DO NOT PANIC.
I hear way too much of the whole “panic” thing these days, especially from certain friends who, inexplicably, call themselves “Broncos fans” (you know who you are…). Now, to be fair, I recognize that you have to treat Broncos fans differently than everyone else – they’re “special” – but even so I’d expect them to grasp that the Chiefs season is not over, nor is it even remotely in dire straits (“Sultans of Swing”, anyone?).
Let’s recap and take a look at where we’re at. The Red and Gold started off the season with nine straight wins. That puts them at a 9-0 record for those of you who have trouble with math (like, say, the aforementioned friends – love you guys). History is on their side in terms of making the playoffs from there; no team has ever failed to make it after starting 9 and 0. And once you’re in the playoffs it’s anyone’s game; stops are pulled out, playbooks are opened up, magic happens (look at the NY Giants a few years ago if you need proof of that).
Three losses in a row would be considered a skid if two of them were not against one of the best teams in the AFC (which admittedly is Denver…except when Peyton’s daddy Tom is playing against them). If we’d lost to Tennessee, Jacksonville and Houston I’d be in full-on panic mode right now (plus there would probably be an investigation by the NFL into game-throwing; nobody loses to Houston – even the Pleasant Hill high school team would probably pick-6 Schaub for a win). But we didn’t – we lost twice to Denver and once because we forgot San Diego is better than they look (I do recognize, however, that considering how bad the Chargers look that’s really difficult to do).
Next week will be the telling game. If we can right the ship there’s nothing to panic about; we’ll roll and solidify the #5 seed in the AFC (which is equivalent to the #2 seed in the NFC) and then let JC, Tamba and Smith shine in the post-season. If the Chiefs lose their fourth in a row then officially we’ll start to worry about whether nine wins to start with is enough for us to ensure we make the playoffs this year, and the chants for “FIRE THE MOUSTACHE” will officially start by the fringe of Chiefs fans who have trouble spelling “football” much less understanding it (yes, we have those, too).
Here’s five things that have to happen to ensure KC returns to the win column this week.
Let’s start with the obvious. The secondary has got to make adjustments when receivers start running or we’re going to end up making RG3 look relevant again. While he’s clearly not Peyton Manning he’s still an NFL-level quarterback, and no-really-he’s-the-next-best-thing-to-Andrew-Luck-I-promise can throw the ball over our safeties when they get beat just as easily as any other QB in the game today (with the possible exception of Matt Flynn, who I’m not entirely sure is capable of throwing the ball over the offensive line). THAT HAS GOT TO STOP. Run by me once shame on you; run by me twice call me Kansas (I love my Jayhawks, but…).
Second – the Chiefs’ receivers have got to figure out how to catch, preferably with two hands (but I’m not real picky at this point). You can’t rely on Dexter McCluster making spectacular lay-out-and-pray-the-safety-doesn’t-take-my-head-off catches to get us much-needed first downs, which means Donnie Avery has to stop doing his best impression of a basketball hoop and letting the ball go right through his hands. Have them watch game film of Eric Decker, Josh Gordon or Rod Tidwell – I don’t care as long as they figure out how to catch – and hold onto – the ball.
Third, we need to follow my buddy Gabe’s advice. When you have the ball and you’ve got the ‘skins defense off-balance what do you do? “THEN YOU RUN THE BALL.” And after that? “YOU RUN THE BALL AGAIN.” That’s our bread and butter, and until it fails us repeatedly you give #25 the ball or try a toss sweep to Davis or hell, even let Alex Smith gain 4 or 5 yards on a quarterback keeper up the middle. Sure – you throw in an occasional play-action or legit downfield pass but you do not get fancy when you have a clear upper-hand – you don’t want to pull a Michigan and look stupid when playing conventional football is working just fine.
Fourth Reid needs to let Smith play until he proves he can’t. Although Washington has failed to field a defense in seven out of their twelve games (and only narrowly didn’t end up with a loss during their bye week as a result of their poor secondary play) they are still well-paid players who, presumably, are sharp enough to watch film and see how the Chiefs have been playing. We have had a highly-conservative offense twelve games into the season (the last two have been more open, but the first ten you could count the number of unique plays we ran on two hands and still have enough fingers left over to salute the opposing team, twice). And it’s worked – but people are catching on. When we took the kiddie harness off and let Smith air it out a little more things started to click (when the receivers actually caught the ball, anyway) and we ended up actually fielding an offense. The final four games of the season will require that we continue to do that. Period.
(btw – #4 doesn’t conflict with #3; you run the ball when you’ve got the upper-hand and you let Smith off the chain when you need to keep the D honest. #3 begets #4 and #4 begets #3. Kind of like an Alabama family tree, except it includes players that know how to tackle a kick returner)
Fifth, and finally, Mr. Red Flag needs to make an appearance at least once. On one of the Bronco’s early drives they were awarded a first down when it was clear – absolutely, positively CRYSTAL clear – that the receiver was a half yard short. The dude’s helmet didn’t even cross the 41 yard-line, much less the ball. It was so clear on every single replay of it they did on the Jumbotron that if this were Oakland they would have thrown some guy in red out on the field on behalf of whomever the Raiders’ coach is these days (to be fair in Oakland any fan would throw their own grandmother on the field if would give them some attention from the sports world, but still…). But there was no challenge by the Chiefs and a few seconds later Peyton picked apart our secondary like an 8 year-old taking mushrooms off a Papa John’s pizza and ended up with a touchdown. I agree 100% with my friend Lauren that we should have challenged that because it could have been an early momentum shift that we needed. Hindsight’s 20/20 to be sure, but that was the (almost) consensus in Row 16 when it happened. Would the donkeys have scored anyway? Maybe, but come on – throw the flag when it’s that clear. At least let them know you’re going to fight for every damn half yard.
I think it’s that easy. Washington has nothing to play for – they’re out of the playoff race (shocker, I know) and their pride was gone by week four. There’s a rumor circulating that Daniel Snyder has been trying to get Terry Bradshaw to come out of retirement since Tim Tebow, Brett Favre and Ted Bundy all turned him down to replace their “quarterback of the future”, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Mike Shanahan was actually behind center this weekend (which actually might give them a better shot at winning). This is a prime opportunity for the Chiefs to get themselves back on track and in the groove for their playoff run.
One final aside – a shout out to my friend Jack who is a true Chiefs fans and is the one in the front of the bottom half of the picture without a brown bag over his head. But in case you’re from Cleveland and think this photo is real (I am sensitive and recognize that for Browns’ fans this is a normal Sunday afternoon sight) let’s put it to rest – this picture is as fake as Miley Cyrus’ personality. This photo was taken in Section 109 rows 17 & 18 (which I know because we sit in Section 109, row 16 and Jack’s seats are right behind us) and save for the occasional person who inexplicably wears Cowboys or Raiders or Dolphins gear (do they even still have a football team?) Section 109 bleeds red and gold, period. We could be winless and still you’d find our entire section clad in Chiefs jerseys, jackets, t-shirts, hoodies and hats with ear thingies on them. The only place you’ll ever find a paper sack in that section is when we’re picking up the tattered remnants of our opponent’s dreams when the AFC Championship game is in KC because we’re environmentally conscious that way.
So sit back, grab a beer and let’s go CHIEFS!by