Kansas City Chiefs Earn AFC West Crown: 10 Biggest Stories From KC In 2010
The Kansas City Chiefs are one of the biggest turnaround stories of the year, yet they have still managed to fly under the radar for much of the 2010 season. This is a team that hasn't finished over .500 since 2005, and this season they're 10-5 with one game left to play.
There have been so many surprises from this team in 2010 that it's hard to tell exactly where the rate in comparison to one another, but that's exactly what I'm going to do in this article.
So strap in, my fellow Chiefs' fans. Here's the state of Kansas City Chiefs football as of now, listed in order of eye popping surprise factor and importance toward the team's success.
Smile: They're division champs. This ones for you Chiefs' fans!
The Running Game Is Spearheading This Team
I have the running game at the 10th spot merely because we all knew that Jamaal Charles was going to have success this season after the second half of the 2009 season. Adding established star running back, Thomas Jones, solidified the ground game, giving the Chiefs a two headed monster that seemingly never tires and the No.1 overall ranking in rushing offense.
What is surprising about this is just how impressive this running attack has been all year. Jones got the bulk of the carries early, but Charles is now 56 yards behind league leader Arian Foster for the rushing title in 2010. He has 1,380 yards on only 216 carries. He's gaining a staggering 6.4 yards per carry. No one has done that for a full season since Jim Brown.
Charles is as explosive as any back in the NFL. He has top tier speed, and he also runs hard between the tackles. He catches the ball just as well as any back in the league as well. This guy is the total package, and it's only his third year as a pro. Priest Holmes has to be watching from somewhere in Texas and feeling proud of what he sees.
Dwayne Bowe Is Finally Showing He Is Who We Thought He Was
Chiefs' fans have known for years that Dwayne Bowe could be a star in this league, but we were all wondering when he'd put it together and perform up to his potential. Well, we no longer have to wonder.
Bowe has became one of the NFL's most successful wide receivers in 2010. He's using his size and speed to get open, much like he always has, but now he's hanging on to the ball when his number is called. It's probably going to land him a spot in the pro bowl.
Bowe leads the league in TD receptions with 15, three more than the next closest player. From Week 6 to Week 13, in seven games, he caught 13 of his 15 TDs.
He's also eighth in the league in receiving yards after going over 1,000 on the season in Sunday's contest against the Tennessee Titans. This guy is truly a No.1 receiver, and QB Matt Cassel has a great deal of trust in Bowe. It shows in the workload that has been placed on Bowe's shoulders.
The Sideline Power Team
Adding offensive coordinator, Charlie Weis, and defensive coordinator, Romeo Crennel, has paid off tenfold for this rebuilding organization. Head coach Todd Haley knew what he was doing when he brought these two pedigreed coaches into K.C.
Crennel has a defense that was near the bottom of everyones power rankings last season performing at a pretty high level this season. They're getting pressure on opposing QBs, stopping the run, and forcing turnovers. What he's done with this young unit is nothing short of amazing, allowing less than 20 points per game (ninth in the NFL).
Weis has taken one of the most stagnant offenses in the entire NFL and gotten them to produce nearly 24 points per game (11th in the NFL.) In addition to the league's No.1 rushing attack, Weis took a hands-on approach with franchise QB Matt Cassel and made him one of the most proficient QBs in the league.
Haley has taken his shoot first and ask questions later attitude and spread it across the entire team. They play like they've been here before, and this has a lot to do with Haley making them believe in themselves. His situational decisions have been questioned by many fans this year, but his results no longer can.
The Pass Rush Has a New Home In K.C.
This was widely regarded as the league's worst pass rushing team ever since defensive end Jared Allen took his talents to Minnesota. No one misses him any more, though.
This season, Tamba Hali has almost as many sacks as the entire team produced in 2009. The team has sacked opposing QBs 32.5 times this year, and they still have another game to play. The pressure that they are getting on QBs is helping the entire defense out.
In addition to the sacks, the Chiefs are also getting a number of hurries and QB hits that make QBs think twice before hanging onto the ball too long. The Chiefs are coming, and no one wants to get in their way.
Honorable mention is due to Chiefs linebacker Andy Studebaker for his contribution as his part time duty has morphed into more of a fulltime role.
The Secondary Is Quietly One Of The NFL's Best Units
Brandon Carr, Brandon Flowers, Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis are a dangerous group of defensive backs. They all have good closing speed and play physically. These guys don't seem to take any plays off. They do get burnt occasionally, but as a complete product there aren't too many defensive backfields playing at a higher level right now.
Flowers seemed to be by himself at the cornerback position early in the season, but Carr has improved as the season has progressed. Both of these players are in a position to make a play almost every time a pass is thrown their way.
Eric Berry was primarily a run stopping safety at the start of the season, but my how he has grown into a complete safety as the year has gone on. If he played for a team with more exposure, he'd be in the conversation for rookie of the year for sure.
Lewis has really come on strong in the second half of the season as well. He's become a staple of this unit, just like everyone who has proceeded him in this article. He's a fifth round rookie this year, but he's playing like a fifth year veteran right now. My hat's off to these young men.
Herm's Players Are Buying Into Haley's System
The Chiefs have had a lot of high picks in the draft, and Herm Edwards saw potential in a lot of players who never really panned out: Until now. Converted defensive end Glenn Dorsey, linebacker Derrick Johnson, cornerback Brandon Flowers, and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe were widely regarded as career underachievers, but my oh my how much they'd be missed now if they weren't there anymore.
Derrick Johnson leads the Chiefs in tackles, Dorsey is reeking havoc all over opposing backfields, Flowers is emerging as a shut-down corner and Bowe is playing out of his mind. These guys should all be come-back player of the year candidates, and they all play for the Chiefs.
What this team has done in two seasons is remarkable, and as young as this team is, they should be a force in the AFC West for the next decade. With guys like these contributing the way they now are, they will be just that.
Homefield Advantage Has Returned To Arrowhead
For a team that couldn't manage to win anywhere for the last few years, the Chiefs being 7-0 at home with one game to play is quite an achievement. There are only two teams that are undefeated at home this season: The Chiefs and Patriots share that achievement.
Arrowhead Stadium is known as one of the toughest places for teams to play in, one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, and one of the best atmospheres in football. Over the course of the last few seasons, Arrowhead had seemed to lose much of its mystique, but it's back now in full force.
We, the fans, are no small part of this young team's success. If no one is cheering, then getting a paycheck becomes the primary reason to show up on Sundays. When 76,000 strangers are in the stands rooting the team on, then they aren't just playing for themselves.
This team has embraced this, and they're in no hurry to let anyone come into their house and embarrass them or the fans that show up every week. After all, we pay rent each and every Sunday, so it's our house too in a way.
AFC West Kings Need Their Cassel
If you've followed my writing, then you'll know the last three things on this list came as no surprise to me. However, this article isn't just for me. It's for every fan, and most of you are supremely, pleasantly surprised by the following slides.
Matt Cassel had been written off by a large majority of Chiefs fans before the 2010 season was even underway. There was even an outcry early in the year for Brodie Croyle to be given a chance, but, as they say, that's why they play the game.
Cassel started off the season with three unremarkable performances in his first four games. Since then, he's thrown 23 TD's to only two interceptions and is the fifth highest rated passer in the league with a rating of 98.8 on the year. Only tom Brady and Michael Vick have a better TD/interception ratio this season.
Cassel's stat line for the season is 3,001 yards, 27 TD passes, five interceptions, and boasts a QB rating of 98.8. Since week five, his only game with a rating under 82 was the week after he had an organ removed from his body. He's had seven games with a QB rating over 111.0. Matt Cassel for president: enough said.
The Rookies Are Playing Like Veterans In a Big Way
The Kansas City Chiefs 2010 rookie class has the potential to rank among the all time great draft classes that any team has ever had in the modern era. Five of their top six draft picks this season are major contributors in one way or another.
Eric Berry is one of the best young safeties in the league, Dexter McCluster is one missed tackle away from a TD every time he touches the ball and is a matchup nightmare, Tony Moeaki is the starting tight end and is among the leagues leading rookie pass catchers in the AFC, Javier Arenas is almost as dangerous as McCluster in the return game and is an above average nickle back and Kendrick Lewis is splitting time with veteran John McGraw opposite Berry at safety.
Four of those rookies have been AFC rookie of the week at least once this season. With so many rookies seeing so much playing time, just being in the position to challenge for a playoff spot would be a major achievement let alone having the division clinched with a week yet to play in the regular season. I guess it's true what they say: They grow up so fast.
About Face: The 2010 Turnaround Is Terrifrically Epic
The Chiefs won four games all of last season, and now they have 10 wins as they look to go 11-5 this week at home against the rival Raiders. This is the biggest season-to-season turnaround in Kansas City Chiefs history already, and they still have one more win to get. It's a bit overwhelming to think about.
This was a bad team just a year ago, and now they'll be hosting a playoff game in less than two weeks. It's fitting that on Christmas weekend, the Chiefs are blessed by clinching the AFC West title. This is a feat that most thought to be impossible this season, yet here they are. None are more proud than I, but I'd like to believe that many are just as proud as I am right now.
Todd Haley, Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel and nearly every player that has seen action this year deserves a standing ovation for what can be construed as a miracle season in 2010. There are multiple players who are top five or No.1 in the NFL in at least one statistical category for their position. On top of that, they get to host a playoff game in a stadium where they haven't lost all year. It's truly amazing.
Livin', Lovin', It's Not Just The Playoffs
What a year it's been already, and I hope that the best is yet to come. To those of you who thought we blew it weeks ago, it can feel this good to be wrong. Enjoy this. We've put up with and stuck through some very tough times, but better days aren't just coming: They're here!
The Chiefs are in the playoffs, where anything can happen. Any team that is playing great football going into January has a chance to do something special, and the Chiefs are playing great football.This has been a roller coaster ride of excitement in 2010, and the biggest loop-T-loop is coming.
I had a fan tell me earlier this season that this is the most complete Chiefs team that they could ever remember seeing in her lifetime (you know who you are). She was right then, and she's definitely right now. Raise your glasses and bless a toast to the 2010 Kansas City Chiefs, who play like the wind is always at their back and perform like there's always someone watching: Because there always is.