Random Thoughts and Observations on the Chiefs-Broncos Game
They are only opinions, but at least they are mine...
Wow! It was great for the Chiefs to come out and get a much needed win against one of their big division rivals. To me, the difference in this weeks game can be summed up in one word: "Passion". This week the Chiefs played with the passion that has been missing in the last two weeks vs the Falcons and (inexplicitly) the Raiders. Whether or not Herm Edwards has enough success to keep his job after this season will be solely based on whether or not he can find a way to get the Chiefs to play with this type of passion every week. If he can, a 7-9 or 8-8 record is not out of reach and should be enough for him to keep his job. Ironically, this will be much to the chagrin of many fans who still think the best move for the Chiefs future is to let him go.
I'll be honest and say the Chiefs effort and execution surprised me. I really thought that the Broncos would blow them out. The Chiefs looked like and entirely different squad on Sunday than they have at any time during 2008. Hopefully, we will see more of it in future weeks.
What a difference a quarterback makes. The Chiefs had only one turnover and two three and outs in 13 possessions this week. Further, they scored on more than half of their possessions (7) and it could have been more if not for a missed field goal. All of this after last week when the Chiefs had 6 three and outs and three turnovers in 14 possession and could only manage two scores.
For the season, the Chiefs are simply a different team with Huard at the helm. Consider the following incredible statistics: In 19 possessions with Huard at the helm, the Chiefs have run 96 plays for 551 yards (5.7 yards per play). Further, the Chiefs have had only 3 three-and-outs (16%), have committed three turnovers and have scored on 8 possessions (42%).
Contrast the above numbers with the Chiefs offensive numbers with Croyle/Thigpen at the helm. With Croyle/Thigpen at the helm the Chiefs run 161 plays and had 30 possessions, which resulted in only 594 yards (3.7 yards per play). Further, with this duo, the Chiefs have had 13 three-and-outs (43%), have committed four turnovers and have scored on only four possessions (13%).
In comparison to the rest of the NFL, the Huard led Chiefs average of 5.7 per play ranks 7th in the NFL (tied with the Arizona Cardinals). In contrast, with Croyle-Thigpen at the helm, the Chiefs rank dead last at 3.7 yards per play (behind the Cleveland Browns at 3.8).
More on Huard: although certainly not in his class, Huard reminds me of hall of fame quarterback Dan Fouts, in that he gives his receivers the chance to make plays. Huard seems to understand that both Tony Gonzales and Dwayne Bowe are taller than the guys covering them and will make throws where only the can catch them. Often time this means taking a chance and cramming the ball in there. I remember Fouts often saying that he had the best receivers in the league and that his job was just to give them a chance to make plays. This is something you have to do since the alternative is to simply, constantly settle for 3-yard check-down passes.
Huard wound up with 160 yards passing on the day, which certainly would been closer to 180, if the Chiefs had not run at least three different screen passes that lost 5-7 yards a pop. The Chiefs execution on screens this year has been atrocious at every level. They are poorly blocked, poorly sold and generally called at times when the defense is expecting them. Outside of that, they have been great.
One more comment on Huard, his quarterback rating on the season is a respectable 84.9, compared to 69.6 for Croyle and a miserable 38.3 for Thigpen. I really wonder what would happen if the Chiefs were to win at Carolina this week and Brodie Croyle were available (as is predicted) to play after the bye, at home, against the Titans. I suspect Edwards will go with Croyle, but I think it would be a very unpopular decision.
Though four games every wide receiver not named Dwayne Bowe has combined for a total of 8 catches for 129 yards and no touchdowns. That is one good game for some wide receivers. Of particular interest is the disappearance of Devard Darling, who had his string of three games with just one reception snapped.
Herm Edwards has taken a lot of criticism the last three weeks much of it justified (I am sure even he would agree). However, Edwards does deserve credit for having the patience to let the offensive line "gel". Adrian Jones and Damion McIntosh have both been playing progressively better and the offensive line's entire play has improved.
However, if there is a weak link on the line it is still McIntosh, who struggles at times particularly in pass protection. Also, Rudy Niswanger seems to struggle in the running game, particularly failing to get the leverage to move defensive tackles.
The real upside for the offensive line is the play of Herb Taylor, who continues to outplay rookie Brandon Albert, when given the opportunity. Although Albert has done a good job he often gets beat to the point of attack by defensive ends. The result is that he is forced to push them aggressively past the quarterback (at least he never gives up on the play). However, this forces the quarterback to have to step up too far and places additional pressure on the interior lineman to keep defensive tackles from getting a push. Compared to Albert, Taylor has better footwork and more often meets the defensive and at the point of attack allowing for a more natural pocket to develop.
Given Taylor's development, I would not be surprised if the Chiefs attempt to move Albert to right tackle at some point or even back to his natural position of guard. However, it probably won't happen this season unless Albert's dislocated elbow keeps him on the bench long enough for Taylor to entrench himself as the everyday starter.
Another place for rejoicing is the continued excellent corner play of rookie's Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers. The two accounted for three turnovers against the Broncos and did an excellent job of limiting the Broncos capable outside receiving threats. At this point, when Patrick Surtain gets healthy, I don't see how the Chiefs can justify starting him. This is no knock on Surtain, who certainly deserves to play, but at 33 is certainly not part of the Chiefs "youth movement". I wonder if Carl Peterson might be listening for any contending teams who might be ready to part with a mid to high level draft pick for an experienced pro bowl cornerback?
You can say what you want about Turk McBride, but you can't deny this kids hustle. He was regularly seen downfield getting involved in tackles with wide receivers and others, when you would have thought he should be out of the play. The fumble that he caused in the 1st quarter was one of the most critical plays of the game. I suspect that McBride is going to continue to develop and I predict he will pick up his first sack of 2008 against the Panthers this week, where he will be lining up against Panther's rookie starting right tackle Jeff Otah.
It is also great to see Chiefs defensive players stripping the ball again. It sort of reminds you of Derrick Thomas led Chiefs of the 90's who were regularly among the league leaders in fumbles caused. Although, I think there is much to be critical about with regards to Gunther Cunningham this is definitely a sign of his stamp on the Chiefs defense.
Can we please let DeMorrio Williams play now? I am not sure what he did that the Chiefs staff have been reluctant in letting him play, but he was all over the field on Sunday, even frequently seen lining up as a defensive end in a modified 4-3 look. Also, awesome, needless to say was the play of Derrick Johnson, who had arguably his best game in his Chiefs career. If the Chiefs can continue to get such stellar play from their linebackers, the Chiefs opponents should have a hard time generating the same rushing numbers which they have in the previous two weeks. If the Chiefs were to get Donnie Edwards back to health, and move him to middle linebacker (where he has played before), this linebacking core could really be something special.
If there were a negative in the Chiefs win, it would be the continued inability to get consistent pressure from their front four. The Chiefs managed only one sack the whole game and - particularly late in the 4th quarter the group looked exhausted and were hardly getting upfield. Although, I never heard any word about it, I think that Hali must have been hurting again because he was replaced by Brian Johnston most of the 2nd half. Johnston did get his first NFL sack in the 1st half, but looked particularly tired in the 4th quarter when the Broncos went into their two-minute offense.
Some of the lack of pressure may also be attributed to the fact that the Chiefs went with an unusual 3-3-5 package many times during the 2nd half, bringing in Dimitri Patterson and sitting defensive tackle Tank Tyler. It was also in this look that DeMorrio Williams would line up as a defensive end in a three-point stance. The strategy seemed to work, although Cutler did still manage to amass 352 (net) yards passing it took him 50 dropbacks to get there, including 30 in the second half.
Final thought, isn't it funny how winning seemingly solves everything? Say what you want about Chiefs' fans but I believe that - even those who are the biggest Edwards detractors - would be ever so happy to be wrong, if he is able to someday lead this team to a Superbowl.