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The Morning After: Green Bay

Posted Sep 2, 2010

There's a small window to enjoy victory as Chiefs move towards regular season

When Todd Haley was asked how it felt to win his first preseason game as a head coach he smiled, then chuckled a bit. No words were spoken, but his reaction was enough to let everyone know if felt pretty good.

Haley then quickly got back on topic.

“Even if we were 3-0, it would have been about one thing; making sure that we were getting better,” Haley said. “In 11 days, when this season begins, we need to be ready to play to win. It’s very simple in these games; the team that plays the best wins the game most of the time.”

Winning the preseason finale is a positive, no matter which way you slice it. This is a team that needed some sort of reward to coincide a very intense training camp. But the truth in all of it is that there isn’t much time for anyone to enjoy it.

Chiefs coaches and front office personnel were back at Arrowhead early in the morning to scour last night’s game film as they make roster decisions that will help shape the future of the franchise. The final cuts are due to the league office by Saturday at 5:00 PM (CST), but could come as soon as today.

Overall, cut-downs are going to be harder this year, particularly when it gets down to the final few spots.

Once the first version of the Chiefs 53-man roster is established, it’s back to work scouring the cut lists from 31 other teams to see how one of those players might help the Chiefs in the future. Once that process is taken care of, it’s time to start finalizing that game plan for San Diego.

Labor Day Weekend is no holiday break for the football team.

For the players, there isn’t much time for enjoyment either. Players on the bubble aren’t going to be getting much sleep over these next two nights as they replay each instance of moments that they might have been able to do better. Things then go a couple ways from there; either hoping for a call back to the practice squad or holding breathe through the waiver wire period.

For the players who have iced their roster slots already, thinking about Monday Night Football vs. San Diego has already begun. In fact, earlier this week, many players spoke about battling the temptation in looking ahead of Green Bay and towards San Diego.

Winning feels good, but it has the opportunity to feel a whole lot better.

 “Yeah, it’s always good to get a win,” LB Demorrio Williams said. “We’ve lost the last three preseason games so especially getting a win at home, let the fans and crowd get into it and get ready to go Monday night.”

Three To Like

1)      Tough to Start

Sure, the Packers held out offensive starters QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Ryan Grant and LT Chad Clifton, but that’s something that’s out of the Chiefs control. With three key members of the Packers offensive attack standing on the sidelines, the Chiefs first-team defense did exactly what you wanted to see them do. Simply put, the first-teamers dominated the Packers offense last night.

The Chiefs forced Green Bay to go three-and-out on their first four offensive sets and the Packers didn’t record a first down until the second quarter when the Chiefs began substituting defenders. Green Bay finished the first quarter with a grand total of 18 yards gained off 12 plays. It was a nice encore performance for the Chiefs defense following last week’s game against Philadelphia.

 The “D” seems to be moving in the right direction as the regular season approaches.

2)      The Run Game

Entering the evening ranked second in the NFL in team rushing, the Chiefs were able to keep pace with their 150.0 rushing yards per game average. The Chiefs finished with 145 rushing yards that only included just one carry from Jamaal Charles (for two yards). Kansas City’s top three rushers (Jackie Battle, Dexter McCluster and Thomas Jones) all averaged over 5.0 yards per carry.

What’s been most impressive about the Chiefs run game this preseason is the club’s ability to power for first downs in short-yardage situations. Physicality at the line of scrimmage seemed to be a shortfall in 2009, and although Charles was able to make plays in space, powering for first downs wasn’t part of the Chiefs offensive strength.

“We’re averaging 150 yards (rushing) per game with our longest run being 21 yards (before tonight),” Haley said after the game. “I think that, more than the statistic itself is a real telling number. I feel like we have multiple backs that can make big plays in the running game.”

The Chiefs most impressive drive of the game came in the second quarter after getting the football backed up on their own five yard-line. In the series, Kansas City marched 95 yards on eight plays to take a 14-0 lead with 82 of those yards coming on the ground.

3)      Finishing and 4th Down Defense

It didn’t come pretty, but the Chiefs were able to run out the clock in a close football game. Kansas City’s defense had to make two huge fourth down stops in order to see the greatest formation in football take the field for the first time this preseason (victory formation).

Following an 11-play Packers TD drive late in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs defense was immediately called back onto the field when Green Bay recovered an onside kick. Holding only a four-point lead, the Chiefs were able to get a stop on a fourth-and-eight play from the 21 yard-line. The offense, however, couldn’t kill the clock and had to punt the football away on the very next possession.

Still holding that four point lead, Chiefs defenders were able to stiffen up near the Red Zone for a second consecutive fourth down stop. This time the fourth down hold ensured victory after what seemed like a marathon of late-game offensive snaps for Green Bay. Overall, the Packers finished 0-4 on fourth down attempts.

Three For Improvement

1)      Capitalize

The Chiefs have stressed the importance of following up big defense and special teams plays with points on the scoreboard. Rookie return men Javier Arenas and Dexter McCluster continue to get loose on returns, setting up the offense with good field position and opportunities to score.

Following a defensive three-and-out to open the game, Arenas took back a Tim Masthay punt 44 yards to the Green Bay 33 yard-line. The “fast start” had been accomplished and a big-play in the return game achieved. The Chiefs, however, were unable to gain a first down and settled for a 51-yard Ryan Succop field goal attempt that hit the left upright.

“When we get the ball in that kind of position, we have to make yards, we have to do a better job of making good decisions on the coaching side of it and the execution side of it to ensure that we’re having positive plays there one way or another,” Haley said.

How many close games have the Chiefs been involved in over the past several seasons? Capitalizing on these types of opportunities is critical to turning tight defeats into close victories.

2)      Expect the Unexpected

Tying into point number three above, the defense was put into a very difficult fourth quarter situation when Green Bay recovered an onside kick following an 11-play scoring drive. What turned out to be a positive could have very well ended in a negative.

With the Chiefs rushing attack clicking the way that it is right now, recovering that onside kick at mid-field might have relieved a lot of late-game stress on the defense. As a result, Chiefs defenders were on the field for 30 of the game’s final 36 plays and had to make two fourth down stops in order to ensure victory.

3)      Turnover Battle

The Chiefs lost the turnover battle again on Thursday night. With the preseason officially in the fold, this is an area that the team knows they must improve on if they’re going to produce regular season victories.

Over four preseason games the Chiefs forced just one turnover and gave away the football nine times. That amounts to a turnover ratio of negative eight. That type of turnover ratio isn’t win-friendly.

 

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