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What we learned: The Chiefs don't have a QB question but they do have a safety question

A look forward (and backward, and probably sideways) after the Chiefs season ended.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

So today I'll be doing a film review on Alex Smith and...

I'm kidding. There's absolutely no way I'm touching that subject right now. It's taken me a few days and several re-viewings of the game to get to a place where I'm ready to write rational stuff on the subject (well, at least as rational as I ever get).

That. Sucked.

There's really no other way to put it. I've never experienced a loss quite like that one. Pendulum of emotions were just insane. On the ledge when Jamaal Charles goes down with an injury; overjoyed when the offense puts it in the end zone regardless; dismayed when Andrew Luck effortlessly carves up the D for that first touchdown; then a sublime state of peace as Alex Smith played out of his mind; then back to horror as the defense falls apart and the offense stalls.

It's only fitting that the last play of the game involved an insane swing of emotion. Smith throwing to Dwayne Bowe to get what looked like (for just a SPLIT second) a game-winning first down. JOY. Seeing the ref signal out of bounds and watching it confirmed on the replay.


What did Saturday's loss show us? What did we learn as fans? Where is this team going?

That said, I really doubt you feel like re-living that right now (even though I just spent 100 words summarizing it). There's plenty of time to look back on this particular game. The 2013 season is over (and what a season it was!), and as always in sports, attention immediately turns to the future.

Since there's a long offseason ahead and I don't want to run out of ideas for columns by February, today we're going to keep a laser focus: What did Saturday's loss show us? What did we learn as fans? Where is this team going? I'm going to completely ignore the rest of the 2013 season for now; what can we take from what I'll always think of as The Concussion Game?

(I've also considered The Foot Game, The Fumble Game, The Bad Luck Game, The Poor Alex Smith Game, The _efense Game, and The Safety Who Shall Not Be Named Game. We'll see what sticks)

As always, my thoughts are presented in no particular order of importance and should be taken with slightly less weight than a grain of salt.

The Chiefs need help at safety

Thanks, I'll be here all week with such incredibly insightful stuff.

But really, no matter how many times this gets repeated, it bears repeating. Because what happened against the Colts was an absolute travesty.

Let's say I was willing to ignore all the blown coverages throughout the entire game prior to the Colts final touchdown. Let's say all I tuned in to see was the last few minutes of the game. Let's say I was totally ignorant of how awful the deep help had been all game. Even with all that, the need for a legitimate deep coverage safety (or two) would be glaring.

Why? Fine, since you asked, I'll show you. But I warn you, if you're still feeling emotionally raw, you may want to skip this picture. It's not pretty.


My eyes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That's T.Y. Hilton right as he hauls in the pass from Andrew Luck to seal the Chiefs fate. Those two guys following him? The Chiefs "deep" safeties, Kendrick Lewis and Quintin Demps. The one thing they absolutely could NOT do in that scenario was allow a receiver to get over the top. And ... yep, that's about right.

If you watch the replay on All-22, it's 50 times worse than what you see here. Lewis, for reasons only known to him, keeps his body facing outside (despite the CB being there) and doesn't even turn and run with Hilton until Hilton is only a few yards away. At that point, Hilton ran by him like an adult running by a child in a backyard flag football game. As for Demps, he actually could have made a play on the ball ... but took an absolutely HORRIFIC angle. I mean truly absurd. The result is the picture you see before you.

Again, even if you leave out the rest of the game, that play alone would make me wonder about our over-the-top help at safety. Of course, this was not an isolated event (as we all know).

There are several crucial things that need to happen for this team, but the need for competent deep safety play ranks first overall. If the Chiefs upgrade to even average in that area the defense will be much improved.

We've got a guy who was an All-American playing free safety in college. Perhaps it's time to use him back there more. Additionally, free safety must be addressed as top priority this offseason. It cost us a playoff game, and enough is enough.

The Chiefs need another interior pass-rusher

What's interesting to me is after re-watching the game and checking the stats on hits / pressures, I'm not as down on the Chiefs pass rush as I was right after the game.

Per PFF (not gospel on grades, but solid on quantitative numbers), the Chiefs had 18 hurries and five hits on Luck Saturday. Those numbers aren't too bad, really.

And despite claims that Luck had all day to throw, the reality is on most of his passing plays he got rid of the ball pretty quickly. His receivers were getting open constantly and Luck is just that good. The times he was pressured, he was able to move around and make stuff happen. The pass rush may not have been exceptional, but it was not even close to as much of a problem as the coverage was.

For example, even on Luck's game-winner to Hilton, he only held onto the ball for three seconds. It was rare he held the ball much longer than that, and quite often he was releasing within two seconds. This myth of Luck standing in the pocket for 5-6 seconds while going through progressions with zero pressure is just that; a myth. There WAS pressure on Saturday.

That said, this is still an issue with the defense. To use the Hilton touchdown again (just to really make it sting), the Colts were able to place Allen Bailey in a one-on-one situation with the RG, which allowed the C to focus all his attention on Dontari Poe while the LG helped out. Because the LG helped keep Poe at bay initially, he was able to then switch off to help when Hali started to beat the LT. It's a domino effect when one guy can be handled individually by the offensive line.

A lot of people have had good things to say about Bailey as of late, but I'm just not seeing it. To just discuss the Colts game, Bailey was left alone more often than any other pass rusher and just failed to make much of an impact. He was credited by PFF with 2 hurries and 1 hit. When you're the guy seeing individual OL, you've got to do more than that.

As mentioned, one guy being handled individually on a consistent basis creates a domino effect. The worst part is that it results in Poe being doubled constantly without the opposing team suffering for it. If the Chiefs want the pass rush to be consistently great, they need to at the very least increase the competition at the position.

It's tough to find interior pass rushers, so I wouldn't be at all upset if they used their first round pick on someone who can help here (provided they address the desperate need at safety elsewhere). But something needs to be done. Poe can't do it alone.

The coverage needs work

I've already spoken on safety, but there's something more at play here. I have no idea if it's schematic or a problem with personnel, but the coverage overall has been embarrassing over the last half of the season. Want me to use the Hilton touchdown as an example again? Of course you do!


Luck is getting ready to release the pass. The Colts have five receivers running routes against seven Chiefs defenders ... and four of the receivers (if you count Hilton about to run past Lewis) are open.

The man coming open right behind Hilton (top, center arrow) is about to come free, completely uncovered. In case you feel like that's a familiar sight...


This is just one of multiple times our coverage left receivers wide open. Some of it is (as mentioned) an issue with the deep safety play. However, it's happening time and time again. There's got to be an explanation for why players are missing basic things like passing off coverage correctly.

This isn't a "corners are getting burned" issue. At least, not usually. It's a "nobody is within five yards of the receiver" issue. Something has to be done. Bob Sutton is more than likely going to get another shot as the defensive coordinator. Job number one is to figure out how to prevent multiple blown coverages per game. Until that gets solved, an improved pass rush is going to make almost no difference.

The Chiefs need weapons on offense, but they're close

If we're going to base an analysis on JUST this game, it's tough to really harp on the offense. 44 points should be enough to win any game.

On the flip side, the offense only scored six points in the final 28 minutes of the game. Should they have had to? No. But being able to extend drives would have made a huge difference down the stretch.

Of course, when your first team All-Pro running back goes down six plays into the game, and your ONLY deep threat at receiver goes down soon after humiliating the opposing defense for a big score ... it's tough to say. Does anyone really think Jamaal Charles wouldn't have managed a couple of first downs in the second half on runs Knile Davis (who, make no mistake, played quite well) was stuffed on? Or that JC's presence alone would have opened things up for other players?

Me neither.

The Chiefs have Travis Kelce (who I still believe was a major part of this year's plans prior to injury) coming back next year, and they now know Knile can help carry the burden on offense. While the Chiefs could be losing Dexter McCluster to free agency, his loss isn't extreme (though he's been dependable, he's just not fast enough to break loose in the passing game).

If John Dorsey were to ask me (which he totally should), the correct move is to place Donnie Avery in the slot and find someone (it's not time yet to decide specifics) truly dependable to create separation AND make catches across from Dwayne Bowe. That would allow Avery to be used more sparingly for his big play ability. If you can keep Dex at a reasonable price and add him to the mix, great.

The Chiefs don't have a quarterback issue

I'm not going to go down this road too far at the moment (AP has been divided enough on the issue). I'll just say four things on Alex Smith's play Saturday:

1)  Alex Smith carried the offense on a day the Chiefs scored 44 points

2)  Alex Smith, in the second half (by my own hurried count), was 17-of-24 for 161 yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs. He also ran for a 13-yard gain and a first down.

3)  Cyrus Gray slowed down on his route, causing what would have been a great throw to go too far (you know what play I'm talking about).

4)  This is where Smith's last throw came down. He absolutely did not lead Bowe out of bounds.


I love Bowe, and he played a great game, but he drifted too far toward the sideline (as Andy Reid has confirmed) and didn't drag his feet. His jump was completely unnecessary and had he dragged his feet instead ... well, yeah. Smith got it done, including in his "poor" second half (where he twice made throws that could have amounted to game-winners only to be let down).

Maybe one day (even soon) I'll do a full-blown All-22 review of Smith's game. But for now, suffice it to say that going forward there's no quarterback issue in Kansas City.

The Chiefs belong in the playoffs

In 2010, the Chiefs won the division and hosted a Wild Card game ... where they proceeded to get absolutely demolished by the Baltimore Ravens (a decent but not great team that year) despite being perfectly healthy and having home field advantage.

In 2013, the Chiefs played on the road without their best player, the best corner was injured early in the second half, the only deep threat had to leave the game, the backup running back was lost with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter ...

... and it took a ridiculous comeback by a great young quarterback combined with two lucky bounces for the Chiefs to lose by a single point.

It might have hurt the way it ended, but for me it was nothing like 2010 or 2006. Those years it was painfully clear the Chiefs didn't belong in the playoffs, and that we were absolutely outclassed. That wasn't the case Saturday, even without our best player (and all that other stuff). That means something.

Here's hoping the team moves forward and not backward (we as Chiefs fans know how easily that can happen), but make no mistake, this isn't 2010. We belonged out there.

Bring on the mock drafts!

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