It’s hard to imagine things going much worse for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012. The expectations were high and the team is now 1-4. Things have gotten so bad in Kansas City that the team and the fans are now at odds.
Many fans wanted Matt Cassel benched, but the organization has stood by the quarterback despite clearly being handicapped by his very presence on the field. When you thought it couldn’t get worse, Eric Winston called out the fans and created a national firestorm that paints the fans in Kansas City in a negative light.
It’s a disaster from which the Chiefs will not easily recover. The damage is done and the Chiefs will not go to the playoffs barring a miracle. From here, progress would be playing competitive football and climbing back to respectability.
Although stats don’t always give us a clear picture, they do usually tell a story. The Chiefs' fourth-ranked offense in yards is a good example of a stat that could be selected that would be misleading on its own. Taken as a group, those same stats can be revealing.
You don’t need stats to know that the Chiefs have one of the better rush offenses in the league, but when viewed together the six fumbles stick out. The Chiefs are killing themselves with turnovers.
The passing offense has racked up the first downs which are characteristic of a team that is playing from behind a lot. The nine interceptions are the worst in all of football, but without turnovers the running game appears strong enough to carry the offense through tough times.
The run defense has been universally below average, but there is one particular stat that jumps out. The Chiefs have allowed six runs of more than 20 yards, which is 28th in the league. The stats are probably slightly unfair because opponents have taken to the ground in order to preserve leads.
The pass defense is a mixed bag, but they might want to do a better job of keeping the opposition out of the end zone. Overall, the stats show that the Chiefs are capable of being much better if they can eliminate the turnovers that have plagued them this season.
The Chiefs had a lot of injury issues early in the season on defense. Brandon Flowers missed the first game, and Anthony Toribio missed the first four games with injury. Safety Kendrick Lewis has yet to play a game, so it’s understandable why the defense has struggled to get on track.
Inside linebacker Derrick Johnson has been playing through a groin injury which may or may not be impacting his play. Defensive end Glenn Dorsey and cornerback Jalil Brown missed last week, but the Chiefs didn’t seem to miss them in a strong outing. The Chiefs would probably like to get the defense at full strength at some point, but the NFL rarely allows that to be possible.
Running back Peyton Hillis has also been out, but his absence is less significant because Shaun Draughn has a done a good job of keeping Jamaal Charles fresh. Matt Cassel has a concussion and his status for Week 6 is in doubt, but the Chiefs could get Lewis back from injury and several other players could return to full strength.
The Chiefs have some guys banged up, but are in a good position going forward. Injuries are always a factor, but they haven’t been an excuse for the Chiefs' poor play like they were last season.
Scheme & Approach
The Chiefs went with a balanced approach on offense for the first four games, and that didn’t get them very far. Cassel couldn’t take care of the ball, and the Chiefs reverted to being a run-heavy team. Of course, the Chiefs took the run-heavy game plan too far last Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens and put a lot of the load on Charles.
The run-heavy approach combined with good defense usually keeps the Chiefs in games. The passing game in the past has been most effective playing off the run game while avoiding big errors. Unfortunately, the plan requires the defense to play well and for the team to avoid turnovers. The defense is improving, but Cassel is still turning the ball over.
Regardless of who the quarterback under center is in Kansas City, expect the run-heavy approach to continue. At some point the Chiefs are going to have to pass to win, but they have shown no ability to do that this season without also giving the ball to the other team.
The Chiefs will end up getting Charles hurt if they ride him the way they did against the Ravens, and he’s the centerpiece of the entire offense. An improved passing game will be required to keep Charles fresh, and giving Draughn and Hillis more carries will also help.
Perhaps Quinn will invigorate the passing game, although that doesn’t seem likely. The Denver Broncos thought Tim Tebow was more capable of winning games for them last season, and Quinn never seriously challenge for Cassel’s job in the preseason.
Defensively the Chiefs like to use man coverage, but have gotten away from that at times this season due to the injuries. Flowers and Stanford Routt seem to be getting better, and the pass rush of Justin Houston has been superb.
The Chiefs have a -15 turnover margin, which is worst in the NFL, and the takeaways are also part of that equation. The team has not been able to force a lot of mistakes, and one of the most important reasons for that is a lackluster pass rush. Houston can’t do it alone.
Tamba Hali is not playing as well as he has in the past. The Chiefs need Hali’s pass rush to help the secondary create turnovers. Houston is doing his part, but offenses have been rolling protection to his side. The Chiefs should continue to work Hali against right tackles to see if they can’t get him going in that area. The approach seemed to be effective against Joe Flacco and the Ravens last Sunday.