Kansas City Chiefs: 5 Things We Learned about the Team This Week
The Chiefs season is summed up in "what could have been."
The team lost a 13-9 defensive struggle at home to the Steelers, which some have argued is the best team in the AFC.
No one thought the Chiefs struggling defense could stop the Steeler's young stable of talented wide receivers, and they would be blown out once again at home.
That didn't happen. The Chiefs defense played their best game of the year, only to have it robbed from them by a quarterback that made awful decisions.
The Chiefs could be competitive under Kyle Orton once again. The defense has shown flashes of greatness and destitution this season, and Sunday night it showed just how brilliant it can be at times.
These are five things we learned about the Chiefs in Week 12.
Ricky Stanzi Couldn't Be Any Worse
There's little doubt that if the Chiefs had Matt Cassel, they could have easily produced enough offense to win this game.
Tyler Palko was able to take a few shots, but after two interceptions, it's clear the coaching staff lost trust in him and ran the ball much more. Palko threw three interceptions, all of which were ugly, and cost the Chiefs an upset they should have had if they could produce a single touchdown. He also lost one fumble on a snap.
Could Ricky Stanzi have really been any worse? The bright-eyed young quarterback likely won't get a shot this season, unless Orton truly can't work the offense well enough to start next week.
I think the Chiefs will be unwilling to let Palko throw away another game.
Derrick Johnson Playing at a Pro Bowl Level
Ever since Johnson's move from outside linebacker to inside, his level of play has steadily increased each year.
Johnson has been the team's defensive MVP through the season so far. He's a tackling machine, having 92 on the year so far. Johnson's athleticism cannot be overstated. He flows to the ball carrier quickly and sheds tackles to do so.
He saved first downs. He dropped players for losses. He's the leader of a defense that has the potential to be much better.
Amon Gordon Should See More Time
For the second week in a row, in limited time, Amon Gordon has been able to get to the quarterback at opportune times.
He registered a hit and a sack. He was powerful in the run game, and Rashard Mendenhall found little room to run when Gordon was on the field. He seems to make an impact every opportunity he is given.
The same cannot be said of Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey. While both had fine nights, as did everyone defensively, neither has been the player the Chiefs envisioned when they took them with top five picks.
Dorsey has regressed this season, and while Jackson has improved, he continues to be a one-dimensional player. They generated some pressure Sunday night, but often with a lot of help, and neither made it to the quarterback still.
Pass Protection Improves
One of the primary reasons for the Chiefs large slide, and indeed Matt Cassel's injury, was the incredible amount of pressure that was getting to the quarterback.
Palko had time almost the entire night. The Chiefs gave up only one sack, and the protection was generally very good. The offensive line has played average to subpar over the past few weeks.
Generally a lot of the pressure was given up by the likes of Jake O'Connel, Leonard Pope or any running back in for pass protection.
If the Chiefs can protect that well for Kyle Orton, it's possible for them to squeeze in a couple more wins this season.
Dwayne Bowe Is Too Valuable To Let Go
On the Chiefs last offensive play, Dwayne Bowe signaled for Tyler Palko to get him the ball, and Palko threw a pass too far behind and over the head of Bowe.
Chris Colinsworth ripped Bowe for the play, saying he made little effort to try and keep the Steelers from intercepting the ball. In my eyes, there was a clear and grievous communication between what Bowe wanted Palko to do and what Palko thought he should do. The ball was likely out of Bowe's reach in the first place.
He's not one to shy away from contact. He's a physical receiver.
Bowe's effort was often questioned in his first years with the team. It shouldn't be anymore. Without Jamaal Charles, Bowe is their biggest asset on offense.
He has become a committed team player and is arguably one of the elite receivers in the game today. The Chiefs cannot afford to lose him to free agency. The once loud-mouth receiver led the Chiefs in receiving yards with 69.