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Finding Fundamentals Top Of Chiefs List

Posted Sep 20, 2011

Kansas City leads the NFL in giveaways and opponents' points off giveaways

How does a team that was so good at protecting the football turn and go in the other direction so quickly?

Outside of the New England Patriots, no team in the NFL was as efficient as the Chiefs were last season. In total, the Chiefs gave away the football just 14 times (eight interceptions and six fumbles) in 2010.

Through two games this season, no team has been more inefficient than the Chiefs. Yet to enter October, the Chiefs have already eclipsed more than half of last season’s giveaway total.

Why?

“The majority of the time its technique that wanes for one reason or another,” Chiefs head coach Todd Haley diagnosed for the team’s fumbling issues this season. “If you’re carrying the ball the proper way, you should not turn it over, in most cases.”

Go back and watch video of the Chiefs’ fumbles (there have been five thus far, all lost) and it’s clear what Haley is talking about.

“Sometimes it’s just a lack of doing it the right way, not having the sense of urgency to do it,” Haley continued. “Sometimes you’re doing it the right way and you’re trying to get an extra yard or try to get to the first down marker or make somebody miss and then the technique slips. In the cases here that we’ve seen at least from carrying the football and then losing it, it appears that it’s been technique.”

It’s not as if the Chiefs haven’t worked on ball protection in practice, because they have. Fumbles were an issue in the preseason when the Chiefs fumbled 11 times in four games. Protecting the football was a point of emphasis following the preseason finale in Green Bay and it continued into regular season prep for Buffalo.

Despite that focus, the Chiefs are fumbling at nearly the same rate they did during the preseason.

“Little things have played a big role,” said RB Dexter McCluster, who has fumbled twice this season. “Turnovers, mistakes, (and) miscues; it’s going to happen. It is just how you’re going to respond from it. We have to learn to respond a little better.”

Fumbles have only been part of the issue. Opponents have scored a league-leading 51 points off Chiefs giveaways, and interceptions have accounted for almost half of that turnover total.

Matt Cassel, who received a Pro Bowl invitation just seven months ago after throwing seven INTs all of last season, has already tossed four picks in 2011.

“I’ve got to a better job of taking care of the ball,” Cassel said. “We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the ball and maybe that will help us to stay in drives and put us in a better position.”

Cassel has missed high on several of those interceptions and drops have played a factor as well. According to STATS LLC., Chiefs wide receivers have dropped two catchable passes this season. Two of Cassel’s interceptions appear to have come off drops/catchable footballs.

When evaluating one of those interceptions, WR Jerheme Urban shouldered responsibility for not catching an off-target pass (high and behind) that landed in the hands of Lions CB Amari Spievey. Detroit would convert the turnover into a field goal.

“I think the great players in this league find a way to make that play and I need to try to make that play,” Urban said.

If there is a positive sign in the turnover department, it’s that no one is pointing fingers. Each player is shouldering responsibility. The increase in turnovers has the players’ full attention, but the problem has yet to be rectified.

Coming off a 4-12 campaign in 2009, Haley spent much of the 2010 offseason program focusing on ball security. The Chiefs turned over the football 27 times in Haley’s first season; a number that put them towards the middle of the pack.

That offseason focus paid dividends last season and the team needs to find those fundamentals once more. The Chiefs’ small margin for error is showing, particularly with significant injuries affecting the team as well.

“That’s fundamental football since I was playing flag football,” Urban said of the turnovers. “You can’t win games when you turn the ball over and unfortunately we haven’t done a good job protecting it. You can’t turn the ball over and expect to win football games. The stats show that, especially at the rate we’ve done it.”

Two games into the season, the Chiefs are diagnosing major issues that have contributed to back-to-back lopsided losses. Most of those matters pertain to fundamental football.

“We’ve had two rough weeks,” Haley said. “But in reviewing both of those weeks, there are reasons why. It doesn’t take a great deal to see the things we’re doing that are causing us to lose the two games that we’ve lost. The key is that we change it and then the key is that you believe in your guys, and I believe this is an opportunity and we will take advantage of it.”

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