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Tracking The Chiefs Problem Areas: Week 4 - What The Heck Are We Doing?

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Five seconds into the game and I was already cursing.

For the first time in several years I seriously considered not watching a Chiefs game after Jamaal Charles fumbled the opening kickoff that quickly put the Chiefs in a 7-0 hole.

It wasn't the play itself.  It was the culmination of a sense of hopelessness that had been building since preseason.  The feeling that despite the front office change, despite the coaching changes, despite the scheme changes, despite the personnel changes, despite the braggadocio of building a winner and changing the culture and winning now; that the Chiefs really hadn't improved much from last year or even last week.

I quickly shook it off and reminded myself that I loved the Chiefs no matter what.  Like a man that keeps buying Kentucky Fried Chicken even though its always greasy and nasty because fifteen years ago it was delicious.  "Maybe this time it will be good" he always says...

It wasn't all bad.  Well, OK, it was mostly all bad.  But not humiliatingly so.  At least, not as humiliatingly as it could have been after the way it started out.  Actually rather than short good stretches followed by long bad stretches as has been typical of the Chiefs this year, it was medium-longish mediocre stretches followed by short but shockingly bad ones.

Problem areas from last week:

  1. Penalties
  2. Poor Offensive Line Play
  3. Inability To Run The Ball Effectively
  4. Poor Pass Coverage By Linebackers
  5. Questionable Play Calling

Penalties - As I watched the game I got the sense that we were doing better on penalties, but looking at the game stats, we still had 7 for 55 yards, which is WAY too many.  I thought last years team was bad, but the 2009 Chiefs are on pace to have 18% more penalties than last year.

Poor Offensive Line Play - For much of the game the offensive line was finally getting running lanes opened up and LJ was having some nice runs.  It seemed to me that the time Haley spent in the second half of the Eagles game working on the run might be paying dividends.  Through the 3rd quarter Johnson was gaining 4.5 yards a carry.  That was up until the point that Haley got hung up on that STUPID shotgun draw on every play despite the fact that A. Pierce of the Giants was coming through unblocked waiting for the handoff on nearly every play.  But don't let that stop us!  Call the F-ing thing again and again!
Pass blocking was spotty at best.  Cassel was sacked 5 times with 7 QB Hurries.  There were times though, when the pass blocking DID hold up and it almost appeared that Cassel didn't know what to do with himself. 

Inability To Run The Ball Effectively - As I said above, I thought maybe this problem was beginning to be solved.  When running in a standard I formation with the fullback, LJ was getting some good chunks of yardage.  Why Haley decided to abandon that, ESPECIALLY on the goal line is beyond me.  Those little shotgun draw plays should be going to a RB with ability to make defenders miss that can start and stop on a dime, not to a basher like LJ that needs to get a running start.  This was a coaching failure.

Poor Pass Coverage By Linebackers - Continues to be a huge issue.  Especially since Pendergast insists on playing lots of zone instead of blitzing.  Of course when they do blitz they rarely get to the QB.  But rushing three defensive linemen and dropping all your linebackers, who are all terrible at coverage by the way, is a recipe for the disaster we saw today.

Questionable Play Calling - This really has me riled up today.  From the very beginning trotting LJ out in the wildcat I was pissed about the playcalling.  LJ is not the right kind of back for the wildcat.  If they insist on running it (and I don't like it) they should have Charles back there so he can dip and dive and find the hole.  LJ simply doesn't have that ability.

The IGNORANT overuse of the onside kick at the beginning of the second half is another call I hated.  If you're trying to get back in a game, putting an opponent that you have thus far been unable to stop near the 50 yard line for starting position isn't the way to do it.

How about the goal line play calling?  I was having an absolute FIT.  After Ryan's big catch and run, it took the Chiefs TEN plays (including penalties) to score a touchdown.  Absolutely ridiculous.  And did they do what Haley says he wants the teams identity to be and what had been working up to that point and stick Cox and LJ in the I formation and run it down the Giants throats?  NO.  He tries to get cute with some shotgun draws that the Giants were all over and a QB draw with a smattering of low percentage passes.

If Haley wants this to be a tough running team, he needs to stick with it when it comes time to score.  He outsmarted himself because he certainly didn't outsmart the Giants.

Haley is supposed to be a disciplinarian coach.  Yet his team is one of the most penalized teams in the league and is putting the ball on the ground all over the place. 

Don't give the line of bull that he doesn't have very good players.  While that may be true, the players we have this year aren't much different than the ones we had last year yet we are on pace to have 18% more penalties.  Whatever the message is they are sending to the players isn't getting through and in fact seems to be making it worse.

Haley is a rookie head coach and he is calling games like one.  Hopefully he gets it together soon because the limited talent on this roster doesn't have much of a window for victory against any other NFL team in the league.  It doesn't need to be hampered by a rookie head coach that is outsmarting himself.