Thursday, November 20, 2014

Chiefs at Raiders - Week 12 - Record: 7-4

Gotta give the Raiders credit. Fine work today. They deserved to win. It is good to see a team that has played as hard as they have with the heart they have finally win a game in a season that has been a nightmare for them so far. I remember how that feels. Remember the horror of our 2012? No one should ever have to endure that, not even the Raiders and their fans.

Funny, 30 years ago, 1984, the Chiefs faced an 0-10 Oilers team -- and lost. That's nice.

I had no illusions about what could, and did, happen in this game. The Raiders are an NFL football team. The Raiders have been playing decent football in their games, most of them close affairs. Any NFL team can win on any given Sunday. The Broncos had a pathetic game on Sunday and we all thought, "Woo-hoo we're ready to take over the world!", but you know, the Chiefs aren't immune to not-so-great games either.

The Raiders had a bit of a wilting there in the middle of the second half and it looked like we'd actually take this game. But they came alive again, and in the 4th quarter did what they needed to win.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs. How many blown plays did we have? Off the top of my head, Husain Abdullah not making that interception late hurt us. That would've stopped that game-winning Raiders drive. In fact, how many interceptions did we drop today? A few. Yeah, coming in we had the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL, but yeah, we kind of sucked today, and yeah, I saw a stat right after the Abdullah fail-to-pick that the Chiefs really suck at interceptions. Umm, No. 1 pass defense? But yeah, when you think about it, when have the Chiefs intercepted a pass? Hardly ever. It was never as ruthlessly costly as it was today. We had our chances.

As it is, I could remark about this Chiefs blap or that Chiefs blap, eh, whatever. We showed we could do some things with our passing to our receivers, but not a lot. I'm still very concerned. We got untracked with our usual 4th quarter push, but today our 1st to 3rd quarter game was pathetic. Yeah, it was raining, but when we're that far behind (14-0 score) we absolutely have to have a passing game.

Will this game get us untracked to know that nothing is a given? Yeah, that'd be nice, that we really step it up against Denver, that'll do it.

But then, does this reveal that we are not as good as our record? Damn, we not only have Denver next, but we also have Arizona (9-1 record) and Pittsburgh (with an unconscious Ben Roethlisberger at QB) coming up on the road.

We'll just have to see if we're for real.

Everybody has a poor game.

But will we get back up and be for real?

We'll have to see, that's what it is all about.

It only counts if it is for real.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Seahawks at Chiefs - Week 11 - Record: 7-3

This team comes through big-time clutch again.

A back-and-forth affair the Chiefs worked their ay-snnns off to win. This Seattle team was as good as advertised, the Super Bowl champions still with many of their key guys workin' us over in this one. Their running game immense, their D still stout as ever. But in the end, the grinding Chiefs took it.

We started with two very nice drives, one a long one another a short one, both ending with touchdowns (Jamaal TD runs, what else?) Then it started to get dicey. The Chiefs actually could've done more to put this one away early but two fumbles on two possessions in the middle of the game really hurt us. The Seahawks actually went ahead early in the 3rd quarter with a touchdown pass to -- OUCH -- former Chiefs tight end Tony Moeaki.

Also nerve-wracking was Russell Wilson's running. Where was Eric Berry or someone to shadow that guy? He seemed to wiggle his way out of every pocket collapse, and scamper for far too much yardage. The good thing was that Wilson's passing accuracy was just not fully there today.

But then, damn, this pass defense. Who'd've thought these guys would be so smothering? No Brandon Flowers, no Eric Berry for much of the season -- the guys we have out there are Ron Harper, Kurt Coleman, Husain Abdullah, Phillip Gaines... Who are these guys? Good thing Berry is back, and there is veteran Sean Smith playing big. Whoever they are, they work to make this team the one with the best pass defense in the NFL. Whuhh? Yeah, how about that.

Thing is, as I look at this pass defense, these guys are really all over those receivers. Know how in years before the other team's receivers would get great separation on us? How annoying. Meanwhile this year, our guys are a rancidly wet blanket on their guys. That game against the Broncos, second game of the year, the one we lost by only a touchdown? I see that as a key game, because we learned how to blow up the opposing offense's pick and misdirection routes. Our D-backs are very good at helping one another out, no receiver getting too untracked to make any destructively big play. We do get a little soft sometimes -- we gave up two receiving touchdowns, but that was it.

And it helps with our run defense being beast too, yet again another day without allowing a rushing score. Twice close to the goal line Seattle sent Marshawn Lynch into the line, and we stopped him both times. Twice Seattle had a fourth and very short, and we stopped them both times, the last one late in the game when our D-line stood them up.

Our play was terrific in the trenches, and it is a cliche, I know -- this is where football games are won. On offense Jamaal got untracked with the help of that O-line. But you have to give a heads-up to Alex Smith, who I'm watching a bit more closely and realizing how slick he is off the snap. He beautifully ran that quasi-option pitch to Jamaal for that one-yard touchdown run.

And one more shout out, this to the special teams. First we had great runbacks, two of them from Davis and Thomas, each one preceding the two costly fumbles from Jamaal and Travis Kelce. Secondly, when we had 4th down with three minutes left holding that four point lead, we really needed to pin the Seahawks deep. Sure enough, there was the great punt by Colquitt, and as the ball headed into the endzone, there was Junior Hemingway to leap at the ball, grab it, and toss it back for Albert Wilson to bat it down keeping it from being a touchback.

Seahawks ball at their four. Bah-bam. What a play.

And it was those receivers who made the play.

They weren't out there actually catching the ball. Did you know of our pure wide receivers, meaning not tight ends or scatbacks (namely De'Anthony Thomas), only Dwayne Bowe had any catches. And even then, only a couple. And still none of them touchdowns. And we still didn't have Donnie Avery. And A.J. Jenkins was out injured. I mean, did any wideouts besides Bowe even line up today? Weird: our D doesn't allow a rushing touchdown, still, but our O can't get a wide receiver to score. Still.

But then, I wonder...

I keep hearing -- of the little I do hear about -- I keep hearing about the job Andy Reid is doing. Because our running game is so efficient, because Alex Smith is so smooth out there with the short passing game, because we can play grind-it football so well...

Is that such a big deal?

Is Andy Reid doing such a fine job that he doesn't even have to worry about a wide receiver game?

That question just scares me. Yes, I'd love for it to be true. I'd love for us to find that splendid wide receiver package when we need it, but for now we're doing fine. But... what about when we really need those receivers to show up? I'd love for that to happen. Are they for real and just being kept in Reid's back pocket for now? Hmm. I'm just not sure.

For now, Reid is proficiently leading a squad deftly executing well at every other facet of the game.

I can go for being 7-3 and now tied with Denver for the top spot in the AFC West.

I can go for that.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Chiefs at Bills - Week 10 - Record: 6-3

Know how cursed we are in the playoffs? Year after year after year after year we're in the playoffs, everything that can go against us, does go against us.

But I have to say after watching this one, there are those times during the regular season when we are the ones who are charmed. This game was definitely one of those games.

Really, we had no business winning this game. The Bills just looked better, played better, looked sharper, played with more skill and athleticism. We bent and bent and bent on defense, and we slogged and slogged and slogged on offense.

We're No. 1 in pass defense in the entire NFL? It looked like Sammy Watkins could've had his way with us if he wanted. We have the fewest penalties in the NFL? I think I'd heard an announcer say that -- that's amazing if you ask me. Our D has still not allowed a rushing touchdown? Bryce Brown was on his way until a wonderfully opportune strip by Ron Harper. We have very few turnovers? Knile Davis had a fumble that was really more their D stripping it, but still. We average 25 points a game? Are you serious? We had only three by the end of the 3rd.

I also heard that we have allowed the fewest 4th quarter points in the NFL, and that is one stat where our team clearly excels. Today they allowed zero, and Ron Harper was the man of the quarter. The Bills had the ball deep in Chiefs territory with lots of time left, and a 1st and 10. Harper batted down three passes in the series, twice while covering Watkins. The first of those was his best play, almost intercepting a perfect pass from their QB Kyle Orton in the end zone.

Meanwhile, Alex Smith is driving me crazy. If you recorded the audio in our mancave from 10:00 am to 1:15 pm Pacific Standard Time, here is what you would've heard.

"Throw the ball." "Throw the ball." "Throw the ball." "Throw the ball." "Throw the ball." "Throw the football." "Throw the damn ball." "Throw the ball." "Throw the nfnking ball." "THROW - THE - FOOTBALL." (That last one accompanied by the standard thrashing body-writhing on the couch.)

I think Smith was sacked 57 times today, maybe 58. And I honestly would say that only about a third of those was because the O-line just couldn't hold it. No, I really think the reason he's not throwing the ball is that one thing that is still driving me crazy crazy crazy.

Our receivers.

Every time Smith doesn't unload when he just dang-well does have enough time to get a pass off, I wonder. Is it just that our receivers are just not getting untracked? I know, you may be wondering why I'm complaining -- Smith was still 17 of 29. And Dwayne Bowe made some fine catches running some terrific routes. There was even one long pass play down the middle of the field to a wide-open A.J. Jenkins -- that was nice to see.

Or... hrmphh... could it be that Smith just cannot throw the accurate ball as often as he must?

Really -- what do you think?

This is why Smith drives me crazy.

Happy as happy can be: Smith runs for the late go-ahead touchdown on a read-option, even plowing into a defender at the end zone.

Head-shaking dejection: Smith actually attempts a deep throw and badly misses a step-ahead Jenkins.

Happy as happiness of all happinesses: Smith improvises, keeps his head in the game, then whips that clutch pass to someone like Travis Kelce as he did to get that key first down very late in the game.

Head-shaking-off-my-neck from the dejection: Smith just flat-out doesn't fire that precise pass to that receiver precisely running that precision route that a precise pass requires... and then he goes down.

They showed us all that Smith had a 66-point-something passer rating at the end of the 3rd quarter. Just so you know, that stinks, and they said as much. Then he went off and led a fine 4th quarter Chiefs effort. Whaddya do with that.

Yeah, I know. We're 6-3. We've won four straight with a decent combination of skill and guts. We got the job done. Luck doesn't come without the requisite preparation and continued tough play. I can only think of that tackle by Albert Wilson plowing into the punt returner leading to the fumble and recovery that set up the critical final touchdown.

And not enough can be said about Andy Reid and his coaching staff and the job they've done. You can see it in their playcalling, you can see it in their adjustments, you can see it in how they keep this team fired up for every play. I mean, talk about big-time Chiefs highlights: the call on 4th-and-1, the pitch to Jamaal he goes on to take to the house. I mean.

We're in good shape for Seattle next week, a very tough game no matter how many keep saying "Eh, Seattle's not the same team as they were last year." Yeah, right.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Jets at Chiefs - Week 9 - Record: 5-3

What a weird team this is.

We have this terrific running game, but we have no touchdowns by receivers. We're last in all receiver categories, fewest yards, zero touchdowns, that kind of thing -- yet we're winning games without them, and a lot of that is because of our tremendously resourceful quarterback and a pair of bruising tight ends. Fasano and Kelce each scored a touchdown today, the former with the help of a batted pass that ridiculously landed in his hands while laid out on the goal line.

Then there's our defense. We haven't allowed a rushing touchdown all season, the only team in the NFL with that distinction. Yet the Jets' Chris Johnson ran all over us today. Now the Jets are not world beaters, and the Chiefs may have been doing a bit more toying with them than bending a bit too much. But then on today's broadcast I also heard, at least I think I heard, that we had the No. 1 pass defense in the league. Are you kidding me? Today Percy Harvin caught everything and seemed to run for miles on us. But then again, we got Eric Berry back today, and there was that game a few weeks ago when we did mess with Peyton Manning enough to keep the Broncos to only three points in the second half.

Since that Denver game we're 5-1, but it looks like we are getting a lot of breaks. But then, is this team authentically making things happen the way they want them to happen so those breaks fall our way? I can't think that they aren't, the Chiefs have got fine talent in a number of areas.

But just as much I wonder how long we're going to go before our deficiencies hurt us big, I mean, we beat a struggling team today at home only 24-10. Was this because we let up a lot or just couldn't put them away like we should have?

Eh, this is just NFL football. It really is just that.

Weird too that we are dominating the AFC East this year. It was the total opposite three years ago when we faced all four teams through the season and were outscored in all something like 417-3. This year we hammered what has still showed itself to be a terrific Patriots team, we strangled the Dolphins at their place for our first win and it was actually pretty convincing, and we took out the Jets today. Next week we're in Buffalo, and we all have very painful memories of our recent meetings with them. I mean, last year we barely beat a third-string Bills quarterback who gave us a gift 100-yard pick-six.

Wonder if we'll be looking ahead for that Seahawks game two weeks from today?

At the beginning of this season I thought there were good reasons we could be 16-0, and others that portended an 0-16 team. Here we are at the halfway point and we're 5-3, blistering good teams and waddling about with poorer teams.


But, well, NFL football you know...

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Rams at Chiefs - Week 8 - Record: 4-3

Oh did this game start poorly. The Rams shot right down the field and scored a touchdown with a handful of plays that made our defense look like melted butter.

But shortly thereafter we made whatever adjustments we needed to, and it was over. There was a nasty burp at 7-7 when Jamaal fumbled after never even getting the handoff cleanly and the Rams got the ball at our 10, but we stiffened and their kicker (whew) missed a field goal.

Otherwise there was Jamaal, Knile, Knile, Jamaal, Jamaal, Knile. Very nice. Our D also played well,
with great pass coverage forcing the Rams quarterback into flustered throws and the grip of Chiefs pass rushers. Justin Houston had three sacks, and to shut down the Rams late they got Dee Ford in there -- it was nice to see him make some plays.

I was concerned for a bit about our stalwart No. 1 overall pick last year, Eric Fisher, who is playing well but today gave up a nasty sack by Robert Quinn and then had a movement penalty against him a couple plays later. Cause for extended concern? I don't know, everyone can have tough moments in a game.

I mean, look at someone like Dwayne Bowe.

This was one of those stellar days for Dwayne Bowe. Ever notice that Bowe will have those cringe-generating games where he drops that one pass or runs that silly route that just kills us, but then he'll come back and win our hearts with a game like today? Everything threw to him was snatched splendidly, including one pass he grabbed that was way over his head while the defender was tackling him before the ball got there.

Yes, they'll still say our receivers haven't caught a touchdown pass yet, and yes, that's a bad thing. But come on, look at Alex Smith's play today -- agile, quick, decisive. After every gasp we take when he looks to pass, he'll find a way to zip the ball to some receiver. Damn he did that well today, going 24-for-28 -- that's amazing.

All this was topped by Andy having another game in which he masterfully disguised his intentions, imaginatively mixed it up, and again deftly used our running game to dominate. Knile and Charles may get all the press, but we're above .500, 4-1 in our last five games, and steadily moving into contention position.

I'm great with that.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Chiefs at Chargers - Week 7 - Record: 3-3

What it takes to beat the Horse Curse.

We had to overcome three or four gruesomely dropped passes. We had to overcome a sure touchdown not scored when A.J. Jenkins stepped out of bounds. We had to overcome a splendidly batted ball that daintily dropped into the hands of Antonio Gates for a Chargers touchdown. We had to overcome that ugly seven-headed beast known as the officiating crew who called at least three brutally phantom penalties against us but simply refused to keep the Chargers tackles from holding Houston and Hali.

I was sure something was going to happen to keep the Horse Curse marauding against us, but sure enough, we managed to succeed in doing the one thing that snuffed that sucker today. It is the key thing a team can do to stop the Chargers, and we did it wonderfully today. Damn was Reid good at making this happen -- in fact this is one Reid's best coaching skills.

We kept Philip Rivers off the field.

It was beautiful to behold. The Chiefs were able to chew up clock for inordinate amounts of time, scoring five times in the process, the fifth coming on a nail-biting 48-yard field goal from our brand spankin' new kicker Cairo Santos whose entire 5'8'' frame was well-deservedly mugged after his kick won the game.

Our time of possession was double that of the Chargers, and one less time for Rivers to display his supernatural prowess against us is big-time significant.

While there is a tremendous feeling of relief, that our boys can actually dent this curse (our first win in SD since 2007, really) -- we still have issues. Our receivers did make some clutch catches today, I was very pleased to see that, especially late in the game, but come on -- still too many drops! Our D-backs were beast when it counted -- gotta give Phillip Gaines some more playing time! -- but we are still missing Eric Berry. When is he coming back? I liked seeing some of the support players come through -- is that A.J. Jenkins showing that he can be a weapon? -- but we still need more consistency from others to take the load off Charles and Davis.

And as much as we scream our lungs out at Alex Smith to throw the ball, not get sacked, run there, don't run there, do this do that do that do this -- he still hangs in there and provides a very nice, steady attack that today served us very well.

We're holding our own at 3-3, and that may be very good because it'll motivate the team to know they've got to keep working hard to get into real contention position. Hey, look at baseball's Giants and Royals. They knew they had to battle coming out of the wild-card spots and couldn't afford a let-down. Object lesson.

Of course, now all resolutely faithful all-Kansas City sports fans can sit back Tuesday and enjoy the Royals playing in


Sunday, October 05, 2014

Chiefs at 49ers - Week Five - Record: 2-3

This was indeed a game we could have won, we should have won against a very good team.

It was showcased as Alex Smith's return against his old team, and for much of the game he did pretty decently. But let's just be honest about two key things.

1. Alex Smith does need to make the accurate throw when he needs to. Sure there was that ugly overthrow in the last minute, the pass intended for Anthony Fasano that was intercepted sealing the Niners victory. But there were several other passes that were just thrown low or wide when the Chiefs needed to make those connections. He completes those passes and this game is ours, one that for quite some time really looked like was ours.

2. Alex Smith does not have the receivers to make things happen like they should. We were without Donnie Avery because of injury, but even with him this is not a receiving core that'll get us to the next level -- it just isn't. It is scary that it isn't. I'd even heard the announcers relay some stat, I don't remember what it was, but it was indicative that this is the worst receiving core in the league. I think the stat was something like, our receivers do not have a touchdown all season. Sorry, but this is a tremendous liability. Ready for the start of The Wide Receiver Project? After all it is Halloween season, I should get that going to make things especially scary.

Again, this was a game we had. I liked our running game, it was solid and on-track like it should. I liked our pass rush, for a time we really hogtied their QB Colin Kaepernick. And who can't be thrilled with De'Anthony Thomas finally getting in the mix, even scoring a screen-pass touchdown with some extra power running to get into the endzone.

What concerns me are a few things, things that are pretty major.

First of all, I think the play of the game was a clutch Niners play that no one could do anything about. We had the Niners on a 3rd-and-long and under a fierce rush Kaepernick threw up a long duck, and their receiver Brandon Lloyd makes a fantastic catch with Sean Smith draped all over him. (But there ya go, that's a play their receiver makes. Errgck.)

Our D-backs were good sometimes, but then there's Marcus Cooper. Sometimes he's terrific, like when he contributed big-time to disrupting the Peyton Manning pick-passes a few weeks ago, but today he was roasted. How much longer do we have to wait for him to take advantage of his raw physical ability and shut down the guy he's covering?

Our run defense wilted when it got late. The Niners were able to run effectively, get those late field goals, run clock in the process, and keep our offense on its heels.

Regarding both of these critical breakdowns, it must be pointed out that those injuries we've had to key defensive players hurt. Eric Berry is still not in there. Mike Devito and Derrick Johnson are key run stuffers and they're gone for the year. They mentioned how well we've done to make up for them, but sorry, their absence really hurt us late today.

And what about that 12-men-on-the-field penalty when the Niners were punting, giving them a 1st down. Incredible. That one penalty was even worse for the Chiefs than the Brandon Lloyd catch, and it was a mistake contending teams don't make.

After a breakout game Monday night and a chance to show up in the top ten of all the sports network/sites "Power Rankings", now we have to settle for still wallowing around in the bottom half again, and it'll be for a while because the Chiefs have a bye next week.

I can't finish this post without making mention of the amazing sports week it has been for all things Kansas City in the sports world. After the Chiefs destroyed the Patriots at Arrowhead last Monday night, the major league's Royals hosted the A's at Kauffman in the one-game wild-card playoff game, and they won it in thrilling fashion, 9-8 in 12 innings. The Royals have gone on to win the first two games of their ALDS contest against the Angels.

Indeed, on Wednesday when I presume the soccer team Sporting KC was playing in the Washington D.C. area, they visited the White House where the president welcomed the, yes, World Champion Kansas City professional soccer team.

What a week for Kansas City, who as a city had gone 48 straight combined team-years without a win by the pro football team and an appearance in a playoff series by the pro baseball team.

With their strong pitching, stifling defense, tenacious hitting, and rich enthusiasm, the Royals have gone a long way to make things up-to-date in Kansas City once again.

Now the Chiefs just need to keep moving forward and get to their next level.