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The Morning After: Denver (Part II)

Posted Dec 6, 2010

Winning ugly never looked so beautiful

The Kansas City Chiefs are living proof that there is no such thing as a win too ugly. Sunday’s often unsightly victory over AFC West rival Denver, paired with Oakland’s upset of San Diego, just so happens to put the Chiefs two games up on the rest of division with just four to play.

For the Chiefs, winning ugly has never been more beautiful.

“We got our first win in December; this is real big right now,” DE Shaun Smith said. “We have some momentum. We have to put this one past us by 12 o’clock tonight. Tomorrow we have to get ready for the Chargers. These games are going to get bigger and bigger now. We just have to keep playing and keep focused. I think the guys know that and we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing.”

The Chiefs placement in the standings is a direct result of an undefeated home record. Sunday’s 10-6 win lifted the team to a perfect 6-0 record at Arrowhead this season. Once dominant at home this time of year, Sunday’s win marked as the club’s first December victory since 2006.

In the six home dates this season, the Chiefs have experienced a myriad of paths in finding victory. We’ve seen everything from a nationally broadcast upset to blowout victories and, of course, the ugly grinders. Sunday’s win was definitely the latter, but each victory counts the same.

Eight penalties, two fumbles and a porous rush defense represented the main culprits in Denver keeping a game that Kansas City seemed to control largely undecided. The Chiefs self-inflicted struggles came to a head in the third quarter when two penalties and a failed fourth down attempt left the Chiefs with no points following a first-and-goal from the Denver five-yard line.

“We were in four-down mode,” Coach Todd Haley said. “We were in it even before we crossed the 50 in that series, that’s why you saw a lot of runs. When we’re in that mode, we’re trying to get a mindset. We just can’t take a sack there. The thinking is, if you don’t get it there, they’re on the one-yard line and have to go 99 yards. That’s something we just have to do a better job of coaching up.”

That goal-to-go series was a microcosm of the day as a whole.

“That’s not the type of football team we want to be,” G Brian Waters said. “That’s not the type of football team we need to be in order to go farther, if we truly think of ourselves as a playoff football team. Those are the types of things that will keep us from having success.”

Uncharacteristic football haunted the Chiefs in previous losses division to Oakland and Denver and there would have been plenty of those instances to draw from had Kansas City come out on the wrong side of the scoreboard yesterday. But the Chiefs didn’t. They found a way to win.

Maybe that’s what makes a good football team? Haley, of course, is still evaluating if that’s the case.

The Chiefs overcame Sunday’s errors through physical play and, ironically, finding a way to play smart football down the stretch.

With the two-minute warning less than 30 seconds away and Denver holding only one timeout, Jamaal Charles found the right sideline and stayed in bounds as he churned out a critical first down. It was a scenario might have seen Charles run out of bounds in previous seasons, giving the opponent an extra clock stoppage.

Charles’ headsy decision to stay in bounds ultimately sealed the football game. Denver would force a punt, but got the football back with time for only one offensive snap.

“It was a big first down by Jamaal,” Haley said. “Jamaal has made so much progress as a player, a person. It’s easy to see Jamaal’s success and think this guy has always been here and why hasn’t he been out there [on the field more]. This guy has developed and has really impressed all of us and that’s a little play that no one will probably ever notice. That turned the corner.

“He stayed in bounds, got the first down, that’s something that we work awfully hard at having our team understand how important it is to be a smart team and understand the situations. I was really proud of him there.”

Few players would deny that next Sunday’s meeting with San Diego wasn’t already on their mind by time post-game had arrived. Whether or not that line of thinking played a factor in the Sunday’s choppiness is a question that only the individuals on the field can answer.

In the end, the Chiefs found a way to win. That’s all that matters.

“This game is behind us,” DE Wallace Gilberry said. “(San Diego) is playing great ball right now even though we beat them the first game of the season. They’re a totally different team now. We know what we’ve got to do and how we’ve got to do it. We’ve just got to get to work this week and get it done.”

News and Notes

  • Dexter McCluster returned to action after missing five games with an ankle injury. The Chiefs wasted no time in getting him involved, starting the rookie and feeding him with five carries, three receiving targets and five kickoff/punt returns.
  • Kendrick Lewis missed Sunday’s game with an ankle injury after being downgraded from probable to questionable on Saturday afternoon. Jon McGraw started at safety opposite Eric Berry.
  • Tony Moeaki led the Chiefs in receiving (4-54) and broke Tony Gonzalez’s franchise record for single-season receptions by a rookie tight end (33 in 1997). Moeaki now has 36 catches on the season.
  • Shaun “Deep Freeze” Smith, Mike Vrabel and Thomas Jones were all on the field for the Chiefs only TD of the game. None of them got the football, however. Leonard Pope was the unlikely recipient in a play-action pass that involved Smith and Jones as decoys.

 

“That was my first touchdown of the year,” Pope said. “The game is ruled by inches, as they all say. So, my big butt got it and I was able to get in as I came down on my elbows. It was a great feeling. I threw the ball in the air and told them to save it.”

  • Dwayne Bowe finished with a goose egg, targeted three times by Matt Cassel but going without a reception. The catchless game snapped a streak of 46 consecutive games with a TD catch for Bowe. Bowe also saw his franchise-record seven consecutive games with a TD reception come to an end.

 

“(Champ Bailey) is the best defender I ever went up against,” Bowe said. “He told me that I’m one of the greatest he’s gone against. As we battled it out he said, ‘I got his vote and he has my vote’ and he said, ‘My gameplan was to not let you get anything.’ … I think I’ve grown up and I don’t let that stuff bother me. As long as there’s a “W” at the end of the day and I ran well and blocked well, I’m okay with that.”

  • Brandon Flowers said that he left Sunday’s game in the fourth quarter because of cramping.
  • Starting right tackle Barry Richardson caught the eye of CBS cameramen during an incident on the sideline that followed his removal from the game. Richardson had committed a false start inside the Denver five-yard line prior to the matter before an altercation occurred on the Chiefs sideline.

 

“I think that what you’re seeing out of our guys, and what’s exciting to me as the head coach, is we have a lot of guys that really care,” Haley said. “We had the penalty in the red and I think Coach Muir and our offensive staff just wanted to calm him down a bit and let him re-group. He’s a prideful guy that didn’t want to be out and was upset at himself and that’s a good thing.

  • More post-game notes here.

KCChiefs.com Game Balls

Offense: Jamaal Charles

The Chiefs leaned on Charles throughout the stretch and he responded with his second-straight 100-yard rushing game. The knowledge to stay in bounds following during a late-game first down is even further evidence of Charles’ professional growth. Charles also notched his second-straight game with 20 carries.

Defense: Brandon Carr and Tamba Hali

Kansas City won this game thanks to key defensive plays that kept Denver from ever reaching the end zone. Standing front and center of the defensive charge were Carr and Hali.

Carr broke up six passes, many of them at critical points in the game, and turned in what may have been the best performance of his NFL career. Hali’s two-sack day now gives him a career-high 10 sacks on the season and a fourth quarter recovery of his own sack-and-strip was key in stunting a Denver comeback bid.

Special Teams: Ryan Succop

There was no icing Succop when he had to kick two consecutive 47-yard field goals into the wind after Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels called a pre-snap timeout. The kicking conditions were harsh and Succop was able to deliver from long range just before the half.

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