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Back To Basics

Posted Nov 16, 2010

Chiefs focus on controllable factors as they aim to end two-game skid

Maybe it’s a mark of immaturity. Maybe it’s just coincidence. Whatever the case, the Kansas City Chiefs have gotten away from their bread and butter these past two weeks.

Just nine days ago the Chiefs kicked off in Oakland with an opportunity to take a commanding lead on the rest of the AFC West. After pitching a first-half shutout against the Raiders, Kansas City was just 30 minutes away from building a three-loss advantage over both San Diego and Oakland. Six quarters later, Kansas City would be left out of the playoffs if they began today.

There’s no greater example of the “Not For Long League” than the route that the Chiefs have taken throughout these past two games. Missed tackles, missed assignments and missed opportunities; it’s apparent that the Chiefs need to get back to basics.

“We are all disappointed with the way it went Sunday,” LB Mike Vrabel said. “I think the thing that we need to realize is that we are in this thing together: coaches, players, staff, everybody. The only way you can be successful as a team is to do it that way. We all have to be accountable for the way we played and move along.”

Moving on isn’t a choice at this point, it’s now a requirement in order for Kansas City to stay in the AFC West hunt. The blue collar qualities that originally made this team a contender haven’t gone away. The team still plays hard for one another, practices with a high-motor and is committed to winning.

For whatever reason, the Chiefs just aren’t executing.

“It’s been about not doing the small things and not doing the small things will catch up with you,” TE Leonard Pope said.

Even at their finest, the Chiefs were never a flashy bunch. Ugly victories like the one that occurred Week Two in Cleveland were their own works of art, built upon simple strategies and mistake-free football. The Chiefs ran the football, stopped the run and didn’t turn over the football. They capitalized on opponent miscues and won the line of scrimmage.

None of the above has occurred during the past two games.

“I think on a baseline it is blocking and tackling,” Coach Todd Haley said. “For us it is playing the technique the way we are coaching it on all sides. It is then playing with a high effort, to the whistle because that is all encompassing.”

People wanted more out of the passing game in Oakland. They also demanded that Jamaal Charles receive the brunt of the carries. These were perceived to be major factors in Kansas City suffering its first division loss. The two topics were thrown around town throughout the week from the press room to the office spaces across town. Sunday shut those theories down.

At INVESCO, the passing game produced over 400 yards and 4 TDs while Charles carried the football nearly two out of every three run plays (including Matt Cassel scrambles). The result was A 20-point dismantling in Denver.

The Chiefs’ two-game skid isn’t about a quarterback, or a safety, or even a play call. It’s not about one position or one specific element of play. These past two weeks have been about a lack of execution across the board. It’s the basics that the Chiefs covered in training camp and won with early in the season. They are fundamentals that have gone by the wayside.

“Say defensively, with tackling we teach to wrap up, form tackle and take our man to the ground and we don’t teach the block tackle and do some of those things that will cause you to miss tackles,” Haley explained. “We teach everyone to hustle to the whistle offensively. We teach specific techniques and how we want to do things whether that is up front or at the tight end position, quarterback position or receiver position.

“To me, this team has to do all those things at a high level that we can control,” Haley continued. “If we do all those pre-snap things to a high level and then play with technique and effort we should have a chance to compete down in and down out.”

For the Chiefs to right ship, fundamentally sound football must return to Arrowhead this weekend.

Yes, Dexter McCluster has been out of action and that’s appeared to hurt the Chiefs ability to spread opposing defenses. Buffalo may have exposed a few weaknesses as well, and the Kansas City’s division rivals just might have jumped on that film. Regardless, the Chiefs just haven’t beenable to do what they did early in the season.

At its base, the troubles begin in areas that Kansas City can control.

“We thought that we had a pretty positive training camp and I thought that we played well at times in the preseason and at the start of the season,” Vrabel said. “We need to get back to what we were doing then and that means blocking, tackling, defeating blockers, knowing where you are supposed to be and just trying to get back to good, solid winning football.”

This week of preparation is a big one for Kansas City. It’s a week that will display what kind of character this team has. Adversity has hit and is waiting for the Chiefs to issue a response.

“Right now it’s about nothing other correcting mistakes and preparing for Arizona,” Pope said.

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