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Take Five: St. Louis

Posted Dec 18, 2010

Five to watch as the Chiefs battle for the Governor's Cup

Big-game atmosphere meets the Chiefs and Rams on Sunday in St. Louis. With two of Kansas City’s remaining three games taking place at Arrowhead, this weekend’s final road matchup dominates AFC West conversation. Most everyone knows what’s on the line…let’s “Take Five.”

1)   100 Yards

The Chiefs have been held under 100 rushing yards just twice this season. On both occasions, Kansas City suffered blow-out losses…a 31-0 defeat at San Diego and 49-29 loss at Denver.

Kansas City has suffered through a handful of deflating road losses this season, but the team has generally come back the following week with a significant response. The positive outcomes have almost always been defined by Kansas City’s run game.

The Chiefs averaged 255 rushing yards in two wins that followed a second-half collapse in Houston, and the squad also bounced back from a lopsided loss in Denver by averaging 205 ground yards over the next three games (all wins).

Righting the ship begins and ends with the run game.

*On a side note, RB Thomas Jones needs just 17 rushing yards to become one of 25 players in NFL history to reach the 10,000-yard plateau.

2)   Nickel and Dime

San Diego found success last Sunday with its short passing game. Darren Sproles made it an afternoon by catching short passes out of the backfield and turning them into routine gains of 10 yards. Missed tackles were a large part of Sproles’ chunk yardage.

With Sam Bradford under center, the Rams have done a nice job of nickel and diming defenses using the rookie's high efficiency numbers. Bradford set a rookie record earlier this season by attempting 169 passes without an interception. Meanwhile, St. Louis’ leading receiver, Danny Amendola (68 for 567), averages just 8.3 yards per catch.

Flying to the football and limiting YAC totals on the underneath routes should help the Chiefs contain the Rams passing attack.

3)   37 Straight

Taking care of the football has been a critical component in both St. Louis’ and Kansas City’s 2010 improvement. For St. Louis, turnovers have led to automatic losses.

The Rams have lost 37 consecutive games with a negative turnover ratio dating back to 2005, which marks the longest active streak in the NFL. Of those 37-straight losses, 21 have been at home and 10 have come under second-year head coach Steve Spagnuolo’s watch.

The Chiefs won the turnover battle in San Diego ( 2) last weekend, but still lost the game. That shouldn’t happen two weeks in a row.

4) Time of Possession

This one’s easy. The Chargers more than doubled Kansas City’s time of possession last weekend by executing third-downs, on each side of the football, to near perfection. The 40:10-19:50 time of possession differential all but told the story of Kansas City’s day. The Chiefs couldn’t stay on the field offensively, nor could they get off the field defensively.

Watch the final T.O.P. numbers on Sunday. Maybe they’ll tell the story once again.

5) The Quarters System

Todd Haley’s four-quarters system is a perfect fit for the Chiefs down the final stretch of the season. With a goal of winning three out of every four games, Kansas City is already 0-1 in the fourth quarter. Reaching Haley’s three-win goal this quarter would put the Chiefs in the playoffs.

The Chiefs are also seeking December improvement. This is the time of year that separates pretenders from contenders and Kansas City hasn’t produced a winning record in the month of December since going 4-0 in 2004. Big games (and wins) come late in the season.

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