Kansas City Chiefs: Resilient Losers Begin to Form a Winning Identity

Russell FikeCorrespondent ISeptember 14, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 21: Head coach Todd Haley of the Kansas City Chiefs watches the action on the field against the Minnesota Vikings at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on August 21, 2009 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Chiefs 17-13. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

Commentators had very little positive to say about the Kansas City Chiefs prior to their matchup with the Baltimore Ravens, but after a hard fought game, which the Chiefs were in until the end, people may have to rethink what to expect of this team.

Despite losing to Baltimore 38-24, Kansas City established some identity as a resilient team with grit and a competitive drive. 

Many believe that coaches in the NFL must take a “hands off” approach as professional athletes are defiant in regards to being teachable.  Head coach Todd Haley has been criticized at times for his hard-nosed approach to coaching, but he has molded a unit that will remain competitive despite lacking depth and extensive talent. 

How does a team with limited talent win games?  The answer: discipline, eliminating mistakes and big plays on special teams.  Week One saw all three of these things happen for Kansas City.

The Chiefs had only three penalties for 15 yards and didn’t commit a turnover against a ball-hawking, physical defense in the Ravens. 

With some apprehension regarding a rookie kicker in Ryan Succop and punter Dustin Colquit coming off of injury, the kicking game appears to be a strong point for Kansas City.  Succop hit a 53-yard field goal in a windy stadium. Despite shanking one punt Colquit averaged almost 50 yards per punt, including pushing the Ravens offense inside their own 20 twice. 

The special teams’ performance was topped with a blocked punt by safety Jon McGraw who also recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown and Kansas City’s first points of the season.

A few other things jump out from the Chiefs' first game:

1)      Todd Haley was not nearly as pass-happy as many expected.  Kansas City’s offense looked like it was still under the regime of former head coach Herm Edwards as they consistently ran the ball on first down in the first three quarters.  When the playbook opened up in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs finally found success with a scoring drive that went 80 yards, primarily through the air. They threw on every first down and the drive preceding had a 50-yard pass that set up Succop’s long field goal. 

2)      Backup quarterback Brodie Croyle played well.  Croyle complete 16 of 24 throws for 177 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers.  He did face pressure as he was sacked three times on limited pass attempts, but this was an uplifting performance for fans who watched the offense struggle all preseason.  In the highly unfortunate circumstance that starter Matt Cassel underperforms, Croyle is a suitable alternative.

3)      Veteran additions made an immediate impact.  Safety Mike Brown and outside line backer Mike Vrabel were two of the team’s three leading tacklers and were involved in a number of key plays.  In addition to the statistics, both bring a leadership quality and an attitude that contributes to playmaking.

The Chiefs will benefit greatly from the return of injured cornerback Brandon Flowers as his replacement, Maurice Leggett, was picked on all day by Ravens' quarterback Joe Flacco. 

Leggett did defend the deep ball well, twice breaking up potential big gains with excellent one-on-one coverage, but he gave receivers a huge cushion all game. All that, along with a lack of a consistent pass rush, allowed Flacco his first NFL game with over 300 yards passing.          

Most importantly, viewers of this game saw a team carving an identity common to winning programs.  Despite a dormant first-half offense, this team found a way to stay in the game.  Great teams win games even when the victory isn’t pretty.  Eight of Kansas City’s losses a year ago were by seven points or less. 

Haley is instilling a mentality that will cause a few more of those games to fall the way of the Chiefs.  


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