Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Maybe the Chiefs are doing some things well.
I'm not going to write about what happened Saturday. There's no reason for me to do so. Joel, and others, have covered the emotions we all ran through as that tragedy ran its course. There's nothing left to say that would not start all the same debates we've seen rampaging through AP since Saturday morning. All I will say to that is I'm praying for the families who have been hurt.
I'm also not going to write about the way our Chiefs responded on Sunday. His Dirkness covered it quite well, as has Joel. We're all proud of how they came out fighting and how they focused. Especially Romeo Crennel. I hope to one day learn how to be steady in the face of a storm the way he is. But outside of this paragraph, I won't be discussing such things.
You know what I DO want to write about? The game. Football. 22 men on the field. One ball. One side trying to push that ball forward, the other side trying to move it back. That's all it is, when you really break it down to its bare essence. Just like at the end of the day, basketball is nothing more than five guys trying to throw a ball in a hoop more times than the other team.
That's the beauty of sports. They're pure. Sure, there ends up being crap that surrounds the game (as will happen with ANYTHING where large sums of money are involved), but once the players hit the field? Purity. Football especially, more than any other sport, taps into that purity. One side pushing against the other. One side trying to enforce its will on the other. Take the other side's ground, and you win. Let them take yours, you lose.
No grey area. No moral quandaries. No questions about the afterlife, or what's forgivable. No questions as to how to proceed in the face of witnessing something horrible. Just a 22 guys (11 of which I care desperately about at all times) trying to move rather than be moved. Let's talk about that. Because every now and then, it's nice to talk about something pure.
Remember last week, when I commented that it was nice to at least watch competitive football? Well, it would seem the Chiefs decided to do one better this week and actually win a game. Holy crap! When the losses are so many and the wins so few, the victories taste even more sweet. I'm no longer divided on whether or not I want the team to lose (and thus secure that precious draft pick). I'm all on board with something craig said: I want them to win every game from here on out, and trade up if we need to in order to get the QB we want.
Jamaal Charles was out there doing Jamaal Charles things. Our offensive line (which, let us remember, has two rookies, a second year starter, and a guy playing out of position) gave up THREE quarterback pressures and TWO quarterback hits, with one sack that could have been prevented with a quicker throw. Peyton Hillis actually contributed something. Tony Moeaki continued to scream to the world that he's back and ready to play again. Tyson Jackson got a freaking sack. I could go on, and on, and on... and I will! But, in the spirit of having a "theme" here, I'd like to talk about certain aspects of the game and what it means long term (because that's pretty much all that's left to think about at this point)
Brady Quinn played one of the finest games of his professional career on Sunday. 19/23 for 201 yards with 2 TD's and 0 picks is more than "game managing." It's uber-efficient. Just as importantly, he made several excellent throws in the "intermediate" zone of the field, forcing the Panthers to respect the passing game at least a little. He even made a couple of clutch 3rd down (and one VERY clutch 4th down) completions. Hats off to a very, very good game.
That said, what I took from that game wasn't, "should we consider giving Quinn a legit shot as our long term solution?" No, what I took from that game was entirely different. Quinn, despite the gaudy completion percentage, was not off the charts great on Sunday. He was efficient, avoided mistakes, and made a few very good throws. However, he was not "great." He was good. Very good, even. But upon re-watching the game, it's easy to see that the majority of the passes he made were passes that an NFL quarterback SHOULD be able to make. Quinn had a good game, but it was in large part the result of the players around him providing opportunities and him not crapping the bed.
Where am I going with this? Where I'm going is that it is, indeed, the quarterback. If ever we needed confirmation, the game against Carolina was it: with even SOLID quarterback play (not great, just "solid"), we have the pieces in place for a good offense. Many have argued against this as the year has progressed, saying we MUST be terrible to score as few points as we do. I'll submit this: Sunday was the first game in which we had solid quarterbacking for the entire game. And even without great quarterbacking, or a QB who could make a single throw DOWN the field (not intermediate-range, down the field), we were able to comfortably put up 27 points.
Give us a guy who can, every week, take advantage of the opportunities in front of him and we've got a decent offense. Give us a guy who can do that and create a few opportunities of his own, and we're better than decent. Fix the QB, fix the offense. Will we be the Patriots? No. But now we've seen that Daboll CAN call a good game, that our offense CAN move the ball, that our receivers CAN make plays, that our running game CAN pound a team into submission, that our defense CAN hold the line when it has to.
Get us a QB, and we'll be seeing way more games like Sunday's than the crap we've seen most of this year.
Offensive Line Play (throw in a FB here, too)
I cannot say enough about the OL on Sunday. Absolutely great stuff. Now, were they perfect? Nah. But they protected Quinn very well, opened up holes for the running game, and really didn't give us much reason to notice them all day (which is the ideal with OL). So what about the future? What can our patchwork line's performance tell us?
First off, I can't claim to have any insight to what is going on with Branden Albert. The fact that we've heard absolutely zero information regarding him (or Dustin Colquitt) has long been a sign to me that Scott Pioli may not have the green light to re-sign people right now. I DO know that I really like him a our left tackle. He's a very good pass blocker, very good run blocker, gets downfield well... there's a ton to like about him. He needs to stay a Chief if it is at all possible.
But what to do with Donald Stephenson? For the second week in a row the rookie has played very well. He's clearly a physical specimen, with much more strength than I thought after watching him this preseason. So seriously, what do we do with him? Eric Winston just signed a contract with us and has played well at RT (contrary to all venomous, meaningless rhetoric to the contrary). Albert's a stud LT (in my opinion). What do we do with this rookie who looks ready to play NOW, let alone next year?
Long story short, I have no idea. But I DO know that the Stephenson pick looks a lot less crappy than it did in April. Heck, maybe we should keep Pioli around as our OL scout, because he seems to know what he's doing in that department. I'll say only this; if Stephenson keeps playing like this, I won't be nearly as unhappy to see Albert walk (PROVIDED we use that money to address weaknesses elsewhere, naturally). OR, wouldn't it be great to have an excellent swing tackle on the bench? Either way, our tackle situation for next year looks less fearful than a few weeks ago.
Speaking of Pioli draft picks, how about my boy Jeff Allen? After struggling so badly in his first five games that all you Doubting Thomas's wrote him off... he's risen from the ashes to play some very solid ball for us. In his last five games, everyone's favorite whipping boy has given up 1 sack and 2 hurries. Read that again. That's over the course of FIVE games. Now, there aren't stats for run blocking, but if you're able go back and re-watch the last few games. My boy's growing up! Are we seeing the kind of man-eating dominance he showed against scrubs in the preseason? Well, no. Are we seeing very fast improvement to the point that he's gone from "terrible weakness" to "strength" in the course of ten games. YES! Our LG position is set, folks. MOAR JEFF ALLEN!!!
What about Jon Asamoah? Seeing as how he was probably OVERrated here on AP prior to the season, I won't say much. OK, I'll say one thing: saintschiefsfan, I'll be waiting for your post apologizing to Big Jon. Turns out he CAN run-block. No worries. You were right and I was wrong about Steve Breaston, so we're even.
Throw in Rodney Hudson, who was very much impressing me before going down to injury, and I really, really, REALLY like where our OL is at. Yes, we have the whole T position to think about, but we've got a lot of young players stepping up to the plate right now, despite playing in difficult circumstances (injuries and bad QB play). The future looks bright with this group.
Just as a throw in (because I don't know where else to put it), how about Patrick DiMarco? Guy gets his first playing time of the season and does not waste it. There were a couple of mistakes in there, but let me say that I will freak out if he's not our FB from here on out. You see this play? His first snap for us? THAT'S what I want out of my fullback (h/t NigerianNightmare). Sorry Nate Eachus. You're a tough, ballsy dude. But you weigh less than I do. We need a guy who can knock LB's over, not occupy their attention for a second.
On the Defense
As I said in a thread yesterday, if someone had told me we'd lose Brandon Flowers early to injury AND lose Derrick Johnson as well, I'd have predicted at least 50 points by the Panthers. Seriously, I cannot tip my hat enough to those guys. Yes, some of our depth guys made some mistakes (A tight end not named Aaron Hernandez or Jimmy Graham should never catch that long of a TD pass). But our defense was down a shutdown CB (yes, Flowers is, and I refuse to argue this) and a top 3 ILB and still held the line when it counted.
Regarding our future, a few things... First, it's time to start having the conversation about Javier Arenas. The, "he's our #2 CB" conversation. Dude was thrown at 8 times and allowed 3 completed passes. Now, he DID break his impressive run of "short passes ONLY," but that was just a matter of time after getting switched to #2 CB. He's earned his shot. We've all seen the coverage sacks/hits/pressures that have occurred since he replaced Stanford Routt. He was called upon and has answered the call. If we want to draft a CB, fine. But our #1 and #2 CB positions are set.
Jalil Brown should at least be mentioned as well. He played tons of snaps, was targeted 5 times, and allowed 2 completions. Now, one of them was a TD so most casual fans probably walked away thinking he struggled. But he didn't. He played pretty well, showing the ability to recover after getting Peyton Manning'd last week. This kid could be something. TBD, though. He hasn't proven anything like Javy.
And since I've been rambling for way too long already, I'm going to address two things in one paragraph. First, Dontari Poe was a good pick. I believe this guy will be one of our "key" players in the years to come. Second, we need to draft more safeties. Kendrick Lewis can't stay healthy, and has an aversion to tackling regardless. Our backups gave away FAR too many of the completions Cam Newton managed Sunday. Of course, one can't predict the loss of Flowers, but I want us to have more talent back there. It's our last big hole in the defense.
Future Could Be Bright
I have no idea what's going to happen this next week, but right now I choose optimism about our future. The talent is there on this roster. We've just lost it amid poor coaching and QB play. For one day, both improved to the point of being decent but not great. And we won. Imagine what the team could do with that kind of coaching and QB play every week.
And to leave with a final thought... ways to have fun watching a football game:
Overrated: Fantasy Football and/or bets on a game
Underrated: Watching with your significant other and explaining everything as it happens (seriously. Good times, and it made me feel smart!)
Just Right: Seeing your team play well and win