I went back and re-watched the Chiefs Sunday night game against the Steelers. I wanted to get an idea of what happened during the game that made the Chiefs lose so badly.
Re-watching the game was painful. Watching it the first time was so bad I had to leave the country after the game. I went to Mexico and drowned my sorrows in tequila. Well ... I had that planned all along, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t help heal the sores.
In all seriousness, what the hell happened against the Steelers?
The Chiefs Secondary was Outmatched
The Chiefs missed Phillip Gaines something fierce. Countless times throughout the game Big Ben picked on DJ White. Another player the Steelers took advantage of was Daniel Sorensen. One play in particular that comes to mind is the touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton. DJ White looked lost on the play as the ball sailed over his head to an open Wheaton. DJ White has looked like a promising player in limited snaps this season, but against the Steelers he was picked on.
Let’s consider this a learning experience for the secondary. White isn’t ready to be a starter and he was put in a rough spot. Hopefully Phillip Gaines is ready to play against the Raiders.
Big Ben was on Fire
Leading up to the game there was a lot of talk about how Ben Roethlisberger would bounce back from the loss against the Eagles. Everyone saying Big Ben would play great was correct. Roethlisberger’s stat line went as follows:
22/27 - 300 Yards - 5 TDs - 0 INTs
Not even the 1985 Bears defense could have stopped him. I’d chalk Roethlisberger’s lights out performance up to bad luck for the Chiefs.
Todd Haley’s Play Calling was Superb
Not only was the Chiefs secondary outmatched, but Bob Sutton’s defensive scheming was outmatched as well.
Eric Berry neglects his zone and it leads to a wide open touchdown. pic.twitter.com/3UuVIsOAT1— Gary McKenzie (@Super_G_Chiefs) October 12, 2016
I was corrected on Twitter by several people on this play who said the Chiefs were in Cover 3 and it wasn’t Eric Berry’s fault the receiver was left open as Berry’s responsibility was deep middle.
Whatever it was, the play was brilliantly designed and it forced DJ White to make a decision: He should have left his man to cover the deep sideline while Sorenson covers the flat. (H/T to kswanson for a great breakdown on this play in the Fanposts.)
Unfortunately DJ White was already sold on Heyward-Bey’s route and he didn’t make the decision to cover the deep sideline. Todd Haley really took advantage of a rookie CB on this play, and I can’t really blame White for missing this one.
The Chiefs Play Calling was Poor
Time and time again the Chiefs forced themselves into third and longs. If the Chiefs want to have any success on offense they need to be more successful on first down.
Perfect example of a play call that is set up for failure. Smith should never be asked to throw the ball while running to his left. pic.twitter.com/kuk8FnnIho— Gary McKenzie (@Super_G_Chiefs) October 12, 2016
Here is one example of a poor play call. In fact it may have been the worst play call of the game. The Chiefs were moving the ball fairly well on their first drive, and then this play happened.
This play does not work to Smith’s strengths and it only puts the offense in a position to fail.
Also to note is the rolling pocket. Coming into the game the Steelers had only one sack on the season. There was no need for the Chiefs to be rolling the pocket and taking unnecessary risks against a pass rush that hadn’t had much success early in the year.
Alex Smith’s Play was Poor
It was almost as though Alex Smith was playing scared against the Steelers. I’ve been demanding Reid to give Smith a few designed run plays early in the game to help Smith get into the flow of the game.
Maybe it’s not true, but I feel that Smith’s feet and nerves settle down after he runs the ball a couple of times. Regardless of whether or not Smith runs the ball, plays like these shouldn’t happen, but they are a persistent problem.
Smith bails out on the pocket prematurely again. pic.twitter.com/IWHjH1hAiL— Gary McKenzie (@Super_G_Chiefs) October 12, 2016
Smith has to begin to trust his offensive line and move around to the open spot in the pocket. This is only a three man rush and Smith could have easily stepped to his left, kept his eyes downfield, and made an uncontested pass.
Smith also missed a wide open Maclin that would have gone for a touchdown later in the game.
After a bobbled snap, Smith misses a ridiculously wide open Maclin. pic.twitter.com/n4qNXpZQV8— Gary McKenzie (@Super_G_Chiefs) October 12, 2016
There was a bobbled snap so I understand Smith’s need to get rid of the ball quickly, but Maclin was wide open. I’m not going to hound Smith too hard for this one, but the missed opportunities really hurt the Chiefs.
Smith’s final stat line was the following:
30/50 - 287 Yards - 2 TDs - 1 INT
The 287 yards look nice, but Smith averaged 5.74 yards per attempt against a soft Steelers defense. That is nothing short of abysmal. Alex Smith has to improve on that number if the Chiefs want to have a chance against the Raiders.
The Good News
A lot of the problems the Chiefs had against the Steelers can be fixed. The offensive play calling, and defensive scheming can be fixed. The execution on offense and defense can be fixed.
The Chiefs shouldn’t have to start a sixth round rookie every week either. Phillip Gaines should (hopefully?) be returning against the Raiders, and Alex Smith can and has played better. Also to note is the Chiefs won’t be facing a scorching hot Ben Roethlisberger every week of the year.
The best thing the Chiefs can do is to learn from the Steelers game and come back stronger because of it. Just two years ago the Chiefs destroyed the Patriots in Arrowhead and the Patriots went on to finish the season incredibly strong. I don’t think the Chiefs are the 2014 Patriots, but I do think the Chiefs can improve and learn from their mistakes and be a better team for it.