The Kansas City Chiefs took their show on the road Sunday afternoon, taking on the Cleveland Browns in the Browns home opener. The Chiefs were looking to go 2-0 for the first time since 2005. They could do so with a win in Cleveland.
Before the sun even came up, Browns fans already had been up for hours. When I arrived at Cleveland Browns stadium at 7:00 a.m., I was greeted by thousands of people who were all referring to me as a certain part of the human anatomy. The Cleveland municipal parking lot was already packed with plenty of patrons partying their week one blues away in anticipation of a Cleveland Browns victory in their week two home opener.
It started out as a typical northeast Ohio Sunday morning, and the afternoon would prove to end just as typically for Browns fans. Fans of the team were out in numbers looking for their first win of the year, and they seemed confident that it would come against the Chiefs.
The Chiefs and Rookie safety Eric Berry had other plans though. This scrappy young defense bent in the first half, but again didn't let it break them. The following is an account of the game from eyes inside the stadium. I risked life and limb to bring this story to my readers.
The Browns won the toss at the start of the game and began with the ball. The offense couldn't get it going early for either team as the Browns went three and out on their first possession, and the Chiefs would be forced to punt seven plays later. On Cleveland's second possession, Chiefs LB Mike Vrabel forced a browns RB Patrick Hillis fumble that was recovered by Chiefs DT Glenn Dorsey on the Cleveland 16 yard line. The turnover led to a Chiefs field goal, giving them an early 3-0 lead with just over nine minutes left to play in the first quarter.
The Chiefs would carry that score into the second quarter, but the Browns put together an impressive 11 play, 98 yard drive on their fourth possession. The drive resulted in a one yard run by RB Patrick Hillis for a touchdown. The Chiefs trailed 7-3.
After another Chiefs' three and out, the Browns took over at their own 28. Two plays later, the Chiefs defense showed their first signs of life. On the second play of the ensuing drive, Browns QB Seneca Wallace threw a quick hit to the sideline. Chiefs CB Brandon Flowers jumped the route and picked the pass off, taking it to the house. After a Ryan Succop extra point, the Chiefs again had the lead at 10-7.
It wouldn't take long for the Browns to respond. They started their next drive from their own 26 yard line. The Browns ran Hillis two more times for nine yards. On the third play of the drive, Chiefs rookie safety Eric Berry was sucked in by play action leaving Browns WR Josh Cribbs in on on one coverage across the middle of the field. Seneca Wallace hit Cribbs on a pretty 65 yard TD pass, and the Chiefs were again trailing, 14-10.
Things didn't get any better for the Chiefs in the first half. Two plays after the Cribbs TD, Matt Cassel had Chris Chambers in single coverage on the side line but under threw him. The poor decision resulted in an interception by Browns CB Sheldon Brown with under eight minutes to go in the half.
The Chiefs dodged a bullet and forced a three and out, though, largely due to a run stuffing tackle for a loss by Eric Berry on second down. Once the Chiefs got the ball back, they started moving the ball with the no huddle offense, but that drive also stalled after just six plays for 20 yards.
The Browns punted the ball back to the Chiefs 5 plays later, but Cassel had a ball tipped at the line and picked off by diving Browns DT Ahtyba Rubin which put the Browns in field goal range.
Phil Dawson came in to kick a 42 yard field goal, but he missed it wide right with 14 seconds left in the first half. The Chiefs took over at their own 32 after the Browns' blunder, but didn't have enough time to get anything going. they ran one play to RB Jamaal Charles out of the backfield and went into halftime down by only four points.
The Chiefs got the ball to start the second half, and from the first drive things felt different. Facing a third and six on their first set of downs in the opening drive, QB Matt Cassel hit TE Tony Moeaki cutting across the middle of the field for a 20 yard gain. They started moving the ball and set the wheels in motion for a much different second half.
Cassel went 3-3 on the drive for 40 yards, but the offense failed to punch the ball in once inside the redzone. The drive went 11 plays and took 6:43 off the clock, but it was stalled on the Browns eight yard line. A 26 yard Ryan Succop field goal cut the lead to on point: 14-13.
The Chiefs Defense led by Berry seemed to be invigorated by the offenses immediate success. On the first play of the next Browns drive, Berry broke into the backfield and brought down Browns RB Jerome Harrison for a two yard loss.
The Chiefs forced a three and out after great coverage down field on third and five, but a helmet to helmet collision between Browns TE Evan Moore and Chiefs rookie DB Kendrick Lewis gave the Browns a fresh set of downs. The Chiefs defense remained steadfast, and three plays later the Browns were punting.
The Chiefs Picked up a quick 27 yards on a dump pass to Jamaal Charles but had to give the ball right back three plays after on a punt. Even though the drive resulted on no points, a blow was delivered in the fight for field position.
The Chiefs defense gave up next to nothing in the second half of this contest. They looked even better than they did in week one against the Chargers. The Browns would pick up one first down on the next drive, but were forced to punt away after that.
On the Chiefs first drive of the second half, RB Thomas Jones and WR reciever Dwayne Bowe did the majority of the heavy lifting. They touched the ball on a combined seven even plays in this 14 play, 58 yard drive, but TE Tony Moeaki dropped a pass in the endzone on the biggest play of said drive. The Chiefs had to settle for another field goal, but it put them ahead for the first time since the 8:43 mark in the second quarter.
The two teams combined for 22 yards on each of their next respective drives, and time was of the essence for the Browns.
Chiefs punter Dustin Colquit played brilliantly all day, and pinned the Browns at their own seven yard line with 3:41 left to play in regulation. The Chiefs' defense again did what they came there to do and forced a three and out.
This was it. The game came down to the last drive, just like week one. This time, however, the Chiefs offense was the unit that needed to deliver. They got the ball back at the Browns' 45 yard line after a terrible punt by Browns' punter Reggie Hodges with 2:43 left to play, and the script was set: get a first down and win the game.
First down: Thomas Jones runs off of the left guard for a gain of three yards.
Second down: Thomas Jones runs off of the right guard for four yards.
Third down: Thomas Jones runs off of the right guard again for two yards.
The Chiefs would again find themselves in a fourth down play for the win scenario. One yard stood between them and 2-0.
After three straight runs with Thomas Jones up the middle, everyone inside of Cleveland Browns Stadium know what was coming on fourth and one. The ball was snapped, the hand-off was made, and instead of just plunging into the line, Jones leaped off the ground and sent his 32 year old body hurling over the line of scrimage... First down!
After a booth challenge, it was confirmed. "The call on the field stands" were the words that simultaneously deflated Browns fans and elated hopeful Chiefs fans.
It wasn't a pretty victory, but anyone who listened to what head coach Todd Haley said in week one's post-game press conference was told not to expect anything pretty from this Chiefs team. What it was was gutsy, hard fought, and fully earned.
The victory over the Browns keeps the Chiefs in sole possession of first place in the AFC West for the second straight week, a feat that I don't believe the team has accomplished since 2003. More importantly, the team is beginning to build an identity as a hard nosed defensive football team who runs the football well. This is a great blueprint for success in the team's not-so-distant future.
Safety Eric Berry really stood out in this game. He was all over the field, stuffing the run in the backfield, covering down field, chasing guys out of bounds from sideline to sideline for little or no gain, and even pressuring the QB. This young man has a special kind of talent, and he's beginning to show the outside world what Chiefs fans have known since training camp.
Running back Thomas didn't have a great game, but he was certainly affective and durable. He carried the ball 22 times in a game where young phenom runner Jamaal Charles just couldn't get it going.
The coaching staff made good decisions and took the ball out of Josh Cribbs' hands for the majority of the game. Coach Haley showed that he has more guts than the average coach by going for it near mid-field on fourth down in the closing minutes of the game. He showed that he has confidence in this team, and that kind of confidence can go a long way in a teams young teams development and level of play.
The next stop in destination playoffs is back at home against the San Fransisco 48ers. Arrowhead will be rocking, and the noise level will be off the scale. 49ers QB Alex Smith and the gang will have their work cut out for them. The 49ers were supposed to be the up and comers this season in the NFC West, but if they aren't careful there might be an up and comer in the AFC West that steals their thunder.