Chicago Take Five

Posted Dec 3, 2011

Five things to watch when the Chiefs kickoff in Chicago

CHICAGO, IL – The Chiefs (4-7) travel to Chicago with fluttering postseason aspirations. Internally, the Chiefs are calling their remaining schedule a “five-game season,” but know they’ll need to win-out and get some help in order to reach the second season.

“We haven’t really been in this situation yet since we’ve all been here, but we’re to that point in the year where we are in it,” Chiefs head coach Todd Haley said. “We aren’t one of the teams that are out of it and we’ve got our work cut out for us,”

In Haley’s first season as head coach, the Chiefs were completely out of the playoff picture by the time December arrived. Last year, Kansas City’s led the AFC West from Week One through Week 17.

The Bears (7-4) enter Sunday’s game in the middle of a tight race to secure an NFC Wild Card berth. With three of their final four games on the road, this is a win that Chicago needs.

Let’s Take Five…

1) All About Quarterbacks

Whether it’s Tyler Palko, Kyle Orton, Caleb Hanie or Nathan Enderle getting the majority of the snaps on Sunday, it won’t be Matt Cassel or Jay Cutler. Quarterback concerns occupy the primary storyline in this game for both the Chiefs and Bears.

Haley stuck by his guns this week, declaring Palko as the Chiefs starting quarterback following a full week of practices. With that said, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Orton make his Chiefs debut at Soldier Field.

Don’t discount the Chiefs designing separate packages for each quarterback either. Doing so might keep Palko from pressing and looking over his shoulder following each poor pass, read or turnover.

“I wouldn’t discount anything, I really wouldn’t,” Haley said. “When you’re in do whatever it takes to win mode, anything is a possibility.”

Earlier this week, Haley mentioned the possibility of increased snaps out of the Wildcat as well.

Whatever happens under center on Sunday, the bottom line is that Palko has thrown six interceptions and lost a fumble over the course of his two starts. Likewise, Hanie threw three picks in his first-career start last week in Oakland.

Of the two inexperienced quarterbacks, whichever one is able to make the biggest strides from last week will likely lead his team to victory.

2) Funnel Forte

Earlier this week, Chiefs DE Wallace Gilberry indicated that the defense had designed a game plan to “bottle-up” Bears RB Matt Forte.

Last week, the Chiefs designed a plan to limit big passing plays QB Ben Roethlisberger to speedy wide receivers Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. The week prior, Kansas City focused on shutting down Tom Brady’s connection with Wes Welker.

Kansas City’s defense was successful on both accounts.

But this week, it’s a running back that the Chiefs will have to limit. A running back that is also an effective receiver.

It would be a shock if Forte doesn’t lead the Bears in touches Sunday afternoon. He’s Chicago’s leading rusher (198 carries for 985 yards), leading pass-catcher (52 receptions for 490 yards) and he also leads the NFL in total yards from scrimmage (1,475 yards).

Will the Chiefs defense be able to meet its primary goal for a third consecutive week?

3) No Hester

The Bears are 13-4 when Devin Hester returns a kick for a touchdown. One of those wins came against the Chiefs in 2007 on a 73-yard punt return touchdown.

Inexplicably, the Chiefs continued to punt to Hester following his second quarter touchdown return. He promptly gave Chicago field position on Kansas City’s side of the 50-yard line on each return following the touchdown.

Ryan Succop is doing a good job of driving kicks into the end zone this season and the Chiefs kickoff coverage ranks in the league’s top-five with opponents’ average starting position at the 20.7-yard line following a kickoff.

New kickoff rules will help limit Hester’s kickoff returns, but the punts are still fair game.

Will Dustin Colquitt boot all of his punts out of bounds? Brian Urlacher thinks he should.

4) Where’s The End Zone?

Ryan Succop has made 14 consecutive field goal attempts, but the Chiefs need to increase his extra point tries.

Kansas City scored just one touchdown in all of November. It’s no coincidence that the Chiefs went 0-4 during the month.

Offense, defense, special teams….some-how, some-way the Chiefs need to find the end zone.

5) DJ’s Pro Bowl Season

Derrick Johnson continues to make a compelling case to earn the first Pro Bowl invitation of his career. He’s also knocking on the door of setting a new Chiefs single-season tackle record.

Johnson has already recorded his second consecutive 100-tackle season (he enters Sunday’s game with 123 tackles) and he’s currently on pace to finish the season with 179 tackles.

Mike Maslowski set the current single-season tackle record with 162 stops in 2002.

Johnson recorded a career-high 147 tackles last season.  His play on Sunday will prove critical in containing Forte.

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