When asked what chance a pair of barefoot midgets had of succesfully sneaking into the homeland of the invincible Lord of Darkness, evading his hordes of minions, in an effort to destroy the source of all evil; the wizard replied "There never was much hope...just a fool's hope".
This Sunday the NFL version of this story plays out. The Kansas City Chiefs were one of the worst teams in football last year and the New England Patriots were a perfect 16-0 in the regular season. Tom Brady completed 68.9% of his passes and only threw 8 interceptions in 578 pass attempts for a measely 1.4 INT %. The Patriots offense broke several NFL records, including points in a season and beat their opponents by 20 points or more eleven times.
The Chiefs on the other hand, are coming off their worst season in 20 years riding a 9 game losing streak to end the season. Our current roster includes 33 players in their 3rd season in the NFL or less.
So how can the Kansas City midgets ever hope to sneak away from the Dark Lord's lair at Gillette Stadium with a victory?
1) PASS RUSH - The two games the Patriots came closest to losing in the regular season (@ Indianapolis & @ Baltimore), and the loss in the Super Bowl vs the Giants all had one thing in common. The oppossing teams mounted a serious pass rush that knocked Tom Terrific off his game.
* Against the Colts: Brady was sacked 2 times and threw 2 interceptions as a direct result of the pass rush.
* Against the Ravens: Brady was sacked 3 times, threw 1 interception and had a 47.4% completion percentage.
* In the Super Bowl loss against the Giants: Brady was sacked 5 times, fumbled once and was knocked on his backside several more times.
It is clear that one of the things the Chiefs MUST do is mount a consistent pass rush that will prevent Brady from having all day in the pocket to throw to his Pro Bowl WRs.
2) EAT CLOCK - This is what Herm's philosophy is all about. The Chiefs offense MUST lead long, sustained drives that will chew time off the clock and keep the Patriots high powered offense OFF the field. The fewer possessions the Patriots get, the fewer opportunities they will have to score, it's a simple concept really and short of getting into a shootout (in which we would stand absolutely no chance) is the only way to handle this high octane offense. A secondary benefit to keeping our offense on the field is that it also keeps the Patriots defense ON the field as well and though that defense is made up of great players such as Teddy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel; they are old in football years. The LB groups average age is 30. The longer we can keep those guys on the field, the softer they'll be late in the game.
3) ELEMENT OF SURPRISE - Though Herm will say that he doesn't really care when he plays the Patriots, there couldn't be a better time than the first game of the season. Herm, Chan and several Chiefs players made it clear that they were playing very basic with the offense in preseason and did not want to give their regular season opponents a very good look at what to expect from them. With the new offense under Chan Gailey plus all the new players, the Chiefs will have a window of opportunity in which the Lord of Darkness himself, Bill Bellichik and his defense will not have a very good idea what to expect from them. The Chiefs need to use that to their advantage.
4) SCORE POINTS - Duh. This should go without saying, but in this game it is especially critical that our offense puts points of some sort on the board every opportunity we get. Referring back to point #2 of eating the clock, if we control Time of Possession, the Pats will get fewer possessions to score, but so will we. The Chiefs MUST take advantage of their opportunities.
It is worth noting that in the three games mentioned above where the Patriots were closest to losing or lost, they were kept near Herms magic number of 24 points. Beat the Colts 24-20. Beat the Ravens 27-24 on a FG with 44 seconds remaining. Lost to the Giants 17-14.
5) LUCK - Let's face it, we're going to have to have a little luck on our side also. A tipped pass interception, a fumble bouncing the right way, a Bernard Pollard blocked punt, something. A little luck of our young players not making their expected rookie mistakes at inopportune times will help a great deal as well.
So these are the things the Chiefs need to do in order to have a CHANCE at winning. So do they have the capability?
Of course, in the NFL we live by the "Any given Sunday" rule in which any team in the league should have the ability to defeat any other team "any given Sunday". But let's face it, the chances are slim. The Chiefs pass rush has been measely from what we saw in the preseason. The offensive line still looks soft which will make it difficult for us to run the ball or give the QB time in the pocket to make accurate throws. Probalby our biggest disadvantage is that of our inexperienced youth lined up against the Pats battle hardened veterans.
But that same disadvantage is also our greatest strength. As Herm likes to point out, "Young guys don't know what they don't know". A lot of these guys are fresh out of college where they were used to being Top Dog on their teams. They haven't been in the NFL long enough to know that they aren't supposed to be any good. Guys like Flowers, Carr, Dorsey and Albert will look at this as a chance to prove that they are great players against the best team in the NFL. Young guys are emotional and if they get pumped and excited about this challenge, they could be capable of performing superhuman acts the like of that 95 lb mom that lifted the car off her kid.
Many of our young players weren't part of this team during that losing streak last year, so they don't own it. That's something someone else did, not them. So while yes, youth could be our biggest liability, it could conversely be our greatest advantage.