I would assume nobody saw this coming. I know everybody thought this season would be tougher than last year's due to the increased level of difficulty in scheduling. But here we are now: two games and two historic blowout losses. This is not an untalented team. Yes they have had some horrendous injuries, but this is not a team that should be losing games in this fashion. Amidst all the angst it seems to me that a big part of the problem here is something that's very simple: the Chiefs are giving the ball away at an astronomical pace.
So far in two games the Chiefs have 9 turnovers. Compare that to last season when they did a much better job of protecting the ball and only had 14 turnovers all season. In only two games the Chiefs have given the ball away almost as many times as they did all last season. They are on pace to match that this year in only three games. Matt Cassel had almost half as many interceptions this afternoon as he had all during the 2010 season. Cassel is on pace to have 32 interceptions in 2011 against only 16 touchdown passes. They have a turnover differential of -7 through 2 games already and they are on pace to give it away 72 times this year. They are on pace to have a turnover differential of (you might want to sit down for this one) -56 if they continue to cough up the ball at their current rate. You think it's been ugly so far? You ain't seen nothing yet.
Pro football is a game that has grown increasingly complicated yet it still holds some very simple truths. For instance, in order to win you have to be able to run the ball. And you have to be able to stop the run.
And you have to be able to protect the ball.
According to ESPN.com if you lose the turnover battle you are going to lose the game about 4 out of 5 times. That's about 80% of the time. And the more turnovers you commit, the greater your chances of losing becomes. I know it's common sense, but it's worth considering: if you give the ball away it takes away a chance for you to score and gives your opponent an additional opportunity. The Chiefs turned the ball over 6 times today. That's 6 additional opportunities they gift wrapped for the Lions offense. And that can be a 14 point swing on each turnover. And it can set your opponents up with very favorable field position. How many short fields have the Cheifs D had to defend in only two games so far this year? How long were they on the field during the Buffalo game?
If a team has zero turnovers in a game they almost always win. If a team has 5 turnovers in a game they almost always lose. Sometimes I fear Haley is so right-brained and creative in his thinking that he may be missing some things that should be staring him plain in the face.
The Chiefs are not built to come back from three scores down. Cassel had a good season last year when he was asked to manage the game and little else. By giving the ball away the Chiefs are digging themselves enormous holes in games that they don't have the personnel to climb out of.
I haven't been able to find any psychological studies to back me on this, but anybody who's played the game knows what I am talking about. When things go wrong it's very easy for everything else to follow. When McCluster fumbles the opening kickoff allowing the Bills to score an easy touchdown last week it sets a team up for failure. Teams lose about 75% of their games if they are trailing at the end of the first quarter (again, stats courtesy of ESPN online).
I'm not sure which preseason game it was, but Haley was asked about the team's propensity of coughing up the ball in the preseason contests. Haley's response was they had a limited amount of time to prepare and they hadn't worked on that very extensively. Today Haley said the team has many problems that need to be fixed.
I would submit that first and foremost they fix hanging on to the ball.