Over the past three years, Kansas City has been on the wrong side of close games.
They’ve managed to win just two of eight games decided by three points or less dating back to 2007.
This time, Kansas City is learning how to win games, and the importance of winning the close ones.
There’s a fine line between winning and losing, and the teams that come out with wins are the ones that know how to finish games.
The 16-14 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon was ugly, to say the least. Quarterback Matt Cassel was inaccurate throughout the first half, and the Chiefs were stumped in the running game.
Offensively the team was stopped from scoring a touchdown, as the only score of the game came from the defense and special teams. Cassel was handed an easy plate this week. He was facing a below average Browns defense and still couldn’t find a way to get the ball to his playmakers on a consistent basis.
The top target for Kansas City was rookie tight end Tony Moeaki, who managed to pull down five catches for 58 yards after a wide-open touchdown catch last week against San Diego.
But once again the offense was in the hands of their $63 million man Matt Cassel—and they were unable to get the job done.
Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has made some questionable play calls, and the flow the game seems to be different than how Weis perceives it.
Cassel has hit a dreadful 40 percent of his passes after running the ball two or more times in a row. Although the running game has come through when needed, Cassel still can’t use the play action effectively.
But this game seemed to be the tale of two Cassels.
He was intercepted twice in the first half and could only complete nine of 17 passes, and he missed a handful of opportunities to hit open receivers right in front of him. Cassel then came back after halftime and seemed to take better control of the offense—at times displaying his displeasure with his teammates who weren’t in correct position and making sure each player held himself accountable.
Cassel seemed to manage the game correctly and didn’t make any more critical mistakes.
The story of the day is once again how well the defense played. Cornerback Brandon Flowers was on key the entire game and ripped an off-target Seneca Wallace pass from Chansi Stuckey and took it 33 yards to the end zone—the only touchdown of the game by Kansas City.
It was less about the playmaking of the Chiefs defense and more about not allowing the Browns to make too many big plays. The Chiefs stuffed Jerome Harrison for just 33 yards on 16 carries—a major feat for the team that allowed Harrison to gash them for 286 rushing yards last December.
Despite the Chiefs not being able to put a lot of pressure on Wallace, the secondary was top-notch besides a blown coverage that allowed all-purpose threat Josh Cribbs to catch a 65-yard touchdown pass.
The biggest concern for most Chiefs fans is the lack of playing time star halfback Jamaal Charles has received since the addition of 32-year-old Thomas Jones.
Unless the Chiefs are planning on saving Charles for their late playoff push (jokes), I see no reason to keep the electric speedster on the bench. Charles only received 11 carries on the game compared to Jones’ 22 carries.
Head coach Todd Haley has been quoted as saying the Charles/Jones split will be based on “feel” rather than who is playing the best.
Charles even seemed frustrated with his lack of playing time, as he was after the game calling himself the “backup running back.” Honestly, how much longer can the Chiefs’ coaching staff keep a guy who is averaging 6.4 YPC wrapped up? Jones, on the other hand, although he is a leader and a poster boy for hard work, has been able to rack up just 3.7 YPC on 33 touches.
The Chiefs head back to Kansas City for a home game against the San Francisco 49ers. The Chiefs have now won three games in a row dating back to 2009. If the Chiefs pull off the win over San Fran, it will be their first 3-0 experience since the 2003 season, in which they started 9-0, won the AFC West, and finished the year 13-3.
Although 13-3 is highly unlikely, a 3-0 start could go a long ways towards the Chiefs winning the AFC West.