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The Morning After: St. Louis

Posted Aug 27, 2011

A sense of urgency hits Kansas City following a disappointing Governor's Cup showing

ARROWHEAD STADIUM – At what point does preseason performance become concerning? Not the wins and losses.  Wins are nice, but unimportant in the end. This is about overall performance and where a team stands as the preseason closes.

Sitting with a winless preseason record and two-straight disappointing home showings, the Chiefs now have only a week before declaring a 53-man roster and preparing for the real thing. If the sense of urgency hasn’t struck yet, it’s likely to arrive next week.

 “Some things are going to have to improve here pretty quickly,” Head Coach Todd Haley said following Friday night’s 14-10 loss to St. Louis.

History shows there is no correlation between preseason record and regular season record. The 0-16 Lions were an undefeated exhibition team in 2008. Under Todd Haley, the Chiefs have begun each preseason 0-3. Kansas City has both a last place finish and a first place finish to show for it.

The concerning part regarding the Chiefs winless beginning to 2011 is that, thus far, the team has only flashed. Overall consistency is lacking.

Ricky Stanzi had a nice game Friday night. Justin Houston and Cameron Sheffield both continued their encouraging preseason performances and Derrick Johnson showed the kind of play-making ability that wins football games.

But outside of an isolated series here and there, or individual performances, we’ve yet to see the Chiefs show traits that made them successful in 2010; particularly out of the first-team offense.

“The most important thing is sticking together,” RB Dexter McCluster said. “When you’re down, you’re down as a team. When you’re up, you’re up as a team. So staying together and knowing where we want to get to and how we’re going to get there. We just have to stay together and focus on the little things.”

Through three games, Chiefs offensive starters have yet to punch the ball into the end zone. Twice the Chiefs have forced red zone turnovers and twice the first-team offense has settled for field goals.

In those red zone snaps following turnovers, Kansas City has gained just one yard. The Chiefs also had a first-and-goal late in the game, albeit with reserve players, and were unable to get any points out of the series.

Outside of Thomas Jones breaking a few runs against Tampa Bay, last year’s top-ranked offense has struggled to gain any consistent yardage.

“The run game has got to show some signs of life here,” Haley said.

Through the air, the Chiefs first-team has been choppy. Matt Cassel is currently completing just 44.4% of his passing attempts and carries a 59.5 quarterback rating. Both backups have better preseason lines than Cassel.

“We have about 16 days before this first game and we’re trying to make as much progress as possible,” Cassel said.

Then there were the mistakes. Maddening mistakes that a Todd Haley coached team just hasn’t made over the past two seasons, through times either good or bad.

Holding penalties nagged at the offense’s ability to establish any type of harmony. One holding call took a touchdown off the board. Silly mistakes, such as calling back-to-back timeouts, drew a penalty flag. Then, there was the way the game ended.

With St. Louis trying to punt the ball away at the close of the fourth quarter, back-to-back neutral zone infractions gave the Rams a game-clinching first down.

 “Penalties were killer,” Haley said. “We had a touchdown taken off the board and penalties throughout the night. I don’t think the (final) number even reflects it. I’ve got to believe we were in the teens, 12 or 13 penalties with a number of them declined.”

Step back from the ugliness that went along with Friday night’s loss and a few other things stick out. The most obviously is how basic the Chiefs have been on both sides of the football.

To say that the Chiefs have been bread-and-butter this preseason would be an understatement. Anyone who headed to St. Joseph peered much deeper into the Chiefs playbook than any opponent whose watched tape of Chiefs preseason games.

Much of that is by design, and maybe it’s a saving grace that fans can put into their pocket as the preseason comes to a close. At the same time, everyone agrees it’s time to see some results. Even if the games don’t count.

“You can never say you have to do this or that or the other, but I would like to start to see some success offensively,” Haley said.

There is belief inside the Chiefs locker room that the team will be ready come opening day. Preseason results draw knee-jerk reactions, in both directions, and there have been plenty following the first three games.

At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is what happens on September 11th. That game, along with the three others that form the first quarter of season, is what will ultimately judge the success or failure of Kansas City’s preseason.

The Chiefs said they’ll be ready.

“We don’t have any other choice,” Cassel said.

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