I was irate watching the Chiefs on Sunday. I mean genuinely, really, feel-it-in-your-gut angry. The fact that I had to control my behavior (I was watching with my 10 year-old, eight-year-old and five-year-old sons) only compounded matters, as I couldn’t release the cauldron of simmering emotions inside me with healthy behavior like screaming, throwing things and punching holes in walls (ok, more like “healthy” behavior).
I was angry for a lot of reasons. Without creating an exhaustive list, the main reason for my anger was watching Alex Smith, after such a huge step forward last week, play one of his worst games as a Chief (the only games last year that are even close are Green Bay and Minnesota), the horribly timed turnovers/mental errors, and seeing the defense back in “we gotta get ANOTHER stop????” mode. It was like going back in time, and it stunk.
I’ll be burying Alex Smith (at least, I’m assuming I will be, barring the tape being MASSIVELY different from what I saw on the broadcast) later this week, as well as examining other facets of a horrible game, so you’ll hear plenty of negativity from me soon (sorry, that’s the job. Gotta write both ways).
But today, I want to pull you off the ledge, at least for now (plenty of time for ledge-jumping later in the season guys. No hurry), by making two points.
First, it’s early. Folks, seriously, it’s early. Do I need to remind you where we were this time last year? We had just watched the Chiefs lose an utter heartbreaker to Denver that felt like it would affect the team for weeks (turns out, it would). We were about to endure another four straight losses while the offense looked utterly and completely lost. It was dark, man. Real dark.
This was a bad loss. It makes me very afraid as to whether the offense (and Alex Smith) are going to be good enough to hold their end of things. I get it. But it’s early. Teams haven’t begun to find their identity yet. Seattle has scored 15 points total all year. Aaron Rodgers has looked positively mediocre. It’s EARLY.
I know that you know that. And I know that you know that I know that you know that. But it’s worth saying again: relax. It’s going to be OK (unless it’s not. What do I know? I’m not God). It’s early.
My second point is this: the Chiefs (very likely) aren’t going to win a Super Bowl with Justin Houston and Jamaal Charles on the sideline.
I know that sounds like bad news when I put it that way. But my point is that right now the Chiefs are in a holding pattern. As much as fans have tried to convince themselves that the offense is just as good without Charles (or better, some claim), the simple fact of the matter is that Charles is legitimately special, and he creates opportunities when everything else is going wrong.
It’s against good (very good, I admit) defenses like the Texans (or, say, the Broncos) where a guy like Charles makes a difference. Against defenses like that, you need a player who can just CREATE extra yardage regardless of what else is happening. Charles can do that better than any other player I have ever watched (not hyperbole).
Juke defender out of soul, set up block perfectly, break tackle while sprint/cutting... all in a day's work for JC. pic.twitter.com/1TMUHPkEIf— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) July 29, 2016
You need guys like Charles if you want to consistently compete against the big boys in the league (as gifted as Spencer Ware is, he needs blocking a little more than JC because he can’t just sprint right by unblocked defenders like Charles can).
And you need guys like Justin Houston, who (in case you’re forgetting) is one of the most prolific edge rushers in the NFL when healthy. He is, by far, the best defensive player on the team. That’s not a slight to guys like Eric Berry, Derrick Johnson and Dontari Poe. It’s just a statement on how good Houston is. He’s one of the best 3-4 defensive players alive. When you’re missing that guy, it’s going to hurt.
Right now, the Chiefs have neither of those guys. Both are supposed to return before the season is over (Charles very soon, Houston in November). Until then, the Chiefs need to follow an adage I learned from, you guessed it, The Walking Dead.
I wrote last week about the Walking Chiefs, and how we KNOW from what we’ve seen this year and last that the Chiefs are never going to stop fighting. After a tough loss against a Houston team that treated it like their Super Bowl (and let’s admit it, it was. The Chiefs were a monkey on their back, much like Indianapolis is for the Chiefs), you know they’re not going to tuck tail and run against another tough draw this Sunday.
However, they’re unlikely to be an elite team at this point. And as odd as it sounds to say, that’s OK. They don’t need to be an elite team right now without their best offensive and best defensive players. They just need to survive. They need to be sure they haven’t dug a hole they need to climb out of down the stretch.
If Charles returns soon, and Houston comes back, say, November 21st... there are still six games left in the year at that point. Nearly half a season’s worth of games to sharpen the edges and gear up for a playoff run as a team with their best guys back.
Until then? Just. Survive. Somehow. Keep your head above water, and don’t create a situation where a playoff run becomes impossible by the time the cavalry arrives. Fight claw, scratch, bite, rip, and tear your way to a respectable record. The playoffs will be reached through the last half of the season, not the first half.
If the Chiefs can survive to the tune of, say, 6-4, I absolutely love their chances down the stretch with Justin Houston back and raining fire on quarterbacks (yes, this assumes he comes back the same. If he doesn’t, well, guys, I don’t know what to tell you other than it’s a long shot this year).
They don’t need to dominate right now. They need to survive, hold the line, and fight like crazy to give themselves a puncher’s chance once Houston and Charles are back and 100 percent.
The Chiefs missed out on a chance to 2-0 Sunday. Make no mistake, that was a VERY winnable game, the likes of which would have given the Chiefs a much easier road to surviving until reinforcements come. But they’re still alive.
Just. Survive. Somehow.
I’ll see you maniacs on Sunday. Mrs. MNchiefsfan and I will be among those attending, and we very much hope to join Tony and company at his tailgate.