From the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis
There are a lot of ways to lose a football game. Among the causes of defeat that rank among the most frequently seen are an offense that turns the ball over and a defense that allowed too many big plays.
Those factors capsulize the Chiefs performance against the St. Louis Rams on Saturday night. By the time Romeo Crennel and his staff get done totaling up all the reasons the list will be much longer than two reasons they lost 31-17.
None however, sent the Chiefs down the wrong path faster than turning over the ball four times and giving up 348 yards of offense to the Rams, including eight plays that went for 15 yards or more and four that went for more than 20 yards.
“It was not very good tonight and that’s being generous,” Crennel said after the game. “We didn’t coach well enough; we didn’t play well enough, so the result was bad. The offense came on there and tried to lift us a bit â€¦ but we turned it over and we couldn’t stop anybody on defense and that opened up the drain.”
And the Chiefs chances of victory got flushed in a manner that was in direct contrast to how they performed and won last week in their pre-season opener. There was no poise, no enthusiasm, some silly mistakes and then those turnovers and big plays all added up to getting crushed by a team that was able to only score a field goal in its first pre-season game last week.
“That’s not acceptable what we did out there,” said ILB Derrick Johnson. “We just showed up.”
The head coach agreed.
“We have to play a lot better if we are going to have a chance to win in the NFL,” Crennel said. “No one really played good. The defense couldn’t stop anybody, the offense that had one spark, then we turned it over and had penalties and a lot of things went wrong. When that happens, you lose. We lost.”
The Rams scored four touchdowns on offense, while the Chiefs had just two. St. Louis had the edge 348-211 in offensive yards, including a 122-79 edge in rushing. Coach Jeff Fisher’s quarterbacks were sacked once, while Crennel’s passers went down 5 times.
And, there were those nasty turnovers. QB Ricky Stanzi threw an interception and lost a fumble. WR Jon Baldwin fumbled in the Chiefs first offensive series. Rookie RB Nate Eachus had a fumble as well. The Rams scored touchdowns after both of Stanzi’s giveaways and after Baldwin coughed up the ball.
It was an ugly night.
“Things like that are going to happen, it’s part of the pre-season,” said WR Steve Breaston. “But we have got to get back to work and make sure we don’t show anything like that again.”
The game started like the Chiefs had left their football sense back at the hotel they shacked up in over in Clayton on Friday night. It was exactly the opposite results of what happened in the first pre-season game. The defense gave up big chunks of yardage to QB Sam Bradford and the Rams offense. The K.C. offense turned the ball over on Baldwin’s fumble. The special teams hurt field position with a penalty.
They had a host of mistakes and the Rams seemed to take advantage of all of them. The Chiefs won the toss, but deferred to the second half. After K Matt Szymanski’s kickoff sailed out of the back of the end zone, St. Louis took over at their 20-yard line.
Bradford needed 4 plays to move 80 yards and did it in less than 2 minutes on the clock. The first play was a pass to WR Danny Amendola that went for 35 yards. FS Kendrick Lewis had the coverage and couldn’t get near his man, plus Bradford had all day to throw from a very quiet pocket.
The next play saw RB Steven Jackson blow through the hole between RG and RT for 18 yards before he was finally hauled down by SS Eric Berry. Jackson went up the middle on the next play and Berry again had the tackle, as he gained 4 yards.
On 2nd down-and-6 at the Chiefs 23 yard line, Bradford hooked up with TE Lance Kendricks for a touchdown. Kendricks ran away from ILB Jovan Belcher who was trying to cover him out of a passing formation for the Rams offense (3 WRs, with the TE split wide.) The PAT kick by former Missouri Western kicker Greg Zuerlein gave St. Louis an opening 7-0 lead.
Starting at their 20-yard line, the Chiefs offense picked up one yard on a pass from Cassel to TE Tony Moeaki. On the next play, Cassel connected with Baldwin on a slant on the left side of the field. He made the catch, started running and was hit by rookie CB Janoris Jenkins and fumbled the ball. S Craig Dahl recovered and the Rams offense had great field position at the Chiefs 31-yard line.
On this second possession, it again took Bradford and mates just five plays to get into the end zone. He was 3 of 4 on the drive, including the scoring toss, an 8-yard play to Amendola in the end zone where he caught the ball running backwards with CB Javier Arenas draped all over him. Arenas was called for pass interference, which of course was declined by the Rams. Zuerlein’s PAT pushed the scoreboard to 14-0.
It was just about this time that the Chiefs football sense arrived by taxi from Clayton and they started to tighten up the game just a bit. It also helped that after one more possession, the St. Louis starters left the field.
“I felt like at one point the offense sparked,” Crennel said. “I thought if they sparked, the defense would spark, but it didn’t work out that way.”
The No. 1 offense got a score at the end of a 10-play, 80-yard drive in the second quarter that ended with RB Peyton Hillis scoring on a 1-yard run. The key play on the drive that started at the end of the first quarter was a Cassel to TE Kevin Boss pass for 17 yards on a 3rd-and-15 play at the Chiefs 43-yard line. Five plays later, Hillis banged into the end zone and Ryan Succop’s PAT kick got the Chiefs as close as they would be the rest of the night at 14-7.
Cassel and the starters got two more possessions, but one was sabotaged by back-to-back penalties against LT Branden Albert for a total of 25 yards, and the first-half clock ran out on the second one.
St. Louis added an impressive 52-yard FG by Zuerlein and carried a 17-7 lead to the locker room.
The second half started just as the first half did. Ricky Stanzi came in to lead the No. 2 offense. After RB Shaun Draughn lost a yard on first down, Stanzi’s first pass was deflected by CB Trumaine Johnson and landed in the hands of DT Matthew Conrath. The pass was intended for WR Terrance Copper and Johnson came over his right shoulder and flicked the ball away.
That set up the No. 2 St. Louis offense at the Chiefs 18-yard line and they scored on a 1-yard TD plunge by rookie RB Isaiah Pead. With the PAT it was now 24-10.
Early in the fourth quarter after Stanzi fumbled the ball away on a 4th-down play, the Rams put together a 7-play drive that finished up with a 4-yard TD run by RB Daryl Richardson. The PAT there pushed the difference to 31-10.
The Chiefs added a late score on a 38-yard pass from QB Brady Quinn to WR Jeremy Horne that capped a 5-play, 60-yard drive and settled the final score at 31-17 after Succop’s PAT kick.
“We’re going to have to get back to work,” Cassel said, echoing the words his head coach used with the team afterwards. “We’re back in training camp mode on Monday.”