From the FanPosts -Joel
Before we get into the game breakdown, I want to be clear: this was a GREAT win for the Chiefs. Absolutely huge. This is a different kind of team than the variety we witnessed last year. It's tough, and we have a QB that doesn't lose you the game with mistakes. The Chiefs are off to a great start this year, which is exactly what this team needed after the disaster that was last year.
Also, I want to explain something about the Good, Bad, and Ugly. I said some pretty critical things about the offense last week after the Jaguars game. People reacted negatively to some of those comments, with the insinuation I was a buzz kill. I'm always happy every week when the Chiefs win. I'll always take a W. But we need to start being realistic about our analysis of the Chiefs' performance every week.
A number of us (myself included) think the Chiefs should be competing for a Wild Card this year. If that's the case we need to start judging the Chiefs' performance with the standard's of a playoff-caliber team. No, I'm not expecting Alex Smith to be Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning every week, but we cannot measure this team against last year's team. We already know this team is superior to last year's. If we only measure the 2013 Chiefs against the 2012 Chiefs we as fans are going to be disappointed come playoff time. That's why I do the Good, Bad, and Ugly. It's important to identify where the Chiefs' succeeded and failed, so we has fans don't get unrealistic expectations (in other words, so we don't all drink the Andy Reid Cool-Aid and turn into a massive group of homers).
With that said, I'm thrilled the Chiefs won today. But there are some things they need to improve. Let's take a look.
As usual, the good revolves around the defense and special teams.
1. The defense, all of it. I'll look at specific players below, but I wanted to emphasize the defense as a unit. What we thought in the preseason is absolutely true: the defense (and special teams) will need to win games for the Chiefs by holding opponents under 21 points, and giving the offense good field position to work with. They held the Cowboys to 318 yards of total offense (only 37 yards rushing), held Dallas to field goals three times (including a HUGE goal line stand in the 3rd quarter), sacked Tony Romo three times and generated consistent pressure throughout the game, and forced/recovered two fumbles. The defense won the game for the Chiefs, no question.
2. Dontari Poe, the Beast. While the Dallas offensive line was better than I thought (and I think better than a lot of us thought), Poe exerted his will on the offensive line most of the game. He was great against the run the entire game, and got to Romo repeatedly (two sacks, two additional hits on Romo, plus two other tackles for loss). By the end of the season he's going to make people wonder why he wasn't taken higher.
3. Dustin Colquitt, Rainmaker. Just out of curiosity, is it possible that the highest paid player at his position is underpaid? Colquitt has to be mentioned in any Chiefs' MVP discussion this season. That's how important he is to the Chiefs' success this year. Today he punted seven times and pinned the Cowboys within their own 20 every time, five times within their own 10.
4. The turnover battle, which-the-Chiefs-won-in-case-you-were-wondering. Last week the Cowboys turned the Giants over 6 times, and were +5 in the turnover battle. The Chiefs last week were +2 in turnover margin, and people said it was just the Jaguars (which is both true and a fair criticism). This week the Cowboys were -2. The Chiefs? +2. (It should have been +3 except for a bogus holding call on Eric Berry.) That was the difference in the game, the Chiefs forcing two turnovers and not coughing any up themselves. If Alex Smith can continue to orchestrate the offense and not give the ball away, the defense will give the offense additional chances.
5. Alex Smith, magnanimous sharer of the wealth. Last week Smith hit nine different receivers with passes, this week he hit seven. He'll need to continue to spread the ball around to his receivers to take pressure off Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles. (Also, is anyone else terrified of Sean McGrath, and Sean McGrath's Beard? Because I am.)
6. The Chiefs' red zone offense. The Chiefs, for the season, are now 5-for-5 scoring TDs in the red zone. Charles caught another TD today, and Bowe got his first of the season (which is great, because both are on my fantasy team). They also got a field goal just outside the red zone. They may not get very many opportunities (hold that thought for a minute) but they take advantage of the ones they get.
7. The Chiefs' ability to sustain drives. Last week, the Chiefs had scoring drives of 57, 24, and 21 yards against the Jags. This week, the Chiefs' three scoring drives of 77 and 80 yards, with another drive of 46 yards that ended with a blocked field goal. Yes, if the defense gives you a short field that's great. In fact, without the forced fumble that resulted in a 9-yard drive for a field goal, the Chiefs wouldn't have won today. However, the Chiefs need to get better at sustaining long scoring drives, and this game they improved in that area.
8. Dropped passes. Last week, it felt like the Chiefs dropped a lot of passes. This week, there were only one or two passes by my count that Chiefs receivers should have caught by were dropped. Alex Smith was still 21-for-36, but at least they weren't drops.
9. The Chiefs' adjustments to Dez Bryant. In the first quarter Dez Bryant torched Brandon Flowers for 100 yards on five catches. He's a great receiver, and great players are going to make plays. What counts is how you adjust to it. Flowers and the defense made adjustments to stop him, and it worked; after the first quarter he had 4 catches for 41 yards.
Yes, the offense was better against the Cowboys than they were against the Jaguars. That, in and of itself, should be cause for celebration. The Cowboys' defense is leagues better than the Jaguars' so being able to move the ball against them is an encouraging sign. It is still the Chiefs' biggest weakness, so let's look at what they need to start doing better to be better.
1. Sustaining long drives. The Chiefs had 11 possessions in this game, the Cowboys 12. The Chiefs actually lost the time of possession battle 31:47 to 28:13. There was an argument last week about the importance of ToP, so let me expand my thoughts on why it is so important to the Chiefs. In today's NFL, ToP is not as important as it used to be. With the conversion to a throwing league thanks to the likes of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, etc., and the rise of the no-huddle, up-tempo offenses pioneered by Manning in Indy and Chip Kelly at the University of Oregon (Go Ducks), offenses don't need to possess the ball for 40 minutes every game in order to win. However, people who say that ToP has very little relationship to winning simply don't understand the context.
If your quarterback is Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers, then no, ToP doesn't really matter. Alex Smith isn't Manning or Rodgers. While Bowe and Charles are capable of hitting home runs on any given play, that element of their games hasn't shown up this season. This isn't a quick-strike offense like Reid had in Philly with DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy. The Chiefs' 57 yard TD drive in Week 1 took eight plays (their most on any drive). Today, their 77 and 80 yard drives took 13 and 10 plays, respectively, and the 46-yard drive took 11 plays. The offense may operate quickly, but it isn't built for a shoot-out or quick scoring drives.
The best offenses the Chefs will play this year are probably the Broncos, Giants, and Texans, in that order (I'm not ready to include Washington in that category yet, I still have serious doubts about RGIII's health and ability to operate at the level he did last year. And after the Giants' performance the past two weeks, I'm almost ready to drop them from that group.) When they play the brothers Manning (as well as elite offenses like the Packers, Patriots, etc. in the playoffs), it will be critical for the Chiefs to sustain drives to keep the ball out of the hands of QBs like Peyton, Brady, Rodgers, etc., and to give themselves more opportunities to score. The Chiefs can score when they get to the red zone, they just need to sustain more drives to get into the red zone more often.
The Chiefs punted seven times today. Six of those times came on drives of five plays or less. The Broncos punted five times today, and each time the drive was five plays or less. The difference between the Broncos and the Chiefs is that the Broncos have scored 40+ points two weeks in a row. Today they had 15 total possessions, the Chiefs only had 11 (last week the Chiefs punted 9 times in 14 drives). Whereas the Broncos only punt about 38% of the time, the Chiefs punt nearly two-thirds of the time. Even if they can cut that number down to half the time, they'll be a much better offense.
2. Third down conversions. By my count, the Chiefs were 5-for-13 on third down conversions. They were 2-for-5 on third and five-or-less, and 3-for-8 on third and six-or-more. The Chiefs need to get better on first and second down to set up third and short. This is a recurring theme from last week, and ties into sustaining drives. We'll see if their third down efficiency improves as the season goes on.
3. The run-pass balance. Alex Smith threw an average of 35 times in the last two games. The problem is that Alex Smith was the Chiefs leading rusher this game, not Jamaal Charles. While Charles had eight receptions out of the backfield, and had 103 total yards, I wonder if Alex Smith would be more effective throwing the ball less. While I love his mobility and ability to keep plays (and drives) alive with his legs, the Chiefs are going to need more from Charles / Knile Davis / Cyrus Gray in the running game. However, Reid seems comfortable with his run-pas ratio at this point, and if the Chiefs continue to have success I'm just going to accept it by about Week 8 or 9. If Reid is comfortable with Smith only completing about 58-60% of his passes then at some point resistance is futile.
4. Dwayne Bowe's performance. Bowe had a much better game against the Cowboys than he did against the Jaguars. He had four catches for 56 yards and a TD. The TD was nice, but he was targeted eight times. My fantasy team aside, having Bowe more involved in the passing game will only benefit the Chiefs. And no, he didn't have a "bad" day, but Smith and Reid should figure out how to get more out of him, because he's going to be double teamed all year no matter how many other receivers Smith pass to.
5. The Chiefs' pass protection. If we get excited about sacking Romo three times and hitting him three more times, we have to recognize that the Cowboys sacked Smith four times, and hit him five times. The Chiefs' pass protection was clearly hurt when Branden Albert left the game with a shoulder injury in the first half. Eric Fisher is still having some rookie growing pains, and the O-line got overwhelmed for a while in the middle quarters. Albert has been dinged up two games in a row now, and I'm not going to pretend that isn't worrisome. The Chiefs will need to be better against the pass rush from now on.
There really wasn't a lot ugly today, just a couple nit-picky things that the Chiefs can clean up.
1. Knile Davis' muffed kick return. Poor Davis. His first NFL kick return and he fumbles it. I honestly think it was nerves. I'd really like to see what he can do returning kicks in a real game against starters. He's got blazing speed, I'd like to see him use it.
2. The blocked field goal and touchback mistake. For two weeks in a row the Chiefs have had one really ugly special teams play. Last week it was the blocked punt for a safety, this week it was the blocked field goal. The other two minor mistakes - Marcus Cooper's touchback on the put and Knile Davis' muffed kick return - didn't cost the Chiefs anything in the long run. All of these things are fixable, and I have full faith in Dave Toub to tighten everything up.
The big picture
This was a gutsy win for the Chiefs. The defense won the game for us today, and the offense did just enough to win. The Chiefs are exactly who we thought they were: a mediocre offense that will win games thanks to a great defense and excellent special teams. They should feast on an easy schedule early on, and hopefully the offense improves enough throughout the season to win some games after the Week 10 bye. It was a great win, and it is officially a new era of Chiefs Football.