Appetizers From Motown

From Detroit, Michigan

Sadly, the Chiefs and Lions will play indoors on Sunday at Ford Field. Playing inside on the rug is good in Detroit in November and December, but Sunday’s forecast is for sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70s. Just perfect for outdoor football, but everyone will be inside for this game.

The Lions have declared this game a sellout, although they still have some single seats available, along with a handful of tickets returned to them by the Chiefs. Sellouts have been hard to come by at Ford Field since it opened in 2002. In nine seasons, the new dome hasn’t provided much of a home-field advantage for the Lions. They are 27-45 in the new building, a .375 winning percentage. There overall win percentage in that time was .257 (37-107).

That’s what made the Lions victory last Sunday in Tampa so impressive. Since 2002 they’ve won only 11 of 73 road games. At one point they lost 26 road games in a row.


Nobody knows their roster better than a team’s GM and coach, so when they move players in and out of the locker room you generally figure there’s a method to their madness.

That’s why it’s hard to figure two recent moves by the Chiefs. These were certainly not major moves, but then the shuffling of active roster and practice squad spots more often than not involves the guys at the bottom of the player list.

First, last Saturday the Chiefs added OL Lucas Patterson to their practice squad. Generally when a move like that comes down, it portends another move on the active roster involving promoting a practice squad blocker to the 53-man for the game.

But that didn’t happen. Patterson was signed on Saturday and then released on Tuesday, never having been on the field for a practice as a practice squad player. Plus, the team turned around and brought back OL Butch Lewis to fill a roster squad spot.

The two-week yo-yo with TE Anthony Becht also doesn’t make sense. When the team first cut the roster to 53 players, Becht was part of the team. Then, when they claimed OT Steve Mareni on waivers, Becht was released to make room.

Then, a week later they re-sign Becht and cut TE Jake O’Connell, one of the disappointing selections from the 2009 Chiefs draft class. Why not just keep Becht in the first place? And why sign him so late in the week, when he only got one practice, while the guy who was cut saw two practices.

There’s something more to the move and the timing than the Chiefs are willing to say. When asked on Friday why Becht wasn’t signed earlier in the week, Todd Haley said:

“As we evaluate our team during the week things change and we have to make decisions appropriately to handle those as things do occur. As this week went on, we just felt that Anthony was the best thing for our team going forward.”

Was this decision made over money? For a team struggling to create cap room, it might be. But with the Chiefs having somewhere close to $30 million room under the league limit, the savings are miniscule. O’Connell as a third-year player in the last season of his contract was getting the minimum at $600,000. Becht is getting the minimum for a veteran of 10 years or more of $910,000. So O’Connell was paid $35,294 for his one game. Becht didn’t get paid $53,529 for that opening game. He’ll make $856,471 if he sticks for the whole year. O’Connell would have gotten that $600,000 if he stayed the whole year.

If the move was to save $256,471 while playing the opener without the better player, then it does not make sense. Actually it’s sad. That’s not even one percent of that $30 million in cap space.


After Buffalo TE Scott Chandler burned them for a pair of touchdowns last week, the Chiefs defense expects to see more action from the tight ends in this game. The reason is the Lions have a talented pair of catcher-blockers at the position. There’s 6-5 Brandon Pettigrew and 6-5 Tony Scheffler. There’s even a third guy, 6-6 Will Heller a 10-year veteran.

Last week in Tampa, Pettigrew and Scheffler both caught the ball. Pettigrew had four catches and Scheffler just one, but that went for a touchdown. Heller played, but did not catch a pass.

“We like the combination of being able to use Scheffler in the same position that we use WR Nate (Burleson) and not always being in the same personnel groupings,” said Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. “We really run similar pass concepts and run concepts so it gives us flexibility; it gives us the ability to get different types of matchups. Size versus speed or quickness or anything like that. The thing I like about our tight ends is they’re very, very gifted pass receivers and they’re big enough to block in the run game. Obviously, that is something that we have put a lot of time and effort into and commit to that quite a bit.”

With Eric Berry out, it will be interesting to see how the Chiefs try to defense this double-headed TE monster.


G Ryan Lilja has been very busy lately, what with the Chiefs season starting and the arrival of his first child, a baby girl born about two weeks ago.

But he did have a moment to notice the end to one of the greatest Ironman streaks in NFL history when Indianapolis QB Peyton Manning missed the Colts season opener last week. It was the first start and first game Manning missed in his career, ending his streak at 222 games.

About five seasons worth of those games came with Lilja protecting him at left guard on the Colts offensive line, including a pair of Super Bowl appearances.

“You just always expect him to be there,” Lilja said this week. “He works so hard at getting prepared every season and that wasn’t just the offense and mentally, but physically. He didn’t last that long just by doing a few pushups. He was always pushing himself and his body.”


As a head coach with a defensive background Jim Schwartz of the Lions knows what’s facing his Detroit defense with the Chiefs offense, especially where RB Jamaal Charles is concerned.

“He can run inside, he can run outside, he has speed, (he) also runs tough,” Schwartz said of Charles. “He’s not the biggest back, but he runs tough. We have to have a good tackling day and we have to do it with team defense. It’s not an individual—it’s not one person that shuts down a running back like that, it’s not one group, it’s not the linebackers or the D-line. It’s eleven guys on defense doing their job, staying home, and making sure wherever he bounces that run, that we’re there and we tackle well.”


Gunther Cunningham is a big fan of his boss in Detroit, Lions top man Jim Schwartz. They coached together in Tennessee under Jeff Fisher and Cunningham was one of the first people Schwartz called when he got the job in Motown.

“I can never say this enough, but that head football coach of ours is exceptional; he is one fine football coach,” Cunningham said. “And I’m not just saying that because he’s my boss and a very dear friend of mine; I have the utmost respect for him. He is on things like I can’t believe. I sometimes wonder how he’s developed this far that fast.

“We practice every situation we can; he puts us under the gun constantly. At the end of the Tampa game, he was really upset and he carried over and let all of us know what happened. We didn’t feel like we won the game – nobody here did; players, coaches, we knew what we had to do. We have a lot more work to do to become the kind of team we want to become and it’s his leadership that’s doing it.”

Schwartz likes Cunningham as well. “Gun can grind hours like nobody in the NFL; he’s 24/7,” Schwartz said. “When he’s on vacation, he’s driving his wife crazy by spending all his time getting ready for football and studying football. The thing about Gun, we always make fun of how old he is, but he probably embraces technology more than any coach I’ve been around. He was the first guy to have an iPad and have all his film on it.

“I think all players, and if you ask any player that’s played for Gun, even those guys 80 years ago, they all say the same thing. He calls it the way he sees it and they respect that. Gun’s one of those guys that can be very, very loud and critical of a player and then turn right around 5 minutes later and walk off the field with his arm around him. There’s not many people that can do that, and the way you can is you have to call it the way … he’s honest and he calls it the way he sees it and players respect that.”

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