Kansas City Chiefs: Seven Essentials To Their Week 13 Win and an AFC West Title
If I told you that Dwayne Bowe would be held without a catch, Matt Cassel would throw only one TD pass, and neither Thomas Jones or Jamaal Charles would reach the end zone against the Broncos going into Sunday's contest, I'm sure you would assume that the Chiefs would lose that game—and you would be wrong.
The AFC West's hottest offense cooled down significantly in Week 13, but that didn't stop the Chiefs from getting something more important than any TD or reception total: a win. They got it done the old fashioned way, going back to their roots of hard-nosed defense and downhill running.
By now, football fans already know that the Chiefs won their Sunday home game against the Broncos 10-6, but it's the way they won that might be flying under the radar. It wasn't a pretty or colorful win, but it may be a defining win for this young team who is learning how to win on the fly.
Dwayne Bowe May Not Have Caught a Ball, But He Still Caught My Eye
Dwayne Bowe had his first uneventful game in the stat column in around eight weeks, but he was far from useless. Bowe continued to run true routes and sell his role in the offense to the Broncos' pass defense. He managed to draw Champ Bailey on virtually every play for which he was on the field.
This negated Bailey's big play ability. With Bailey being forced to chase Bowe around the field all day, he wasn't ever really able to have any other impact in the game. He did a fine job of shutting down Bowe, and that's no small achievement, but that's the only thing he was able to focus his energy on.
Bowe just being on the field is an impact in and of itself. He demands the opposition's best defensive back and causes that player to have to play straight up football without disguising coverage or blitzes. On top of that, his down field blocking has improved vastly this season.
There were a number of stretch plays involving Jamaal Charles that resulted in first downs around the outside corner because of Bowe's down field blocking. His attitude was also superb. He didn't have any Keyshawn Johnson or Randy Moss moments due to his lack of action on Sunday. He kept a level head and played his role, which was no small part of the Chiefs' victory.
You Can Spareth The Rod, But The Staff Is a Necessity
The coaching staff has gotten a lot of criticism for everything from head coach Todd Haley not playing "the right players" enough, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis not being creative enough in his play calling, and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel for having his guys play too soft at the end of games.
Despite all of the Monday morning coaches in the Chiefs' community, this staff has never wavered from their course of action, and it's paying dividends now that the weather is starting to turn. Weis has been able to call the right play almost every time they need a first down (penalties might lead you to believe otherwise,) Romeo's defense is standing strong, and Charles is running down the competition with fresh legs.
This staff has taken a large group of players who were drafted in the Herm Edwards era and is making them perform at a level that many didn't think they were possible of reaching. Respect is deserved for Haley's staff's predecessors for bringing talented young players, but even more respect needs to be given to the staff that's in place now for bringing the best out of them.
Tamba Hali and Glenn Dorsey: A One-Two Punch Penetrating at The Point Of Attack
Glenn Dorsey was widely regarded as a bust coming into the 2010 season, but he's quietly becoming one of the league's best 3-4 down linemen. He is a run stopping, line penetrating player who forces opposing backs to change direction and disrupts the rhythm of the QBs that he faces.
Many of Tamba Hali's sack opportunities this season have come as a result of Dorsey flushing the QB out of the pocket and into his arms. Hali has a career high 10 sacks this season, and Dorsey deserves as much credit as a factor in the Chiefs pass rush as Hali does.
These two are also huge in the way of stopping the run. Glenn clogs up the middle, while Hali stops would be yard gainers from getting to the edge and turning their runs up-field. They make everyone around them better, and they do it quietly. These two are a big part of the team's success as a whole.
In the week 13 game against Denver, Dorsey had six tackles and Hali had four with one for a loss. Hali also had two sacks, one forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Without these two playing at the level that they are, the Chiefs wouldn't be able to win these close defensive struggles.
The Secondary Is No Longer a Second Class Unit
The last time the Chiefs played the Broncos, Denver QB Kyle Orton spent much of the day abusing Chiefs cornerback Brandon Carr. This apparently didn't sit well with Carr because in the last few weeks he's gone from being the goat to playing like the G.O.A.T.
That's a slight exaggeration, but he has really elevated his game as of late. He had what may have been his best game of the year this week. He racked up five pass deflections in the game while blanketing Brandon Lloyd for most of the game.
In addition to Carr the Chiefs have the hottest young safety in the NFL in rookie Eric Berry. Berry has two picks this season and had seven tackles against the Broncos which is really where he excels. Berry is a sideline to sideline run stopping safety who gets better in coverage every single week. Teams are already game-planning away from him.
On the other side of the field is the Chiefs no.1 cornerback, Brandon Flowers. Flowers is a monster. He plays one on one coverage as good as anyone in the league right now, and seldom do teams make him the target of the day. He has very few bad games, and he's the anchor of this secondary.
Flowers and Berry will be reeking havoc in the secondary for years to come, and they're a large part of the Chiefs' success in 2010.
Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles Have The Chiefs Running Away With The AFC West
People have been looking for a nickname for this backfield duo all season. How about the hands team? I liken the Chiefs' running game to that of a boxer's punches. They soften up the opponent with Jones jabbing and throwing blows to the body while all the while waiting for the right time to strike with the knockout right hook with Charles gashing defenses late.
These two will go over the 2,000 yard mark in their next game. Charles is averaging over six yards per carry and just came off of a 116 yard performance against Denver giving him his first back to back 100 yard games of the season. He has 1,137 yards on a mere 182 carries this year.
Jones is on pace to go over 1,000 yards this season himself. He's rushed for 765 yards on 187 carries and has five rushing TDs on the season. Jones has done a lot of the heavy lifting this season, and it's starting to pay off in bunches for the younger and speedier Charles.
The Chiefs have the league's best rushing attack. It's the biggest strength the Chiefs have this season. Very few teams have had an answer for these two, and now that the weather is starting to get colder, this is going to be a very important part of the success of this team. They are built to play in the elements that playoff football brings along with it, and this year looks to be the first year to field test this product.
Mistake Free Matt Cassel Gives The Chiefs a Chance To Win Every Game
Matt Cassel is going about his business very quietly this season, but Chiefs fans are finally starting to take notice. Cassel is doing exactly what the Chiefs need him to do: win games.He is playing mistake free football and taking advantage of a large majority of the opportunities that he gets in just about every game.
Cassel hasn't had a game in which his QB rating was below 82 since week five, he's only thrown one pick since week three, and he's had at least on TD pass in each of his last eight starts. In fact, in his last eight games, Cassel has had six games with multiple passing TDs. He's achieving much more than most thought that he could, and much of the Chiefs' success can be attributed to his quarterbacking.
The Youth, The Youth, The Youth Is On Fire
The Chiefs draft class of 2010 has produced five players who give legitimate contributions to this young Chiefs team. They have a rookie safety in Erick Berry, a rookie tight end in Tony Moeaki, and a rookie punt/kick return man and nickle back in Javier Arenas all starting on this seemingly playoff-bound team.
In addition, the Chiefs' second round pick Dexter McCluster is already making a name for himself with his explosiveness and versatility. He's always one move or a broken tackle away from busting a big one for six. Teams have to account for him every time he steps out onto the field. Berry is a strong defensive rookie of the year candidate and Tony Moeaki has won "Rookie of the Week" honors this season.
Even the majority of the Chiefs veteran players are young. This team is learning on the fly and doing a fine job of it. They seem to get more complete every week, finding new ways to win instead of finding ways to lose games like most young teams do. They've gone through growing pains, but they have learned from those pains and used the adversity to make them stronger.
Done With The Broncos, Onto The Chargers
The Chiefs' week 13 win wasn't pretty, but it was a win. This was just the type of game that fans wondered if the Chiefs could win, and they proved that when they have to, they can pull out the tough one. It was a home win that makes them 6-0 in Arrowhead stadium, a home field advantage the likes of which they haven't had since Dick Vermeil was patrolling the sidelines.
This is a good team that is getting better every week and is hitting their stride at the right time. This was their third win in a row and the second time they've had a three game winning streak this year. The Chiefs are getting playoff ready on both sides of the ball, and they're playing the kind of football that a team needs to be able to play in the first two months of the calender year.
Charles is quite possibly the league's best running back, Bowe certainly has a Pro Bowl caliber skill level, and Matt Cassel is one of the NFL's most efficient passers. Thomas Jones is a tough running back who has proven he still has more left in the tank and is hungry for one more postseason run. Moeaki and McCluster are unselfish play-making rookies who will do whatever they're asked to do to win.
Eric Berry, Brandon Carr, and Brandon Flowers are nightmarish in the secondary, and Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson reek havoc from the linebacker spots. Glenn Dorsey does his part to plug up the middle and make life difficult for everyone who comes through the offensive line. Even young Studabaker is making his presence felt from the linebacker spot.
This is a team that truly epitomizes the word team, and they're poised to do some real damage right now in the NFL. The Chargers loss in week 13 gives the Chiefs a two game cushion, and if the Chiefs can pull out a tough road win against the Chargers in week 14, they will be almost assuredly marching into the playoffs in January. For now though, we're one step closer and winning one game at a time.