Your Chiefs Examiner is no doubt being overly critical of Kansas City’s ultimately impressive 34-14 win over the Baltimore Ravens, but I can’t remember a 20-point win on the road that never felt like it was slipping away to a potential loss feel so … so … meh!
Perhaps it was the offensive line struggling to protect quarterback Alex Smith and open up running lanes for Charcandrick West? Or the defense giving up nearly 400 yards of offense to a quarterback that was cut by Chicago after eight games and two running backs that most people in Baltimore couldn’t identify at a team party unless he was wearing his jersey?
Or maybe it was more mental errors by the special teams that killed field position for the offense or gave Baltimore fresh first downs after the defense had stopped them in the first half?
Or maybe it was head coach Andy Reid being unable to find the red challenge flag in his pants to challenge an obvious catch out of bounds by Baltimore and missing the opportunity because the Ravens got another play off in time?
Or, it could just be the tone of the game set by referee Jeff Triplette’s crew who at times seemed to call a penalty on either the Chiefs or Ravens on every other play?
Regardless of your Chiefs Examiner’s unsettled mind, the fact is that the Chiefs now sit at 9-5 in firm control of a playoff spot and are just one game out of first place in the division after the Denver Broncos (10-4) spit up all over themselves in Pittsburgh. If the Broncos drop one more game and the Chiefs win out, KC will have the tie-breaker, a division crown, and get a first-round playoff game at Arrowhead. Who’da guessed that, eh?
Looking back on this weekend, here are five things we learned about the Chiefs as well as a couple of things we discovered about the rest of the AFC West:
1. Much like pizza, even when the defense is bad, it’s good. There were times on Sunday that you could hear frustrated shouts from Chiefs fans at their TV screens and the sounds of countless remote controls getting hurled across the room. They were especially sharp and loud when Baltimore successfully pulled off a 48-yard Hail Mary pass while no one in the Chiefs secondary paid attention to the only receiver Baltimore has that can catch passes, Kamar Aiken, who pulled the ball in without a peep from any of the several defenders.
Still, despite the jaw-dropping gaffe, the Ravens never really challenged KC, and the defense forced three turnovers and scored two touchdowns off them. They might be the best overall defense that will play in the playoffs and they are missing their best player, Justin Houston.
2. Hey Dee Ford … where did you go? After a breakout 3-sack/7 tackle day last week against the Chargers, Ford barely registered a blip on the radar screen with only one tackle. His speed rush only got close to Jimmy Clausen once and even then Clausen stepped up and completed a 17-yard pass for a first down. No other team has huge tackles like Baltimore does so hopefully Ford can make his presence felt in the next two games before Houston is expected to be back in the playoffs.
3. Oh Alex Smith, you cheeky devil! In my fantasy article, I – along with many fantasy experts nationally – thought Smith would take apart the Ravens secondary to the tune of 250-275 yards and multiple touchdowns. Instead, the Chiefs got 171 yards, a career-high 84% completion percentage, and a touchdown with nothing even close to a turnover. It’s the kind of game Smith-haters will point to and say he’ll never be able to win in the playoffs and Smith-supporters will say is exactly the kind of game that wins a lot of playoff games with the kind of defense the Chiefs put on the field. Both sides are right, which is weird.
4. Send up prayers and good thoughts for De’Anthony Thomas to recover from his concussion symptoms – now! Frankie Hammond Jr. and Knile Davis should be locked up in a room with an endless loop of smart kick returns and not let out until they apologize. The 10-yard dash back towards the Chiefs end zone is just play #284 of the adventure that is Hammond on special teams and Davis opened the game by bringing a kickoff out from 8 yards deep in the end zone and could only get it to the 11. Until Thomas returns from his concussion, I’d rather see Maclin back there just fair-catching punts unless the punter messes up and he can get a return. Davis just needs to calm down and not try to make up for lost playing time in the offense with every kickoff.
5. Despite having trouble running the ball Sunday, the Chiefs never gave up on it, which is good. Yes, the final numbers are slightly skewed by Charcandrick West’s 38-yard touchdown run, but they all still count at the end of the game and the Chiefs were able to run out the clock in the fourth quarter. Watching football all day Sunday (and Thursday and Saturday) makes you realize that this team will be able to run on any team they might play in the playoffs even if it isn’t pretty at first. They are built to succeed in the playoffs, especially if a cosmic disaster befalls Denver and KC overtakes them for a division title and the Chiefs host a game at Arrowhead.
Ok, enough about the Chiefs … here’s what we learned this weekend about the rest of the AFC West:
DENVER (10-4): Still not sure what was more impressive – jumping out to a 27-10 lead on the Steelers in the first half or puking all over their shoes giving up 24 unanswered points in the second half to choke the game away? I don’t care what anyone in Mile High says, this team is mentally broken and if they lose next week to Cincinnati, they might be toast for the year. Gary Kubiak is NOT the head coach I would want trying to fix this leaky boat.
OAKLAND (6-8): Two Derek Carr interceptions put the Raiders into a 14-0 hole to Green Bay early, but then two DC touchdown passes to Amari Cooper put Oakland up 20-17 midway through the third quarter. Unfortunately, the defense couldn’t hold Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense and the NFC North division leaders escaped from their very infrequent trip to the AFC side of the Bay with a 30-20 win. The Raiders were eliminated from the playoffs for the 13th straight year, but are definitely headed in the right direction to get back as early as next year, maybe. The only thing is … who knows where they’ll be playing those games?
SAN DIEGO (4-10): As a 53-year old Chiefs (and AFL) fan, I absolutely hate the Chargers, but I was loving their effort in what is probably their last game in San Diego. They blew out the Miami Dolphins 30-14 and Danny Woodhead scored four touchdowns, but it was the surreal exhibition after the game that was the story. Philip Rivers, Malcom Floyd, Eric Weddle and even coach-on-a-hot-seat Mike McCoy came out on the field after the game and signed endless autographs for the several thousand fans that stayed to show their love of the team who are probably leaving after 50 years of playing in San Diego. Floyd is retiring after the season and Pro Bowler Weddle is a free agent and not wanted back. Even McCoy is almost certainly going to get axed after the season ends. I hope the Chargers organization finds a way to stay, but as long as they’re still in the AFC West, I’ll despise them no matter where they call home!