Column: Empty Gas Tank Sinks Chiefs

From Arrowhead Stadium

From about the second quarter through midway through the fourth period, the Chiefs kept stepping on their gas pedal, trying to get their engine up and moving.

But every time they did, they just sputtered, coughed and sometimes came to a complete stop. That’s when the Miami Dolphins would roar past, their engines churning at full speed as they headed to the finish line of their first victory of the season.

In the end, the Chiefs were chocking on fumes and dust as their four-game winning streak and share of first place in the AFC West went out the window with a 31-3 drubbing from the previously winless Dolphins.

Let’s settle point No. 1 right here – although they came into the game as one of two teams in the league without a victory, the Dolphins were not the worst of the NFL’s 32 teams. They weren’t even on the medal stand. Miami struggled to win even though they had some talented players on both sides of the football. What they lacked was consistent play from their quarterback and big plays from their defense and special teams.

They arrived at Arrowhead with a 0-7 record and a 10-game losing streak that stretched back into last season. The Dolphins were built by Bill Parcells, and one of his more famous sayings was “you are what your record says you are.” At 0-7, Miami wasn’t the NFL dregs, but they also weren’t a very good team. The idea as put forth famously by former Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil as one of the keys to winning a spot in the NFL tournament was “keep losing teams losing.”

Playing at home and with the momentum of a four-game winning streak, the Chiefs were riding high. They were again on the NFL radar screens around the country, especially after that prime-time victory in OT over the Chargers. Lost in the aftermath of that celebration was this simple fact – the Chiefs are still not a massively talented NFL team. They are a club that reaches the winner’s podium by doing things right, with brains and effort that overcome what they lack in physical gifts.

But after dumping it all on the line to beat the Chargers, the Chiefs did not have enough left to play with the Dolphins. They were out of gas and out of luck. While they did not turn the ball over, they played poorly on the mental side of the game. They let frustrations get away from them several times and picked up personal foul penalties. They simply did not execute at a winning level, no matter who their opponent might have been.

Todd Haley was blaming himself after the loss. Despite the fact Haley cut back quite a bit on the physical workload that was asked of the players between beating San Diego and Sunday, they looked like a very tired team.

“It was clear to me as the game went on that we had a bunch of guys that didn’t have much in the tank it didn’t appear,” Haley said. “We really tried to work hard to make sure we were handling the week correctly, physically and mentally. We probably did try to do too much during the week, which they just weren’t physically capable of handling.”

In any given week during a season, Haley does ask for a lot from his players. He cut back last week, and if the team couldn’t handle that pace and work load then the Chiefs have a big problem. That’s an excuse that may be part of the losing equation, but it’s not the entire reason the Chiefs finished 4-4 at mid-season.

It may have had far more to do with the 0-7 record the Dolphins carried into Arrowhead. From the first moment of preparation, Haley and his staff pounded into the players the statistics and tape of a Miami team they said was not that bad. “I really believe our guys understood how good this team was,” Haley said. “That’s not blowing hot air. I really believe our guys understood that this was a dangerous team.”

Maybe they did, but human nature tells us very clearly that there’s no way the four-game winning streak Chiefs entered the game against the Dolphins with the same type of intensity as the winless Miami players. That’s bad news when the team coming in to play is built like the Dolphins, with a big, mean and nasty front on both the offense and defense. On their best day, the Chiefs are going to have a hard time matching up with the Dolphins.

But the game really showed very clearly how much the Chiefs struggle not having their missing big three: TE Tony Moeaki, RB Jamaal Charles and S Eric Berry. Every time Reggie Bush had the ball in his hands, it provided a vivid example of what the Chiefs were missing without Charles. Every time Matt Cassel went back to throw and had nobody to drop off a throw too, it was a reminder that Moeaki was gone. Every one of those Bush touches that broke free for big yardage was a reminder that the speed of Berry was not around to help shut those down.

It takes a championship mentality to win a game in the conditions the Chiefs played the Dolphins on Sunday.

Quite obviously, the Chiefs are not there yet.

15 Responses to “Column: Empty Gas Tank Sinks Chiefs”

  • November 6, 2011  - ED J says:

    Agreed Bob Chiefs I felt after short week and overtime this would be a game we should win but lose. It stinks but at least Raiders might lose today and also Chargers.

  • November 6, 2011  - el cid says:

    Only problem I see with this game, other than the loss, is everyone knew this was all set to be a “trap” game, and I mean everyone. But I guess someone forgot to tell the coaches and, in turn, the players. Did anyone notice the “buffalo” play, that was the fake punt, supposed to pooch punt it. It was played like only Colquit had any idea what was happening.

    Maybe the loss could not be helped but better teams do not stagger onto the field and wait for the 60 minutes to run out. SD has 38 points with 54 seconds left, guess they were not to tired from Monday.

  • November 6, 2011  - Tenand6 says:

    With young, unaccomplished QB’s, I’d like to see more disguised blitzes. We all know we are short Berry and our front three aren’t going to bring a lot of pressure, so if we get burned on blitz packages, so be it. This defense gives up too many third and longs and we give the QB too much time. I hope we experiment a little with more blitzes.

    On the offensive side, I’d like to see more slants. Quick drops and throws to the strength of our offense makes sense to me. Also, the Chiefs should spend an entire day or more and learn how to run a screen. Cassel is going to have to master this simple, important play.

    San Diego and Denver both lost today. We got a break. Hope we can regroup and play better next week. It would be humiliating and telling to lose to Tim Tebow.

  • November 6, 2011  - el cid says:

    Not sure you can blitz with Jackson, Dorsey, Gregg doing so little. They are supposed to disrupt the OLs play, maybe get doubleteamed but it is not happening. And if you blitz and ignor the bad play of the DL, your DBs are toast and you lose the game.

    As for slants, this team does not have them or cannot execute them so we can recognize them as slants. I would like Cassel to have more 3 step drops and get rid of the ball, our OL is looking very light in the pants and on their heels.

    Well and Good SD and Oakland lost today but Denver won. Can only hope the Chiefs are better next sunday.

  • November 6, 2011  - Kenny Low says:

    Tough loss simply because 10 W’s look like it will win the division. Not sure I see 6 more wins for the chiefs in their remaining schedule.

    It’s gonna be exciting though!

  • November 6, 2011  - Chiefs Crash To Earth Against Dolphins : says:

    [...] COLUMN: Chiefs run out of gas. [...]

  • November 6, 2011  - johnfromfairfax says:

    I think you pegged it right on Bob. We are not an elite team and the effort to win last week coupled with the physical mismatches you point out were evident today. Add in the loss of the three you detailed and the shortcomings were apparent. I think it’s killing us not having Berry on the field on defense. You have to wonder how many of the big plays we’ve given up and third an long plays we’ve allowed opponents to convert would have been different results with him back there.

  • November 6, 2011  - Johnfromwichita says:

    I was there. One word: horrible.

  • November 7, 2011  - Craig says:

    El cid made a good point. One of the defensive lineman needs to command a double team. That was not the case yesterday. That creates few holes for blitz. Terrible game all around. Poor coaching, execution and intensity. The game plan was one of the worst this season.

  • November 7, 2011  - RW says:

    When the weaknesses show up in neon glittering lights, it’s hard to ignore and the juice was on high in this ugly mailed-in game for the Chiefs.

    #1: Token (And that’s being kind) pass rush. Give even a journeyman QB time and you get hurt. The Chiefs did and he put the hurt on ‘em. Romeo has to sell out with more than just an occasional blitz here and there.

    #2: Lack of a pass catching, security blanket TE. All the good teams have one or two of these guys. The Chiefs have a bunch of Roberto Duran clones.

    #3: Lookout blocking specialists masquerading as NFL O-linemen.

    There’s your top 3 priorities for player upgrades via the draft and/or free agency.

  • November 7, 2011  - leonard says:

    Ahh yes the whiners are back.

  • November 7, 2011  - Steve says:

    Bob – Justin Houston only had one tackle and that was on special teams. It seemed he played very little or if he played in passing situations, wasn’t effective in rushing the passer. He showed promise earlier in the season. Is he being defensed better, is it the way he is used?

  • November 7, 2011  - Chuck says:

    After watching this game it seems to me that the Dolphins are a much better team than their record of 1-7 indicates. They looked pretty solid to me. Looks like the Colts are a shoe-in for Andrew Luck. Not only are the Colts getting beat every game its usually a massacre.

  • November 7, 2011  - Bobber says:

    Couple of things…. First, good teams routinely play good games after Monday nights or after tough games the previous week. Second, I wasn’t able to see this game, but it sounded like we were physically beaten. Haley has taken a “go easy” approach a couple of times – before this game and during the preseason. In both cases the team has given a very poor performance the next week. I’m not really keeping track, but how many years has it been since we had a good pass rush? If we don’t find one, its going to be a long second half. We absolutely have to get this fixed next year.

  • November 7, 2011  - el cid says:

    Gee leonard, thanks for your imput. In case you did not notice the Chiefs lost 31-3. They were not in the game and failed at all levels of play. But as you point out so eloquently, the whiners are back. WOW, are you special.

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