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Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Kansas City Chiefs: A Pretender In Contender's Clothes

Travis Kelce fumbles As a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs, I'm about as dejected as one could possibly be right now. While going into this season with somewhat tempered expectations (losses in free agency, difficulty of schedule, destined for worse luck on the injury front), the Chiefs overcame a rocky 0-2 start to win 7 our of their next 8, putting them squarely in a race for the division title. At the bare minimum we had to be a lock for the 1st Wildcard spot.

Then came a loss on national televsion to the winless and hapless Raiders which sent them on a downward spiral and current 3-game losing streak they may not come back from. It's the body blow that barely lets you catch your breath and take stock of the opponent in front of you.

After the Raiders debacle, they came back home to Arrowhead to face a reeling Denver Broncos team that is not quite the superpower they were earlier in the year. Peyton was not looking invincible, and they were missing one of their best weapons in Julius Thomas. The fact is, Kansas City was NEVER actually in that game. After a 3 and out to open the game, us fans knew what we were in store for. Spotting Denver 17 points without gaining 50 yds of offense in the 1st half is the first bullet point in the "How to Lose to Peyton Manning" manual. KC has yet to prove they can match up with the big boys, and if they can't take adavntage of a vulnerable division foe that they haven't beaten in what feels like 4 years (actually, as of January 1st it will literally be 4 years), that's a surefire sign of a "pretender", not a "contender".

After those 2 brutal losses which knocked KC back in the divison standings and barely clinging to life in the Wildcard race, they had a tough matchup with the also reeling Arizona Cardinals on the road. A 14-6 score at the half after 2 TDs in what seemed like the only 2 times Jamaal Charles touched the ball, and we were feeling pretty good.

Then came the 2nd half, two ugly turnovers, two horrendous calls against the Chiefs, and a missing persons report filed on Jamaal Charles. Andy Reid is still known to be the primary suspect. There are many culprits in this loss, but unfortunately this is the only instance where I disagree with Jamaal, the refs were not one of them. Sure, the offensive pass interference call against Fasano that negated a TD was laughable, and the overturn of Kelce's fumble was suspect at best. But despite all of this, the Chiefs still SHOULD have won this game.

I've opted to forgo the usual "State of the Season Infographic" this week because I feel the numbers are starting to be misleading. It's easy to look at the graphs on injuries and how that is a potential excuse for the poor play as of late. We can check out Jamaal Charles' stat line with only 10 carries and easily pin the blame on Reid's lack of use of the most explosive weapon in football. Or we can see the turnover stat and pin it all there. But the single best way to sum up not just the loss to the Cardinals, but the overall woes of the entire 2014 season for the Chiefs is to break out tis one single drive that has defined these Kansas City Chiefs:

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS Ball on the KC 24 yd line trailing 17-14 with 1:09 left to play

KC needs a FG to tie, a TD to win. A conservative target for Cairo Santos and the Chiefs would be to reach the AZ 30 yd line, resulting in a 47 yd FG try to tie the game and send it into OT. KC needs 46 yds in 69 seconds with no Time Outs to get there.

1st and 10 at KC 24

(1:09) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short right to J.Charles pushed ob at KC 26 for 2 yards (A.Okafor).

Thank you Jamaal Charles for getting ouit of bounds on an absolutely horrendous play call (or check at the line by Smith). At least Reid tried to get it to Jamaal in space, the only redeeming quality about the call.

2nd and 8 at KC 26(1:04) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short left to J.Avant to KC 30 for 4 yards (J.Powers) [A.Okafor].

 Maybe Andy Reid forgot it was the 4th quarter and they had no timeouts. No excuse...this was an atrocious call if it happened in the 1st quarter. Throw a short out on a pick play to a guy signed off the street whose best days happened when McNabb was still playing offers nothing redeeming about it. Even if he got out of bounds, was it worth another 6+ seconds to get 4 yds? Rhetorical question.

3rd and 4 at KC 30(:42) (No Huddle, Shotgun) A.Smith pass short middle to J.Avant to KC 36 for 6 yards (J.Powers).

 So far 4 yds gained in 2 plays and 27 seconds off the clock. That's right...40% of the time remaining in the game was used to gain 8% of the yds needed to get in FG range. Even for the non-math majors out there, that spells trouble.

Smith knows he needs to get a 1st down, so he manages to check down once more time to Avant over the middle. Enough for a 1st down, and enough to wonder if the 6 yds it gained were worth the time dripping off the clock. Has Alex even looked downfield at any point during this series?

1st and 10 at KC 36(:22) (No Huddle, Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete short right to J.Charles.

 At least we got the 1st down. Now we line up and spike it to stop the clo- wait, wha? We LINE UP AND SPIKE it to STOP THE CLOCK. LINE UP AND....Holy sh** he's running a play. The game may end right here and now.

20 seconds come off the clock in the process to save 1 play that ultimately wouldn't help the Chiefs if they didn't get some yardage out of anyway. Is the poor clock management that has plagued Reid his whole career contagious? Did he sneeze on Alex at halftime? You've got to be joking me.

Ok my heart finally beats again when the ball is snapped and this time Alex looks to throw downf-WHAT the HELL is he doing throwing another flare to Jamaal 1 yard downfield??!!! Thank God Jamaal was so startled he was actually getting it thrown to him that he didn't even make an effort to catch it otherwise GAME OVER on that play. At this point every person who has ever seen a football game in their life is wondering what the hell is occuring before their eyes.

2nd and 10 at KC 36(:19) (Shotgun) PENALTY on KC-E.Fisher, False Start, 5 yards, enforced at KC 36 - No Play.

 Awesome that this happened - if only to give me the segway into pointing out how inept the O-Line has been all year. Sure, they played well run blocking for a short stretch. But they have been the worst pass blocking line in all of football. Eric Fisher can block well in space. Great, maybe he pulls or leads the corner on 25% of snaps. How about blocking a guy lined head up on him coming after the passer once or twice?

The Chiefs will NEVER win a meaningful game with this O-line. Mark my words.

2nd and 15 at KC 31(:19) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete short left to A.Wilson.

 So they had a little chance to regroup, huddle, and come back with something special here. Maybe a deep ball, even if in the middle of the field, gives them a chance to spike it and get off a kick.

WOW. Instead they throw a glorified WR screen to a glorifed WR. For all the love affair with Albert Wilson out there, sure maybe one day his upside is turning into a Dante Hall-lite, or a poor man's version of De'Anthony Thomas, who is a poor man's Darren Sproles. But is this what the WR corp has come to? Albert Wilson is the guy you want to throw the ball a yard downfield to make him get 40 on his own with 19 seconds left in the game. This had to have been a designed play because Smith looked absolutely nowhere else but there.

For all the talk about Andy Reid not needing any "superstar" WRs for his "system", it sure looks like they need someone who can make a play...any play.

3rd and 15 at KC 31(:16) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete short right to A.Wilson.

 Sooooo let's go right back to the miniscule Wilson again in hopes of what exactly? We already knew the game was over already, but this is now starting to turn into a trainwreck.

4th and 15 at KC 31(:11) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete short middle to J.Avant (C.Campbell).

 Thank you for putting us out of our misery.

So to recap, the Chiefs gained a net 7 yards in basically 1 minute of play. They actually somehow managed to get off 7 plays, even after 2 CRITICAL errors to not stop the clock, yet moved nowhere. The combination of Alex Smith and Andy Reid is infuriating to the point where this was the single worst called/executed 2 minute drill that I have ever witnessed in football. The game should have lkikely been over 3 plays earlier if Smith actually managed to live up to the "accuracy" label and completed some of the abomination 3 yd passes he was attempting.

I for one had zero faith that Smith would drive down the field and kick a tying FG. None. Yet after Smith threw the late interception that resulted in the Cards driving down for the go-ahead score, I somehow felt it was predetermined that Drew friggin Stanton would lead them down to score and take the lead.

I'm tired of hearing about Smith as a "game manager" or "efficient". You better damn well complete 75% of your passes if you literally NEVER throw more than 10 yds downfield in a game. You better damn well NEVER throw an interception when 80% of your passes are within 5 yds of the line of scrimmage. I have never witnessed as offense like this outside of 3rd grade football where the QB literally cannot reach a receiver more than 10 yds away.

Ladies and gentlemen, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is nothing about this team that is built for a contender in the postseason. They can't out-score ANYBODY. They can't stop the run on D, and despite opposing teams doing them a favor by throwing the ball, that will nmot fly in the playoffs. They are not tough enough, or physical enough to beat good teams that are tougher and more physcial than them. They literally need to play absolutely PERFECT football to beat a good team (Seattle & New England) with their philosphy.

WIth the play calling of Andy Reid and his cutsie screens and formations and motions, and the lack of any vision on the part of Alex Smith, this team is a Pretender, cut and dry. Unfortunately with both of them in for the long haul together, I'm not sure what gives as we move forward.


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