I guess we should start out with Matt Cassel. Man, if it was fashionable to dislike our signal caller before Sunday, it has changed to En Vogue status now. The strange thing for this Cassel homer, is that throughout the first three quarters of the game, Matt did just enough to keep me hoping that the Chiefs could turn it around. I really wanted him to complete some downfield passes so I could shout it out later, but it wasn't to be. What I found when I went to the stats though, actually reinforced this perception.
Matt threw the ball 36 times against the Bills. That number is somewhat significant because only once last year did Matt throw the ball that many times in a game. That was in the debacle in Denver. In that game, Matty threw the ball 53 times. That number is unprecedented in his time in KC. In other words, he hasn't normally thrown the ball as often as he did on Sunday. Why do you suppose that is?
A good argument can be made that the Chiefs were behind from the get go, and that could indeed be the reason. Then I started thinking about all the comments about how the play calling sucked. The play calling did not get the job done, but when have we seen the number of short passes that were called? They were actually effective in the first half. They were a big part of that 81-yard scoring drive that the Chiefs were actually able to put together as well as the drive that ended in Leonard Pope nearly making a touchdown on a pass at the front pylon from Cassel. Did you realize that Cassel completed passes to eight different receivers in this game, including both tight ends? Hasn't this been one of the biggest issues that fans have been complaining about -- that Cassel needs to spread the ball around more? Well, what you saw Sunday was an attempt to do just that. In this regard, I think you have to say that Cassel actually succeeded. I would also have to say that play calling was catering to the choir here to a degree.
Cassel completed 61.1 percent of his passes. By no means am I saying that Cassel is not responsible for some of the blame in this game, but how many times have I heard the moans that Cassel needs to get his completion percentage above 60? He overthrew two passes that would have helped, and he did throw an interception. By the same token, he was completing passes and it's not his fault that the majority of the pass plays called were of the short and medium range variety. Buffalo correctly guessed that the Chiefs didn't have much of a downfield threat and set their game plan accordingly. The down field passes that were attempted were the least effective. I think that this is where not having a Jonathan Baldwin or a Jeremy Horne really hurt. We didn't even field the threat of speed.
The good part about those passes is that Cassel had some decent protection (this is not to say that he didn't have pressures, because he did). The bad part is that every downfield pass that I saw was thrown into double coverage. One was picked off and the other nearly was. This is because the Chiefs were only sending one deep route that I could see. This is going to be a huge problem for the Chiefs going forward if they cannot get Baldwin or somebody on the practice squad involved to stretch the field. It would appear from this game that Baldwin's absence changed the landscape on the field for what our opposition had to scheme for. It would also appear that the pass is going to be a much more utilized part of our offense this season.
Based on all of this, it just seems to me that what we saw on the field from our offense was a team trying to transition into a different offensive scheme than last year. We were running four wide several times and I don't remember much of that from last season. Cassel lined up in the gun and ran no huddle as well. How much of that did we see last year? It worked some of the time and not some of the time, but I think that Chan Gailey called his plays to key on the shorter and medium passes. When they worked they often went for 10 or more yards. When they didn't work, they stalled Chiefs drives.
Haley said something in a preseason press conference that seemed somewhat insignificant at the time, but now it seems huge. He had been asked about his preseason plan and in his response he mentioned that the plan was to be ready for Sept. 11th, but it may take longer to be ready for this season, even possibly going a couple weeks into the regular season. Was this statement directed at getting Jon Baldwin on the field? It kind of seems now like it just might have been that way.
As far as the running game went, Charles still averaged 5.6 yards per carry. Hell, McCluster averaged over 10 yards on four carries! I know that everyone is down on the draw plays that didn't work, but a couple of them (or somewhat similar) went for over 20 yards a piece! The real problems with Dex and Jamaal for this game was the inability to hold onto the pigskin. It cost us big in field position on both fumbles and that lead to points for the visitor both times.
You've heard of shooting yourself in the foot? Well, the Chiefs used a howitzer on themselves on Sunday. They not only inflicted a wound, they took the leg off at the knee. We gave the Bills a short field multiple times. Two fumbles gave them field position near our twenty yard line both times. That yielded 10 points. Would 31-7 have hurt less? Maybe a little, but a loss is still a loss. Actually, this is where I have to say that the defense played both good and bad.
They were able to hold two Buffalo drives to field goals when it looked like they were going to march right into the end zone. Would 49-7 have hurt worse? Maybe so, but a loss is still a loss. On the goal line stand in the 3rd quarter the defense held. They kept Jackson out of the end zone. Then, Buffalo was called for successive penalties of illegal procedure and delay of game. Yea for the defense!! The very next play, the secondary miscues and let's Chandler #84 go uncovered in the end zone and turns what may have been another FG into a TD.
I was thinking to myself that the defense was gassed in the fourth quarter. After watching the game again, I don't know if that is as accurate as it seemed the first time around. Belcher laid a hit on No. 22 for the Bills that looked and sounded painful. He nailed him at the line of scrimmage for no gain. That is just one example, there were others. The point is that the defense was hamstrung more than once with poor field position and that made a sub par outing (in some respects) seem completely incompetent. The loss of Eric Berry didn't help either, but Jon McGraw and Sabby Piscitelli both made multiple solo tackles. Some were in the backfield ans some were down field but I did not see them quit. They were doing what they could and as far as it goes, they made a few plays.
There was also a Brad Smith deep pass in the fourth quarter that was intercepted. Surprisingly, the addition of Brad Smith was something that the defense was able to keep under control. The defense didn't quit, they just had one of the toughest days that they have had since Baltimore.
At first I began to question the desire. After going back, the effort was made, they just couldn't overcome the circumstances they were faced with on this day.
So we come all the way back around to now. What's next? I can understand Todd Haley's desire to get his players in condition before he worried about developing a rhythm. We've heard it said that the defense had more advantage than the offense with the shortened preseason. At this point, I see a defense that can play much better, but they need an offense that can score some points and keep them in the game. The Chiefs absolutely must find a solution to a deep threat. Without it, this will indeed be a long year.
Will it turn out, as many have intimated, that Haley's preseason plan was wrong headed and cost the team the season? I think it's a bit too early to make that call, but if the Chiefs do indeed underwhelm for the whole season, it will certainly be pointed to as at least one of the reasons. It is important to note that there were many injuries that occurred on Sunday and the severity of some of them is still not known. If that continues for the next couple of weeks, teams that were thought to be solid and intimidating, could turn out to be one dimensional and underwhelming. It's already happened to the Colts. Kerry Collins looked pretty bad in their blowout loss. They lost 34-7 to the Texans who were without Arian Foster. Had he played would the margin have been larger?
Something to think about here is how the other teams fared on this first Sunday of football in 2011. There were a couple of blowouts that may or may not be due to injury. Some were evident and yet some were not. The Colts missing Manning would seem to explain itself, but Pittsburg getting shellacked by Baltimore the way they did is certainly something to make one wonder. I saw Ben Roethlisberger take a shot from an unblocked blitzer that would have put Cassel on the bench considering his ribs. Matt's condition is another question. I won't go into that now because it will be looked at as an excuse, but we really don't know how serious that problem is. Considering how thin we are at experience in backup quarterback, a decision to let Matt play at less than 100% would not be a surprise. I hope he is healthy, but we will just have to wait and see. Could that be a reason for not airing out the ball more against Buffalo? Who knows.
If Haley did indeed expect this game to represent an experiment in changing up the offensive scheme, it does make a certain sense. Looking at the schedule, you would think that Buffalo (game one) would be a game to try something like that in. Detroit might just have been looked at the same way prior to the outcome of the Bills game. Now, given the results of what actually happened on the field, what will Haley and the Chiefs do? Will they knuckle under and go back to a lopsided offensive scheme that runs the ball too frequently to deceive the other team or will they get Baldwin back or someone off the practice squad and start throwing the ball 40-plus times a game like Drew Brees and the Saints? I have to say that if we did indeed have a solid deep threat, I think that the success we saw in the short and medium passing game would improve. That would also open up lanes for Charles/McCluster (not that they appear to need it) and even the odd FB run (hello Mr. Le'Ron McClain). It's all going to be on display in just a few days. The changes should be obvious.
All this post was for was to give some perspective to this loss. The Chiefs got blasted a couple of times last year (once by Denver and once by San Diego). Granted they had different quarterbacks in the game, but something about this performance just doesn't quite jive. When is the last time that we saw turnovers, poor punts and special teams play combined with the offense throwing as many passes as they did last Sunday, all in one game? Not much is the answer that comes to my mind.
From this fan's perspective, Haley did not seem to be all that surprised in his post game presser. I don't mean that to sound as if he was acting arrogant, only that he just seemed to have accepted it, given the circumstances that have occurred. He did say in that presser, that he 'promised' he would have the team better prepared for the next contest. Does that mean that the experiment we saw last Sunday is over and the team returns to pounding the ball over and over again? I, for one, hope not. I want to see this team become a complete offense with all it's weapons available to be able to attack any other team that we play. If it now takes more risk taking and some interceptions to achieve that, I say damn the torpedos and full steam ahead. I don't want to be a one dimensional running team, no matter how good our running game is.
As more time passes since the game ended, I find my self more and more desirous of the next kick off. It's only with the beginning of that next game that retribution has a chance. These Chiefs need that shot at making things right as much or more than they did at the beginning of the 2010 season. It's really the only thing that they can do now, to prove that they just aren't as bad as their last game says they are.