Kansas City Chiefs Progress Report: Where Do They Stand Headed into Week 10

Christopher HansenNFL AnalystNovember 7, 2012

Defensive lineman Shaun Smith will help the Chiefs in the second half.
Defensive lineman Shaun Smith will help the Chiefs in the second half.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The lack of progress in Kansas City is one of the big reasons why the Chiefs are 1-7. The Chiefs have been unable to stop turning the ball over, which is the biggest reason why the team continues to be unsuccessful. The running game is the team’s strength, but is getting worse instead of better, and the defense is giving up 30 points per game.

It’s not a pretty situation in Kansas City no matter how you try to look at it. The Chiefs have played opponents tough for stretches, but eventually the offense turns the ball over or the defense cracks because the offense is not scoring enough points. If anything, the team is declining more than they are progressing and only a handful of players are producing at or above expected levels.

The Chiefs are so desperate to turn things around they cut defensive back Stanford Routt, and Romeo Crennel gave up his defensive coordinator job. Struggles are one thing, but you don’t see an organization—even a bad one—making big changes at the midway point if the team is progressing.


The Offense

You don’t see many offenses as ridiculously one-dimensional as the one in Kansas City. Normally a running game is strong because the team doesn’t trust the passing game or the passing game is so strong that the running game is an afterthought. The Chiefs have a legitimately great running game and a legitimately horrible passing game—the two almost totally independent of each other.

The Chiefs offense is the worst in the league in interception percentage, a weekly problem which shows no sign of getting better. Cassel is to blame, but so are his wide receivers. If Kansas City wants to remain competitive they need to stop making mistakes in the passing game.

The Chiefs have just six passing touchdowns and just 20 passing plays of 20 or more yards, so it's obvious that the turnovers are also impacting their ability to make plays in the passing game. 

Even a great running game gets bogged down in the red zone if there is no threat to pass. The Chiefs have scored a putrid 16.6 points per game in 2012. Defenses are fresh and can corral Jamaal Charles early in games, and the passing offense hasn’t been able to put the ball in the end zone.

The only thing the Chiefs have done well on offense is convert on third down. Unfortunately performance in this area has still been inconsistent, as it’s a lot easier to convert when the opposing defense is playing soft coverage with a big lead. If the Chiefs ever got a lead, they do have the running game to protect it.

The running game is good, but the Chiefs' rushing stats are skewed by having taken advantage of weak run defenses early in the year. In the four of the last five weeks, the running game has looked average. The San Diego Chargers held the Chiefs to 228 total rushing yards in two games. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held the Chiefs to just 80 yards rushing and the Oakland Raiders allowed 102 yards.

The Chiefs running game is probably not as good as it was at the start of the year. The truth is probably somewhere between the 180.8 yards per game rushing the Chiefs put up over the first five games and the 98.3 yards per game they managed over the last three. The running game will continue to be Kansas City’s best opportunity to generate offense and score points, but the Chiefs have to commit to it, even when the team falls behind.

The way the Chiefs have used Charles this season is inexcusable. He has two games with fewer than six carries and two games with over 30 carries. Blatant under- and overutilization of Charles has sabotaged opportunities for big plays and compromised the overall chemistry of the offense. If the Chiefs can figure out how to use him in the second half of the season, the offense will be better.

What’s so strange about the struggles of Kansas City’s offense is that they boast one of the better offensive lines in football. Even with a weak link at left guard in rookie Jeff Allen, the Chiefs line still has Branden Albert, Ryan Lilja, Jon Asamoah and Eric Winston paving the way for Charles and protecting the quarterbacks. It's a good offensive line and one that is also pretty consistent.

It sure seems like the Chiefs are a quarterback and a good offensive coordinator away from being a dangerous offense. If the play of Cassel and the usage of Charles improve in the second half the Chiefs will be a very good spoiler team.


The Defense

Blaming solely the offense for a historically bad 1-7 team in Kansas City would be foolish. Kansas City's defense has been better than its offense, but that doesn’t mean the defense hasn’t contributed to the mess. The weird thing about releasing Routt was that the pass defense hasn’t been as bad as the run defense.

The pass defense has been merely average, but the front seven has allowed 12 long runs and 4.6 yards per carry. Teams run on the Chiefs until they get to the red zone when they shift to the pass. The Chiefs have allowed 17 passing touchdowns.

A great example of what teams like to do against the Chiefs came last week in San Diego. The Chiefs were trailing 10-6 at the end of the third quarter after a Ryan Succop field goal. Had the Chiefs gotten a stop, they may have had a chance to take a lead in the fourth quarter, but we all know that’s not what happened.

After a touchback on the kickoff, the Chargers started at their own 20-yard line. What followed were seven consecutive runs by the Chargers for 67 yards. Ryan Mathews had four carries for 40 yards, Ronnie Brown had 16 yards on two carries for 16 yards and Jackie Battle had an 11-yard run. The Chargers averaged 9.6 yards per rush on a drive in which the Chiefs badly needed a stop.

The Chargers capped the drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to Malcom Floyd. It was a microcosm of Kansas City’s defense this season, and it made no difference that Routt was not playing in the game.

If the Chiefs are going to improve in the second half, they need to find a solution to their run defense. Perhaps starting a rookie nose tackle wasn’t a bright idea, and perhaps Ropati Pitoitua and Allen Bailey should get fewer snaps. With Glenn Dorsey injured, it wasn’t realistic for the Chiefs to reduce the snap load for Pitoitua or Bailey, which is why they needed to make a move.

Routt was released to make room for the signing of Shaun Smith, who was a great run defender for the Chiefs as defensive end in 2010. Smith could play early and often opposite Tyson Jackson, and if he’s even half the run defender he was in 2010, he’ll be a welcome addition to Kansas City’s defense.