Well, the Chiefs managed to dodge another bullet Monday night (one of their own making, I might add – but more about that later) to run their record to seven-and-oh. If Karma is your thing then you have to believe that this team is full of the good version of it. Whatever you do, however, don’t use the “P” word and mess things up.
The “P” word, of course, is “Perfect.” Comparisons with the ’72 Dolphins have already started in some sectors and it worries me. Those throwing the word around loosely have pointed out to me that the remainder of the Chiefs schedule isn’t particularly difficult. Dogs like the Bears, Lions, Browns, Bengals, and Chargers (combined win-loss record of 5-19) won’t be much more than a speed bump on the road to perfection. The Raiders and Bills are more formidable, but not exceptionally so. Only the Broncos and the Vikings are worrisome, and the Broncos are down to their third-string QB and have lost two games in a row. So, if the remaining schedule isn’t much of a concern why am I upset by the “P” word?
The answer is simple – the Chiefs are their own worst enemy. A closer look at some statistics points out the problem areas:
· Although Trent Green’s overall numbers are similar to what he put up at the same point last year, he has thrown for six fewer touchdowns.
· Last year the Chiefs had 153 first downs, 1,142 rushing yards, 1,591 net passing yards, and 2,733 total net yards at this point in the season. This year, it’s 131 first downs (-22), 926 rushing yards (-216), 1,499 net passing yards (-92), and 2,425 total net yards (-306).
· In the Red Zone, the Chiefs had 35 opportunities through seven games last season. They scored 23 touchdowns and 11 field goals. This season, the numbers are 14-10-4. That is a huge drop-off.
· Jason Baker has punted 42 times this season. Dan Stryzinski only punted 28 times through game seven last season.
· In the first three games of this season, the Chiefs held on to the ball an average of 3 minutes 40 seconds longer than their opponents. In the last four games, the opponents have a 5 minute 23 second advantage per game. The team simply can’t afford to put this extra pressure on the defense for the rest of the season.
The promoters of perfection are forced to agree that the offensive numbers are a cause for concern, but quickly counter that the defensive numbers are infinitely better than they were a year ago. For instance, the Chiefs have only surrendered 125 points this year as opposed to 230 last season. Opponents have been held to 635 less net passing yards and 28 fewer first downs. In the Red Zone, opponents had 28 opportunities and scored 15 touchdowns and 12 field goals last season through seven games. This season, the numbers are 18-8-6.
The problem with statistical arguments and counter arguments is that neither side can completely win the initial argument, which is can the Chiefs run the table and finish with a 16-0 record? Personally, I can’t see it happening. A 13-3 or 14-2 record, on the other hand, is very possible.
Still, one cannot totally discount the chance for a perfect season. For it to happen, however, the Chiefs are going to have to come up with more imaginative offensive game plans than they used against the Raiders. Trent Green needs to quit being so tentative. The team has to get the wide receivers more involved. The time-of-possession numbers have to be reversed. Everyone has to stop worrying about reducing Priest Holmes’ workload (he’s healthy and he makes the offense click; get over it and turn him loose). Finally, somebody – anybody – please find out the reason why Denver QBs can’t stay healthy and export it to the Vikings and Bills.