First off, what an unbelievable win!
It was so much more fun to watch a Chiefs football team move the ball rather than go three and out. Two thumbs up go out to RAC, Kyle Orton, the offensive line and of course the entire defense. Tamba Hali is earning that big payday, DJ is still playing as if possessed and the secondary of unsung heros just shut down an offense who, until last Sunday, was undefeated and had scored nearly 36 points per game. It was a huge game, with huge implications for the future of the Chiefs and it went down in a positive fashion. We, as fans, can at least take some encouragement from this going forward.
This improbable win is exactly what GM Scott Pioli needed to quiet the masses and recover some of the good will that had been leaking out of his cup the last few weeks. The question now of course, is, what's next? I think the answer to that is inescapably bound to what happens in the Chiefs last two games.
Why did the Chiefs beat the Packers? I think that there are three primary reasons for it and two of them are on Pioli.
REASON #1 FIRING TODD HALEY
Now you can agree or disagree with the firing. That is not the point of this post. The point here is that Pioli made the hard choice (or maybe not so hard depending on what you believe about the relationship between him and Haley) of making a change with games left on the schedule. This decision was even more of a risk because, even though unlikely, the Chiefs were still in contention for a playoff spot.
It would have been easy for this team to tank if they felt a lack of confidence coming from management and the coaching staff. Instead, they rallied. This speaks volumes for the sense of team unity. Romeo Crennel has been around the block a few times. He is the product of a military father and he understands the idea of that unity. I give Todd Haley a lot of credit for developing that unity. Just like I give Romeo a lot of credit for not dropping that ball when he was called on. He found himself uniquely qualified for what befell him in taking over the team under the given circumstances.
It kinda reminded me of the line from the movie "Heartbreak Ridge".
In the movie, Clint Eastwood plays Gunnery Sgt. Tom Highway. Highway ends up leading a platoon of young, inexperienced, previously believed to be screw ups into battle. Highway, being the experienced soldier he is, doesn't flinch in the face of battle. Instead, when the smoke clears and his platoon has successfully completed their mission the General says, "Gunny Highway took a handful of young fire pissers, exercised some personal initiative and kicked ass". I don't know about you, but that sounds an awful lot like what Romeo just did. Many of this year's Chiefs are young and inexperienced. They might not be screw ups, but so far this season they sure haven't played like Pro Bowlers either. I ain't sayin', I'm just sayin'.
This win sets the stage for Pioli. He brought in Haley when the team needed a kick in the pants and they got it. Then, when they needed to shift gears to someone who has more experience in refining that raw talent and using it to the team's best advantage--bam! (to quote Emeril Lagasse) in steps Crennel.
If this team goes on to win out this season and somehow finds itself in a playoff game, Pioli's gamble then has, so far, paid off. If you wanna rip on the GM when it's not going well, then ya gotta give credit when due.
In regards to the coaching change of the Chiefs this season, my hats off to the Chiefs. The decision was a tough one and it has paid dividends quickly. At least, it may not have derailed this team's ascent to championship status. Well done.
REASON #2 BRINGING IN KYLE ORTON
You have to wonder if it was really the addition of Kyle Orton or simply the subtraction of Tyler Palko that changed what we saw on the field against the Pack. I mean, the Chiefs still only scored one touchdown on the day, and Jackie Battle ran that one in. Granted, Orton threw the ball all over the place, but a quick look at the quality of that Packer defense shows you a pretty vulnerable squad.
The Packers defense (these stats include the Chiefs game) is next to last in the league in passing yards allowed. They are one of only two defenses to have given up over 4,000 yards passing at this point in the season. The next team up the list is something like 350 yards less. This means that the Packers have given up over 300 yards passing, on average, in every game. I understand that when the team's offense is scoring like that the other side will have to throw to keep up, but this is a telling statistic.
Josh Looney wrote a story today noting that every single eligible receiver in last Sunday's game caught a pass (save Rodney Hudson). That is a great stat, but was it because of Orton or the quality of the opponent? I am not in any way trying to lessen Orton's impact on the game here, just throwing this out there.
Was the absence of Palko even more significant than the addition of Orton?
There were times when the offensive line looked like the Chiefs line from the Dick Vermeil days. Orton stood back there with enough time to have a smoke and a cup of coffee before deciding who to throw to. Where was that protection for Palko? Could it be that the confidence level in Palko making plays had something to do with the line's prowess? MNChiefs fan asked a similar question in his recent post about kool-aid.
We are, of course, short of answers to these types of questions, but there was a difference in how this offense played with Orton. It was fun to watch after so many poor outings this year.
This was the second of my two reasons that was directly associated with Pioli, who was obviously involved in the decision to bring in Orton. Some will point to Orton's receivers in Denver for his success over the last couple of years, but I remember Kyle Orton when he played for the Bears and no such bevy of quality receivers existed there. Orton is a steady, serviceable QB in this league that can make the throws and run the offense. He also has been known to throw several interceptions. What he displayed versus the Packers was good enough. Will it be good enough for better defenses? If it is, Pioli gets to stick a feather in his cap.
What if, for example, magic happens and the Broncos lose to the Bills (in Buffalo), San Diego goes down to the Lions (at Detroit), and the Chiefs beat the Raiders in KC on Saturday?
Friends, this would put the Broncos at 8-7, Chargers at 7-8, Raiders at 7-8 and the Chiefs at 7-8. The fact that KC plays the Broncos in the final regular season game this year would then put the Chiefs playoff destiny this season in their own hands (if that scenario played out). A win by KC in Denver would make a three way tie at 8-8 in the AFC West and the Chiefs own the tie breaker. The Chiefs could be headed to their second playoff game in a row so, if all plays out right, it's fitting this game is on Christmas Eve.
REASON #3 TWINKLE TOES GOES DOWN TO INJURY
My third reason for the Chiefs win vs. the Packers was the Greg Jennings injury. The Packers have done quite well this season in controlling their injuries (outside of the offensive line). With a defense that is next to last against the pass and middle of the pack (pun intended) against the run, going 13-0 would have been impossible without some good luck. The injury bug finally bit in Week 13 and wouldn't you know, the Chiefs defense gets to take advantage.
Now, I am by no means taking anything from the absolutely stellar play that this defense has exhibited in three of the last four weeks. Romeo has this defense playing at a truly incredible level particularly without Eric Berry. The secondary literally smothered the Packers receivers last Sunday. It was a thing of beauty.
All I'm saying now is that it may well have been a different game with Jennings. Maybe Jennings' loss was enough to tip the scales. I believe the Packers thought they were coming in to take advantage of a weak team. Going undefeated is extremely difficult to do in this league (as the '72 Dolphins would attest--BTW, I hope they enjoyed their champagne!). Combine the injury with a bit of overconfidence and you get Green Bay's first loss of the season.
Frankly, given the injuries that they inflicted on the Chiefs in preseason (remember Cassel getting squashed by a 300+lb lineman and of course Tony Mo's ACL?), the whole win just smacks of karma. In the case of the Packers, I think their Karma ran over their dogma--get it? Anyway, it was a great win and now we get to see if Romeo and company can beat the tar out of the Raiders.
Well, there you have my three main reasons why I think the Chiefs beat the Packers. I am sure there are others, but to me, these stand out. What say you Chiefs Nation? Will the stars align? Can the Chiefs garner a bit of good luck in a season where so much of their luck has been bad? You know me. I've already started to figure out when the playoff games will be, because I am looking forward to seeing those Chiefs WIN a playoff game. I hope it's against the Steelers. Go RAVENS, take the AFC NORTH! I wanna see the Chiefs beat you at the next level.