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The Morning After: Oakland

Posted Dec 25, 2011

Chiefs overtime loss all too familiar

ARROWHEAD STADIUM – Everything fell into place, but the Chiefs couldn’t take care of business.

Denver was trounced in Buffalo and San Diego was torched in Detroit. As it turns out, all the Chiefs had to do was win on their home turf.

A victory would have set the stage for an AFC West Championship Game in Denver next Sunday with everything on the line – possibly even a Sunday night flex-game with the Tim Tebow vs. Kyle Orton subplot.

Instead, the Chiefs postseason possibilities were ended on Christmas Eve by Oakland in a game that looked all too familiar.

“We killed ourselves,” Chiefs FB Le’ron McClain said. “Down in the red zone, it was second-and-one and we got a penalty. It made it second-and-six. That set us back. We had a few turnovers. We’ve got to get better. That’s what we’ve been preaching all year.”

Despite some impressive post-game statistics, the Chiefs came up short in all three phases of a pivotal game and the Raiders won their fifth-straight game at Arrowhead.

The offense was great between the 30s, but putrid in the scoring zone.

The defense was stout throughout the game, but allowed two explosive plays that led to critical Oakland scores.

The special teams saw Ryan Succop tie a team record with 22 consecutive made field goals, but then witnessed two of his next three attempts get blocked at the line of scrimmage.

Saturday’s loss was one that mirrored the Chiefs 2011 season as a whole. It was filled with inconsistency and saw extreme streaks of ups and downs.

“It was frustrating,” said Chiefs QB Kyle Orton, who threw for a Chiefs season-high 300 yards but also tossed two interceptions. “I think we all had a hand in it; offense, defense and special teams. To finish the way we did but also to fight and get back in the game the way we did was frustrating as well.”

The Chiefs simply made too many mistakes at inopportune times. Closing drives wasn't a source of strength either. For Orton and the Kansas City offense, most of the struggles focused once again on red zone execution.

Kansas City entered Saturday’s game as the NFL’s most inefficient red zone offense and exited looking every bit the part. Offensive drives stalled at Oakland’s five, eight and two-yard lines before the Chiefs finally punched in a red zone touchdown with Dwayne Bowe’s game-tying three-yard TD catch late in the fourth quarter.

The touchdown reception was Kansas City’s only red zone touchdown in four attempts. An additional two drives stalled out inside the Raiders 35-yard line.

Red zone inefficiency has been a point of emphasis for several months, but the Chiefs entered Saturday’s game averaging a league-low 3.63 points per red zone visit. Kansas City had scored just 11 touchdowns in 32 red zone drives prior to Saturday’s game.

Make the new total 12 touchdowns in 36 attempts. That red zone efficiency amounts to a 32nd-ranked 33.3%.

“We would take one step forward and a couple of steps back,” Orton said. “It seems like the whole game, we’d pick up a first down and then get a holding call, bad ball, drop or procedure penalty.

“It is disappointing to play like that in a big game. I thought all of the guys fought hard. I haven’t been here that long, but these guys fight. It is an honor to play with them. The competitive spirit that everybody has in that locker room is a great thing. It is what enabled us to come back and tie the game and have a chance to win.”

The Chiefs have fought hard all season long, there’s no denying that. This team is filled with fighters.

Kansas City punched its way out of a 0-3 start to claim a share of the AFC West lead by November 1st. The Chiefs are a team that’s been through three starting quarterbacks, extensive losing streaks and an in-season coaching change.

Upsetting undefeated Green Bay last weekend gave Romeo Crennel a legitimate opportunity to become the first-ever interim head coach to lead a team to the NFL playoffs. That says plenty about the Chiefs resolve.

But the fact also remains that this is a team that hasn’t been able to make key plays on a consistent basis.

“We had too many mistakes in order to beat a good football team in December,” Orton said. “The red zone (interception) I had, that’s the one I wish I had back. The other interception, #26 [CB Stanford Routt] made a great play. He is good player and sometimes that happens in the NFL. They make great plays and I give him credit for that.”

Despite its recent defensive resurgence, the Chiefs also entered Saturday’s game having given up 52 passing plays of 20+ yards. Again, a point of emphasis throughout the week.

The scouting reports were there. Oakland has lived off the deep ball with Carson Palmer. The Raiders have more pass plays of 20+ yards than any other AFC team since Palmer took over as the team’s starter in late October.

Of course, even with that emphasis, it was two big pass plays that ruined what was otherwise a dominant defensive effort.

Denarius Moore’s 61-yard TD catch was the Raiders only touchdown of the day and it looked far too much like a repeat of Tim Tebow’s bomb to Eric Decker several weeks ago.

Then, in classic Al Saunders fashion, the Raiders tested the deep ball to open overtime and hit Darrius Heyward-Bey on a game-deciding 53-yard pass play. Sebastian Janikowski’s 36-yard field goal officially ended things three snaps later.

“This team has fought hard all year,” Chiefs CB Brandon Flowers said. “There are a lot of games in the NFL that are decided by three points or less, seven points or less. We’ve got to do our part to find a way to win and we didn’t today.”

This was a loss that looked incredibly familiar.

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