The second half collapse. The Kansas City Chiefs made an art of it last season. We lost on TD passes in the fourth quarter. By blowing a massive lead. A missed two point conversion. The botched onside kick. We found virtually every way to lose a game down the stretch. At least it was entertaining.
A Chiefs offensive or defensive collapse late in the game became the common story line threaded throughout the 2008 season. Take a look at the numbers below for an indication of just how much the team dropped off offensively after halftime.
|Score By Periods
Clearly, Scott Pioli and Todd Haley cannot allow this trend to continue. We've heard some much about conditioning this off season that you'd think it was the team's biggest problem. Maybe it was but I don't think so.
After the jump, I take a look at what may have caused the Chiefs to collapse late in so many games last year and what the team has done to address that problem. Make sure you vote in the poll too.
Note: Also, if you could do me a quick favor and help out in an experiment. Can those of you with a Yahoo account click the Buzz Up icon right below the poll in this post and Buzz Up this post? I'm curious what we can do with this. Thanks!
The Flawed Conditioning Argument
Last season, when the Chiefs began to develop a pattern of collapsing in the second half, many fans pointed to Herm Edwards' "light" practices as the reason the team couldn't hack it for four full quarters.
The basic idea behind this argument is that the Chiefs got tired in the second halves of games, thus losing many, many of them. For that argument to be true, at the very least you'd expect to see the Chiefs' average points scored go down in the second half while points allowed by the Chiefs' defense would increase over the first half averages. Right? The more tired you are, the less points you score and the more points you give up on defense. That's the whole idea behind this argument. To say conditioning was the major factor for the Chiefs' problems closing games, those numbers have to move like that.
And they really don't move like that.
|Points Given Up
If conditioning was an issue, why did the Chiefs score more points in the fourth quarter than in the more rested first quarter? Why is the second quarter the Chiefs' worst defensive quarter? That doesn't jive with the poor conditioning argument. Also, why is the third quarter by far the team's worst scoring quarter if conditioning was a major factor? Shouldn't the team be rested after half time?
You see, the conditioning argument for the Chiefs' second half collapses doesn't mesh with what actually happened on the field. Also, on an anecdotal level, I don't really remember any players huffing and puffing in the second half of games. At least not consistently. I'm sure there were a few guys out of shape but it wasn't prevalent enough for me to notice.
You did have older guys on the team who just couldn't hack it physically anymore, like Damon Huard. But that's an age thing and not a conditioning thing.
|Come on Damon. I'll buy you an ice cream after the game.
Why was the offense so ineffective in the second half then?
The Chiefs actually averaged almost the exact amount of points allowed in the both the first and second halves of games. Which means, with last year's yards allowed per game hovering around 400, our defense was just friggin' terrible. I can't put it any other way than that. They didn't get tired or call simpler plays that the offense read more quickly and accurately. They just sucked.
Now the offense, on the other hand, scored quite a bit fewer points in the second half of games than the first half. 170 to 121 in fact. That's a difference of over a field goal a game. If the Chiefs bump their second half scoring up to the level of their first half scoring, that wins/ties us in three more games last year.
What explains this sputtering second half offense? And can better conditioning help it?
It's my opinion, and Herm Edwards said this some time late last season, that when you have an inexperienced group of players, you don't have the same number of plays to fall back on to mix it up as you do with a veteran corp of guys. The Chiefs, because the vast majority of the team last year was playing together for the first time, weren't able to reach back into a deep repertoire of plays and quickly add some wrinkles to their offense when the defense figured them out. Most of the team, and I mean most of them, were learning this offense for the first time, with a new offensive coordinator no less. You hear a lot about rookies learning offensive and defensive schemes this time of the year because it can be pretty difficult to do. Imagine coming to Kansas City in the early part of this decade as a rookie and having to learn Al Saunder's 700 page playbook. That's a lot of studying.
The 2008 offense was predictable because there simply weren't that many plays the team could run. I know many of us, myself included, chided the coaches during the season for their inability to adjust after halftime last year but I think that this inexperience argument is the argument that best explains the Chiefs' post-halftime failures.
I've never really thought conditioning was an issue during the season, at least for the vast majority of NFL players. You're practicing multiple times a week in addition to just finally playing regular season football. Most players get jazzed up enough about that to not let themselves go.
Has the team addressed the cause of this problem?
Having one year under the belt for many of the second year players will undoubtedly improve this team. That wide-eyed, almost in awe feeling is something a lot of players talk about after their first season in the NFL. The addition of the veterans, heck any veterans, should help speed up the learning process for many of the younger players as well. That mentoring may not make much difference in how fast a player learns but all of this little stuff adds up. Also, Chan Gailey is on year two of this offense, whatever he ends up running. Many key players have one year experience with him as well.
If inexperience caused the Chiefs to disappear in the second half of games last year, then the obvious solution this year is to somehow add experience, whether through free agent veterans or by the natural process of a player going through a full NFL season. And the Chiefs have both of those things going for them this year.
I thinkg we're going to see a big improvement, night and day even, between last season and this season when it comes to second half performance. This team is one year stronger, more confident and we don't have Herm Edwards. All three of those things are huge.