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The Morning After: Philadelphia

Posted Aug 28, 2010

Chiefs show grit, but still not a win

Mr. Kansas City himself called me shortly before kickoff last night. Bill Grigsby is the best. When it comes to re-living Chiefs history, there are few better sources than ‘Ole Grigs.

Anyway, he asked me if I had a Chiefs record book handy, which I did. Grigs wanted to test his Chiefs knowledge.

“Now correct me if I’m wrong,” Grigsby said. “But the first time that the Eagles and Chiefs played each other was in 1972, and the Eagles won that game 21-20.”

He was correct; and then, of course, went on to tell a story from that day in Chiefs history.

Grigsby’s tale involved the Chiefs being three-touchdown favorites against Philly. The Eagles were woefully bad that year, 0-5 when they visited Arrowhead (they’d finish 2-11). Unfortunately, for the Chiefs, there was a pre-game alarm as to what was about to come.

“I get out there and our United States flag that’s flying at the top of Arrowhead is upside down,” Grigsby explained. “(Former GM)Jack Steadman was running around like Catfish Hunter with a no-hitter in the ninth inning and the bases loaded.

“Now remember this,” Grigsby continued. “The teams had never played before and the Chiefs were three touchdown favorites with a flag flying upside down. That means, in international code, ‘distress.’”

The “distress” call went out early once again against the Eagles at Arrowhead on Friday night. This time in the first contest played at the Chiefs newly renovated home.

The Chiefs fumbled on the first play from scrimmage, giving Philadelphia the football on the Kansas City 22 yard line. When Eagles RB LeSean McCoy sprinted his way for an 18-yard touchdown just 50 seconds into the contest, things looked bad. When the Chiefs fumbled on their third play from scrimmage and punted on their fifth, things looked worse.

On the Chiefs next offensive series, QB Matt Cassel’s pass hit off of TE Tony Moeaki’s hands and landed in the arms of Eagles CB Trevard Lindley. That’s when it looked like the Eagles rout was on.

“I don’t know that it could start a lot worse than it did, both offensively and defensively,” head coach Todd Haley said after the game.

But in this instance, the rout wasn’t on.

The Chiefs defense came alive, forcing five consecutive punts after allowing an Eagles field goal near the end of the first quarter. Kansas City front-line players would  notch their first turnover of the preseason, tally four sacks and exit midway through the third quarter holding a 14-10 lead; it was something that seemed improbable just a quarter and a half prior.

“They say in boxing that it’s not how hard you punch, it’s how you react after you’ve been punched,” Haley said. “We took a couple of pretty good body blows; they might have been a couple of head shots, hay-makers, whatever you want to say, but guys fought back and made plays.”

 

How many times have we seen the Chiefs start the game in a similar fashion over the past few seasons, only to get run out of the building?

 Last year’s game against the Eagles immediately comes to mind, as does the game against the Giants and that 2008 drubbing in Carolina. There are other examples as well. Call it the “here we go again,” or “same old, same old” type of feeling, but things turned around differently at The New Arrowhead last night.

“I think it was just the ‘want to,’” LB Demorrio Williams said. “Early on we probably hung our heads down but I think the guys realized what type of team we have and guys came out and just fought to win the game. We are trying to win this year and trying to bring Arrowhead back.”

Whatever it was, it was something to build on.

While Williams and Andy Studebaker did their best to provide a spark with a pair of sacks, the Chiefs offense didn’t come alive until a bizarre penalty grounded the Eagles. Cassel connected on eight consecutive passes in a 16-play drive that was extended by the fourth-down delay of game penalty on Philadelphia’s punt return team. It was a play that finally kick-started the Chiefs offense.

The span of time between that penalty and when the Chiefs starters were removed from the game was the best that the Chiefs have looked as a team thus far in 2010. The team was physical on both sides of the football and made plays that amount to what it takes to win in the NFL.

The overall play before that penalty, and then after the removal of the starters, is what has to be nixed before the regular season begins.

Three to Like

QB Takedowns

Finally! The Chiefs recorded their first sack of the preseason, and they did it in pairs.

Demorrio Williams played like a maniac on Friday night, finishing with a pair of sacks, a diving pass breakup and five tackles. Andy Studebaker pitched in with two sacks of his own and DL Dion Gales added another quarterback takedown in the fourth quarter to give the Chiefs a quintet of sacks on the evening. It was the first time since September 23, 2007 (vs. Minnesota) that the Chiefs recorded five or more sacks in single game.

“That is really important,” Williams said of the Chiefs notching a handful of sacks. “Especially to put their offense in a second and long, third and long, things like that are huge. On third down we got some pressure on the quarterback and gave our other guys a chance to make plays.”

The numbers could have been even better, had the Chiefs finished off a few more chances at wrapping up Kevin Kolb, Mike Vick and Mike Kafka.

Gritty Defensive Effort

The defense as a whole turned in an extremely solid performance, especially in the second and third quarters.

They weathered an early storm from Philadelphia; a storm that was trying to turn ugly in a hurry. Physicality was at a pre-season high with big hits all over the field, including a wicked stick by Derrick Johnson. The defense was blue collar, gritty, gutsy…whatever you want to call it…they played the game the way that it is meant to be played.

“Defensively we played together as a unit,” said S Kendrick Lewis, who had an interception. “Everyone was on the same page and we blitzed them a little. Guys were getting free and making plays and applying pressure. On the back end we did our thing as far as coverage is concerned but as a unit, it all worked in our favor.”

In the end, holding Philadelphia to just 5-of-17 on third down made a big difference in the way the night went defensively.

Rushing Roles

The offense didn’t have its best day as a unit, but the Chiefs run game offers something to look forward to heading into the regular season.

Both of the Chiefs speedsters, Dexter McCluster and Jamaal Charles, averaged around six yards a carry and got loose in the open field. Situationally, the Chiefs bigger backs turned in some solid runs too. Thomas Jones was able to convert third-and-short situations, as was Jackie Battle, and Jones found the end zone on an 11-yard carry to get the Chiefs back on top in the third quarter.

It’s clear that the Chiefs are aiming to be a running football team.

Three for Improvement

Finding a Way to Win

How much better would Chiefs fans feel if Kansas City’s reserves could have just forced a three-and-out on Philadelphia’s final series? Or even a turnover on down in the Red Zone?

 Instead of kneeling on a win, the Chiefs were dealt a loss in the game’s final minute.

For some, it doesn’t matter. The starters dug their way out of an early hole, took the lead and brought some swagger back to Arrowhead. For others, it doesn’t matter who was on the field; the Chiefs found a way to lose a tight game. Preseason or not, we’ve seen this outcome before and it’s not any fun.

Wherever you stand, there’s something to be said for the confidence that is built in successfully finishing off an opponent.

Turnovers Crush Chances

Before the Chiefs were on the board, they had already dug themselves into a two turnover hole. Kansas City’s turnover ratio is now at -7 (eight giveaways, one takeaway) this preseason. Dick Vermeil used to have some sort of turnover chart built with winning percentages based off of negative, positive and neutral finishes in the turnover department.

I don’t have that chart handy, but the Chiefs have lost the turnover battle in all three preseason games of 2010 and own a 0-3 record in those contests.

Philadelphia, by the way, scored their first 10 points on series’ that followed a Chiefs turnover.

Starting Fast

The Chiefs need to fix this broken record before the regular season gets under way.

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