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New York Take Five

Posted Dec 10, 2011

Five things to watch when the Chiefs square off against the Jets

NEW YORK, NY – Wheels are down on the East Coast - a place where the Chiefs have struggled in recent years.

In the past six seasons, the Chiefs are just 3-18 (.143) in the Eastern Time Zone. The last victory was a 28-24 win over the Colts on October 9th. It marked the first time Kansas City had ever won in Indianapolis.

“We’re going on the road, to a hostile environment, much like last week and it may be amped up a little more because it is one of the biggest of big cities and there’s always some distraction and hoopla that goes with that,” head coach Todd Haley said.

Distraction and hoopla aside, December football is among us with both the Chiefs and Jets feeling they need to win-out in order to reach the postseason.

Let’s Take Five…

1)      < 100 Yards Rushing

Fred Jackson remains the only opposing running back to rush for more than 100 yards against the Chiefs defense this season. That occurred in Kansas City’s Opening Day loss to Buffalo.

In New York’s seven wins this season, QB Mark Sanchez has taken a backseat to the Jets rushing attack. Jets ball carriers have totaled 777 rushing yards (111 avg. yards per game) in its seven wins, but just 428 rushing yards in its five losses (85.6 avg. yards per game).

Surprisingly, the Jets have just one 100-yard rusher this season. Shonn Greene did it in an October 23rd victory over San Diego when he rushed for 112 yards on 20 carries.

But going all the way back to the 2009 season, when Sanchez was selected as a first-round draft pick, the Jets have averaged 157.9 rushing yards per game in the 26 games Sanchez has won as a starting quarterback.

The Jets offensive recipe for victory has been simple with Sanchez under center. When they can run, they win.

2)      Finishing Drives

Go back to the Chiefs Monday Night Football loss to New England, in Tyler Palko’s first career NFL start, and the Chiefs crossed into Patriots territory eight times, but came away with just three points.

The next week against Pittsburgh, the Chiefs crossed the Steelers’ 50-yard line four times but settled for three field goals.

Last week in Chicago, Kansas City possessed the football in Bears territory on three drives and came away with 10 points.

That’s a combined 15 drives in opponent territory the past three games that have produced only one touchdown. That touchdown, of course, came on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half in Chicago.

“We figured out pretty well how to move the ball from 20 to 20 so now our mission this week is to be a little bit more efficient, a lot more efficient from the 20 in,” offensive coordinator Bill Muir said. “It’s just a matter of doing a better job of calling plays and executing.”

Struggles in the scoring zone have caused the Chiefs to score 10 points or fewer in five straight games, which is the fourth-longest single-season streak in the past 20 years. The 1993 Indianapolis Colts hold the all-time NFL record with seven straight games of scoring 10 points or less.

On the other sideline, the Jets have the NFL’s highest Red Zone touchdown percentage this season. New York has converted 67.6% (25/37) of its Red Zone visits into touchdowns.

3)      Sack Attack!

What’s gotten into these guys?

After struggling to produce just 9.0 sacks through the first nine games of the season, Kansas City has seen a pass rush revival. The Chiefs have tallied 11.0 sacks over the past three games, which ranks 3rd in the NFL.

Doing so has caused Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Caleb Hanie to post some of their lowest single-game passing marks this season.

The Chiefs 7.0 sacks against the Bears last Sunday were the most the team has produced since a seven-sack performance against the Rams in 2002. Rookie Justin Houston had 3.0 of those sacks, becoming the first Kansas City rookie to register a three-sack game since Bill Maas did it in 1984.

Houston was one sack shy of tying an NFL rookie single-game record. Washington’s Brian Orakpo (12/13/09 at Raiders) and Buffalo’s Cornelius Bennett (12/27/87 at Eagles) each posted four-sack games as rookies.

“It helps when you have somebody opposite Tamba (Hali) that can generate some pressure,” said defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. “That will force teams to reevaluate how they’re going to protect against us.”

Hanie finished with three interceptions and a 23.8 passer rating last week.

4)      Points Off Sanchez

Jets QB Mark Sanchez has been turnover prone all season, giving the football away 16 times this year already. Those 16 giveaways have led to opponents scoring a league-high 66 points (nine touchdowns and one field goal).

Most of Sanchez’s struggles have come in the first three quarters of play, where he owns a 75.5 passer rating this season. With that said, he’s also one of the NFL’s best fourth quarter quarterbacks, turning in a 96.8 passer rating in the fourth quarter this year.

Last week, Sanchez helped the Jets put away the Redskins with 21 fourth quarter points. Sanchez didn’t turn the ball over in last week’s win at Washington either.

5)      Kickoff Coverage

With the Chiefs struggling to score offensive points, kickoff coverage and starting field position becomes much more important.

The Jets own the NFL’s best average starting position after kickoffs in 2011, beginning drives at their own 27.1-yard line on average. The NFL average is the 22.1-yard line.

New York also owns the NFL’s second-most drives (24) starting in opponent territory.

Kansas City did a nice job last week containing All-Pro return man Devin Hester. If Joe McKnight (elbow) is able to play this week, the job will be equally as difficult. McKnight leads the NFL with a 32.4-yard kickoff return average including one return score.

The Chiefs’ special teams units have answered the bell thus far, permitting just one kickoff return of 30 or more yards. Kansas City leads the league with a 19.9-yard kickoff return average against in 2011.

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