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Take Five Rewind: Buffalo

Posted Sep 12, 2011

Reviewing the pre-game Take Five

Just as we do following every game on KCChiefs.com, it’s time to close the door on the Chiefs Week One loss by rewinding our pre-game Take Five. Just like the end result of Sunday’s game, the results of this Take Five aren’t pretty.

As always, original text is in italics with the recap in bold.

Last year’s Chiefs vs. Bills matchup featured a division leader hosting a winless challenger. It took a late-game interception, an iced kicker and a field goal in the final seconds of overtime for the Chiefs to emerge victorious.

It was a game both teams remember heading into this year’s season opener.

Buffalo is coming off a 1-3 preseason; the Chiefs off a 0-4 exhibition slate. Preseason play is over. Kickoff weekend is here. Let’s take five.

Buffalo Take Five

1) Success of 2010

The Chiefs blueprint for a division championship was relatively simple last season. Offensively, that plan revolved around running the football and taking care of the football. An effective run game set up the play-action pass and forced many opponents to choose between stacking the box or playing single coverage on Dwayne Bowe.

Kansas City’s 164.2 rushing yards per game and Matt Cassel’s 27/7 touchdown to interception ratio was a perfect pairing.

During preseason play, the Chiefs run game left plenty to be desired. Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones combined to average less than 3.0 yards per carry in exhibition play and Kansas City’s rushing attack didn’t produce a single touchdown. Cassel did his part by keeping the football out of the opposition’s hands, but the backup quarterbacks turned in a TD/INT ratio of 3/3.

Rushing the football is the Chiefs offensive identity. Protecting the ball preserves wins.

The blueprint from 2010 wasn’t followed Sunday afternoon as the NFL’s top rushing offense from last season managed 108 rushing yards against the league’s worst rushing defense a year ago. To be fair, it’s difficult to stick with the run game when facing a three score deficit in the first half.

The Chiefs ended up throwing the football twice as often as they ran it, with Cassel attempting 36 passes to just 18 rushing attempts. Most of Cassel’s 22 completions came on short routes as he averaged just 3.31 yards per attempt. Cassel also threw his first interception of the year.

Kansas City didn’t run the football with consistency and protecting the football was an issue with three turnovers.

We only saw a flash of the Chiefs offensive identity when Dexter McCluster and Jamaal Charles broke impressive runs on Kansas City’s lone scoring drive in the second quarter. Unfortunately, those two plays represented most of the day’s offensive highlights.

Charles finished with 56 rushing yards; McCluster with 42. Thomas Jones didn’t factor into Sunday’s result with just two rushes for three yards.

2) Fumble Issues

Todd Haley blamed it on a lack of contact periods during training camp, but vowed to devote practice time towards ball security following last week’s preseason finale in Green Bay. Three times the Chiefs coughed up the football in the Packers’ red zone during the 20-19 loss.

Fumbles were an issue all preseason with the Chiefs putting the football on the ground 10 times. Last year, the Chiefs only fumbled 15 times to post the NFL’s fifth-lowest total.

Two red zone fumbles in Green Bay saw Charles give himself a harsh preseason evaluation, but the real season has yet to begin. He fumbled only three times last season and has lost the football just seven times in 487 career rushing attempts.

Make it eight lost fumbles on 497 career attempts for Charles. After struggling during the preseason with securing the football, Charles coughed it up in the opener and Buffalo turned the loose football into three points. Charles’ fumble occurred at the Kansas City 21-yard line.

Add McCluster’s fumble on the opening kickoff and Buffalo was gift-wrapped 10 points while only having to travel 24 yards. In total, the Bills scored 17 points off three Kansas City turnovers.

Ball security remains an issue for the Chiefs after Week One.

3) Stopping the Run

In the Chiefs 10 wins last season, opponents rushed for an average of 85.4 yards per contest. In Kansas City’s six losses last year, foes churned out an average of 151.7 rushing yards per game.

When the Chiefs stop the run, they’re successful. If not, the results haven’t been desirable.

Though Buffalo didn’t rush the football particularly well in 2010, they did manage to post 137 rushing yards against the Chiefs - it was the third-most of any opponent the Chiefs beat last season. Buffalo’s goal is to stop Kansas City’s run game and the Chiefs defense should have that same objective.

The Bills, by the way, were the league’s 32nd ranked rushing defense last season. Buffalo hopes the addition of DT Marcel Dareus and LB Nick Barnett help improve that ranking.

Fred Jackson was a workhorse for the Bills, averaging 5.6 yards per carry on 20 attempts. His day can be summarized by a single rush late in the second quarter when the Chiefs were down 20-7 and trying to force a Buffalo punt.

On a third-and-short carry, Jackson was struck in the backfield, but charged his legs forward for a first down as Brandon Flowers and other Chiefs tried to hold him back for a loss. As Jackson drug defenders behind him, Buffalo was able to run out the first half clock to take a two-score lead into the half.

When Buffalo needed to run the football, they were able to churn out first downs. The Bills moved the sticks via rush nine times and were 100% on third-and-short conversions when they ran the football.

4) The Chan-Chan Man

Former Chiefs offensive coordinator turned Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey will be calling the plays from the opposing sideline Sunday afternoon. With versatile players lining Buffalo’s skill positions and Gailey at the helm, there will be more than one occasion where the Chiefs defense see’s something that it didn’t prepare for in practice this week.

Week One game plans are always subject to offer some sneak up. It works both ways. With the Bills, and especially do-it-all man Brad Smith, fundamentally sound football becomes even more important.

Expect to see the Wildcat formation, some spread sets and, who knows, maybe even a  single-wing reverse wildcat pass to Tyler Thigpen (probably not Thigpen, but couldn’t resist linking to that video).

Gailey’s use of the wildcat was interesting to me. Instead of using it as a change of pace, Buffalo used Smith as a short-yardage back. Twice the Bills went into the wildcat on third-and-short and twice the Bills converted with Smith simply reading zone openings from a shotgun formation.

When it came to Buffalo’s traditional sets, Kendrick Lewis said that the Bills threw a few twists that the Chiefs defense wasn’t prepared for.

“It was just game planning,” Lewis said. “Those guys came out ready to play and they caught us off guard a couple of times. We were behind the eight ball a lot of the time. They made good plays. I give them my respect. Those guys were ready to play.”

Buffalo’s lone turnover also came out of the wildcat package when Smith threw a wobbler to Brandon Flowers. By then, it was too late. The Chiefs were already down 41-7.

Oh, and it turns out we did see the return of Thigpen. He handed the football off several times as the Bills closed out victory at Arrowhead.

5) The Arrowhead Advantage

When it came to winning the AFC West last season, the Chiefs never played from behind. Wins at Arrowhead came early and often as the Chiefs rallied off seven consecutive home victories before finally suffering defeat at Arrowhead only when the division was already wrapped up.

The Chiefs led the AFC West last season from Week One to Week 17. Never did the team dip below .500 and never were they facing an uphill climb to stay in contention.

With away games each of the next two weeks, it’s not a good time to be digging out of a hole. The Arrowhead Advantage needs to return in 2011, beginning this weekend.

You’ve heard it by now. The Chiefs have now lost three consecutive home games, dating back to Week 17 and the NFL playoffs last season, by a combined score of 102-24. Kansas City won’t receive another chance at home redemption until early October.

Until then, the Chiefs must find a way to get right on the road. First stop is Detroit – the home opener for a revitalized Lions squad.

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