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Seven-Day Span

Posted Oct 26, 2010

Chiefs ability to identify and execute critical second half plays vs. Jacksonville evidence of team transition

Two weeks ago, following a second half score-fest in Houston, Chiefs head coach Todd Haley wouldn’t bite into using the overused and stale sports saying that his team needed to “learn how to win.” Instead, Haley simply wanted the Chiefs to recognize and take advantage of critical plays when they were presented.

“We need to learn when that opportunity’s in front of us, whether it’s offensively, defensively or special teams and when the sense of urgency has to be there to understand that,” Haley said at the time. “Good teams recognize that and they pounce like a tiger at that moment and the game’s over.”

The Texans scored touchdowns on their final four offensive possessions and stopped a critical Kansas City third-down attempt just before the two-minute warning to post a come-from-behind win. There were numerous late-game opportunities for Kansas City to walk out of Houston with a win, but the Chiefs couldn’t claim victory over the game’s most critical plays.

Just one defensive stop, or an offensive conversion, would have likely sealed the deal in Houston. Unfortunately, the Chiefs weren’t able to cash on any of those opportunities.

 “We learned from that last week,” S Eric Berry said. “Everything happens for a reason. We saw how we played and how we didn’t finish. That was the emphasis this whole week – to go out and finish no matter what the situation was.”

Haley declined to call his squad a “good team” following Sunday’s 22-point victory over the Jaguars, but he did recognize that the Chiefs “are becoming a team.” That’s part of the process in witnessing a young team transition into a good team.

Sunday’s second half represented the polar opposite of the Sunday that preceded it. Not only did the Chiefs score 21 unanswered points to finish off the Jaguars, but both sides of the football recognized and executed in critical plays down the stretch. That success changed the course of the football game from a back-and-forth contest into a Chiefs blow out victory.

Kansas City scored on defense, made late-game stops, took advantage of turnovers, converted third downs and even overcame some high-profile defensive pass interference calls. Each was an area that Kansas City had struggled to conquer the week prior.

“From the experience that we had last week and that pass interference call; it sent us downhill from there,” Berry recalled. “We had the same situation come up on Sunday, with two pass interference calls on us, and from knowing what happened last week and how it affected us in a bad way, it was just like ‘whatever.’

“It was a call that we can’t do anything about it, forget and just go to the next play and keep playing,” Berry continued. “I think, as a defense, we just kind of stayed with the game plan and focused on what we had to do. You just move forward.”

Sure, the Jaguars offense isn’t as powerful as the Texans and Todd Bouman surely isn’t Matt Schaub. But the ability to move on from a bad play and execute a winning snap is all the same.

Berry was part of a defensive pass interference call that put the Jaguars into the Red Zone during a one-score game. It was one that the Arrowhead faithful made sure to voice its displeasure about. Most of the crowd felt that Jags WR Mike Thomas pushed off Berry. To make matters worse, it was similar to the late-game flag involving WR Andre Johnson and CB Brandon Flowers that had fans in an uproar the week before.

When the Jaguars used Berry’s foul as a springboard into making the contest a one-point (21-20), Arrowhead’s displeasure only grew. Fan would boo in between snaps for the five plays that followed, but that drive would wind up being Jacksonville’s final offensive stand.

Unlike Houston’s four TDs in their final four possessions, the Jaguars next four dives consisted of two interceptions and two punts. Berry would end up grabbing the final INT.

“I think you saw, in the second half especially, was offense complimenting defense and defense complimenting offense,” LB Andy Studebaker said. “You saw more complimentary football, and when we had a chance to really put the game away we did it.”

It’s not often that we’re able to witness clear cut examples of a team transitioning into a contender. This is the type of progress that helps make the pain and suffering from the past three years more tolerable.

As an aside, Berry’s post-interception salute was a tribute to former Tennessee Volunteer teammate Inky Johnson. Johnson suffered a gruesome in-game arm injury in 2006 that ended his football career. Johnson, who wore #29, is the reason Berry switched his jersey number from 14 to 29 at the pro level.

Here’s a good read on Johnson from govolsextra.com

 

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