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Sunday, January 1st
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Can It Get Any More Frustrating?

More by Ed Fulda
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After the Chiefs traveled to Buffalo and played what might possibly be one of the ten worst games ever played by a Chiefs team, I was ready to declare the season over and kiss the playoffs goodbye. It would have been real easy at that point for the players and coaching staff to pack it in. Instead, the team rebounded nicely and knocked off Houston, New England and Denver on consecutive weekends to get back in the playoff hunt. The offense was finally starting to click with its usual efficiency and the defense was starting to gel. Everything was pointing to a team that had turned the corner and was ready for the stretch run. Looks, unfortunately, can be deceiving.

The defense, especially, should have been primed to build on its work against the Broncos. Despite its win-loss record, Dallas was not a team that that would be considered overly impressive. The running game was middle-of-the-pack and Drew Bledsoe, known for his aversion to pressure, was starting to suffer from "happy feet" syndrome once his offensive line started developing leaks. Even though Dallas had decent receivers in Keyshawn Johnson, Terry Glenn and Jason Whitten, there was little doubt that the Chiefs defense would be able to disrupt Bledsoe with a heavy dose of blitzes. No need to point out that the defense failed miserably once the game started. Rather than rehash the sordid details, suffice it to say that Bledsoe had plenty of time to throw, the Dallas running game was effective and the Chiefs secondary found it impossible to cover Terry Glenn and Jason Whitten. And that, dear readers, is where the frustration comes from.

Much has been made of the fact that no opposing runner has been able to dent the Chiefs defense for 100 yards in a game. What hasn't been talked about is how many receivers have padded their stats against KC. We can start with the first game of the year where TE Chris Baker dented the secondary for seven receptions, 124 yards and a TD. In game two, Randy Moss went 5-127-1. In the Philly game, T.O. collected 11 receptions for 171 yards and a TD. Against Washington, Santana Moss feasted for 10-173-2. In the first meeting with the Chargers, Antonio Gates went 10-145-3. Things, however, had looked better for five consecutive weeks before the Dallas game as no opposing receiver collected more than 79 yards. Glenn, of course, ended the run with a 6-138-1 performance and Whitten wasn't far behind at 7-93-1.

After spending a ton of money in free agency to fix the secondary, the Chiefs are not getting much of a return. Sammy Knight is smart, knows which angles to take and hits like a cannon shot, but his lack of speed is being exploited. The other addition, Patrick Surtain, has generally played well but he was burned repeatedly by the Cowboys. The two holdovers, Eric Warfield and Greg Wesley, need to be tested for ADD. Both have the physical tools needed to excel in the NFL, but all too often they seem to lose focus. When DBs lose focus, opposing receivers start putting up the kind of numbers mentioned above.

I bring this entire thing up because the Chiefs are in a must-win situation for the remainder of the season and they will be facing a plethora of receivers who will torch the Chiefs secondary in a heartbeat. The Giants have Plaxico Burruss, Jeremy Shockey and Amani Toomer. The Chargers bring Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates. The Bengals will toss Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh into the mix. That is a scary group. If the Chiefs expect to make it into the playoffs, the secondary is simply going to have to play better than it has thus far. Fans who expect Gunther Cunningham to come up with a solution had best be prepared to have their level of frustration pushed to an all-time high before this season draws to a merciful close.

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