Watch out for those nosebleeds, Kansas City Chiefs fans. Your team is 2-0 for the first time in five years and sits on top of the AFC West division. Denver, Oakland and San Diego all won on Sunday and sit with records of 1-1.
If the Chiefs referred to last week’s win over San Diego as “ugly”, then this victory over the Cleveland Browns was more unsightly than that.
This one was downright “FUGLY!” (That would be “freaking ugly” for those of you who aren’t hip to male lingo) The Chiefs offense, barely registering a heartbeat in the San Diego win, played as if they were clinging to life support in the first half of this game. They certainly moved like they were all in iron lungs.
On eight first-half possessions, the Chiefs totaled 125 yards of offense, 6 first downs, 1 field goal, and 2 interceptions of Matt Cassel. As the team entered the locker room at halftime, I was wondering if broadcaster Lenny Dawson could still fit into his uniform. Heck, I was wondering if Ed Podolak was in the stadium and if HE could fit into his uniform.
The special teams’ return game, the stars of the San Diego win, lined up against a team with its own kick return superstar, Joshua Cribbs, and knew how to keep the return game in check. The Chiefs Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas had virtually no effect on the game. One week after gaining a franchise record 160 punt return yards and a touchdown, the Chiefs were held to 6 yards on 4 attempts. Ouch!
But thanks to Romeo Crennel, the cool, calm, and collected defensive coordinator of the Chiefs, the defense is playing much, much better football. Today against the Browns, it was more than enough.
The Browns had one good drive on offense all day. When Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt buried the Browns back on their own four-yard line in the second quarter, things were looking good for the Chiefs. The defense had given up just two first downs to the Browns at that point.
However, Browns RB Peyton Hillis blasted up the middle for 12 yards on the first play of the series. QB Seneca Wallace found his rhythm and hit two receivers for a 23-yard and a 44-yard gain apiece. But even then, the Chiefs held at third-and-goal at the 4-yard line, seemingly keeping the Browns out of the end zone. Unfortunately, the word “held” was the key here as LB Mike Vrabel was flagged for holding in the back of the end zone. The penalty gave the Browns a new set of downs to score and Peyton Hillis plowed in from the one-yard line for a touchdown.
Down 7-3, the zombie-like offense of the Chiefs had another 3-and-out series and punted the ball back to the Browns. Just as it looked like the Browns might start moving the ball again, CB Brandon Flowers stepped in front of a Wallace pass and returned the interception 33-yards for a touchdown.
Suddenly, the Chiefs had a 10-7 lead and the defense had their third interception return for a touchdown in their last three regular season games (LB Derrick Johnson’s two interception returns for TDs in last year’s Denver victory in Week 17).
The euphoria was short-lived however as three plays later, rookie safety Eric Berry bit hard on a play-action fake from Wallace and let WR Cribbs fly past him and the Chiefs were burned for a 65-yard touchdown, putting the Browns back on top 14-10.
As any Chiefs fan knows, in the past, this might have been the start of a 21-point outburst by the Chiefs’ opponent. But give Crennel some credit. For the entire second half of the game, the Browns only ran three plays on the Chiefs side of the field and were never a threat to score — unless someone on the Chiefs fell down, of course.
Offensively, someone must have reminded Cassel that he was an NFL quarterback. After an abysmal first half, he came out after halftime looking like a new man. Seven of the Chiefs ten longest plays of the game occurred in the second half. And, even though the team failed to get into the end zone, Cassel’s controlled passing game, and a more effective running attack, ate up the clock.
The only drama of the second half happened with two minutes left in the game and the Chiefs facing a fourth-and-1 at their 36-yard line. The Chiefs could have punted and buried the Browns deep in their end of the field. But, one play like the 65-yard pass to Cribbs could have put the Browns ahead or at least given them a chance for a game-winning field goal. If Head Coach Todd Haley went for it and didn’t make it, the Browns would have had the ball at the 36 and the same scenario could have happened.
Or, the Chiefs could go for it. Pick up the first down and the game is over as Cleveland was out of time outs. Thomas Jones got the call and leaped up and over the pile of defenders. The ball was spotted and measured and the Chiefs gained a first down by literally two inches. Of course, the play was reviewed by the officials and upheld.
Cassel took two kneel-downs out of the “victory formation”, and the Chiefs found themselves undefeated and in first place in the division, no matter what happened with the three West Coast games.
Some things to love about the game:
- The Chiefs defense has some very young players who are making some big mistakes, but they are also learning fast. Berry followed up his error on Cribbs’ touchdown with some hard tackling and ended up tying LB Johnson for the team lead in tackles.
- Johnson is playing at a Pro-Bowl level. Whatever Crennel is doing with Johnson … he must never stop doing it!
- Thomas Jones showed that he still has legs. His 83 yards on 22 carries wasn’t flashy, but in the second half, they were effective.
- Ummmm, it was a win on the road. How many of those have the Chiefs had in the last five or six years? Not many.
- The Chiefs play the San Francisco 49rs next Sunday at Arrowhead. San Francisco has played very poorly on the road under head coach Mike Singletary. If the Chiefs can pull off another win, they’ll go into their bye week with a 3-0 record and have two weeks to prepare for Peyton Manning and the Colts in Week 5. That is much, much better than being 0-3 going into that game, which wouldn’t have been too surprising either.
Some things that ain’t so hot:
- Cassel played better in the second half, but he was putrid in the first half. He’s going to have to play better in the upcoming weeks to get the fans off of his back.
- The Thomas Jones/Jamaal Charles debate will rage on as Jones got twice as many carries as Charles against Cleveland. Charles ended the game with 49 yards on 11 carries and a 4.5 yards-per-carry average. However, take away a garbage 29 yards on two carries right before the half when Cleveland was in a prevent defense, and he gained 20 yards on 9 carries. That’s not exactly Jim Brown Haley was keeping on the bench. Chiefs fans may just have to get used to the fact that Haley and Weis have a plan on how to use their running backs and they don’t feel the need to explain themselves.
- Weis is going to have to keep putting pressure on the defenses by letting Cassel throw to the wide receivers. Both Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers were only targeted a total of 10 times for the entire game and Cassel completed 7 of those passes. One target to Chambers was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted in the first half, but Cassel wasn’t too bad throwing to his wideouts.
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