From Arrowhead Stadium
It started on the very first offensive play of the game.
The Chiefs won the opening coin toss and deferred their choice to the second half. Within five minutes that proved to be a bad move.
The Rams had 1st-and-10 at their 27-yard line. QB Sam Bradford took the snap and put the football deep into the stomach of RB Steven Jackson. Jackson went at the right side of his offensive line, where his blockers C Jason Brown, RG Harvey Dahl and RT Jason Smith caved in the Chiefs defensive front, latching on to NT Kelly Gregg, RDE Glenn Dorsey and LDE Tyson Jackson. The left side of the St. Louis line with LG Jacob Bell and LT Rodger Saffold walled off ILB Derrick Johnson and OLB Tamba Hali. Only ILB Jovan Belcher was able to penetrate the Rams front, but he went to the wrong gap and over ran the play.
It was 25 yards later before the Chiefs were able to wrestle him out of bounds.
And thus wrote the story of the first quarter for the Chiefs No. 1 defense. In the simple terms of football, they got their butt kicked. Not on that single play to start the game, but the next one, the one after that, and on and on.
Quite simply, the Rams were more physical, more powerful, more prepared to kick ass. Thus, they went back home with a 14-10 pre-season victory.
They came out with the plan of running the football. To succeed, that type of plan requires domination of the line of scrimmage. Good defenses do not get dominated at the point of attack.
On Friday night, the Chiefs were not a good defense. Not even close. They were pushed all over the place by the Rams in the first quarter. The only thing that slowed down the St. Louis offense was a pair of penalties on their first possession. That cost them 20 yards of field position.
But so dominant where they at the start of this game, they were able to convert a 3rd-and-19 play set up by those penalties. Bradford hit WR Brandon Gibson for 20 yards and moved the chains.
It was like that through the entire first quarter. Utter physical domination.
“We definitely wanted to come out and set the tone for the game, get in a rhythm as an offense, especially in the running game,” said Jackson, who finished with 15 carries for 72 yards. “We really just wanted to come out and initially set a tone.”
They set a tone of domination, one that’s hard to believe the Chiefs defense allowed to happen.
“The start was really just a killer,” head coach Todd Haley said. “We couldn’t get settled in the first two drives.”
Through the first two games of the pre-season, the Chiefs No. 1 defense had actually played pretty well. They were giving up an average of 4.4 yards per carry. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad defense. It needed improvement.
But that wasn’t visible against the Rams. The Chiefs defense got slapped around, just like they did by the Raiders (112 and 209 yards), Chargers (109 and 207) and Broncos (153 and 161) last year.
“When we look at the tape and we’ll see some things and know that we could have avoided some of that,” OLB Andy Studebaker said. “I don’t think it will be because we were tired from camp or practice. I think we’ll see that we made some mistakes.”
Oh yes, there were mistakes. But that wasn’t why the Chiefs got down 14-0 and had the ball run down their throat. It was simple physical domination of the line of scrimmage
It was happening on the other side of the ball too, where the Chiefs were unable to sustain any offensive thrust against the Rams defense in the air or on the ground. On five offensive plays in that first quarter, the K.C. offense went 0, minus-11, 4, 3 and 20 yards. The only time they got a score was when the defense presented them with a gift, on an interception by ILB Derrick Johnson at the St. Louis 7-yard line.
The defense allowed 210 yards in the first half. Over the final two quarters, the Rams added just 111 yards, but that was the No. 2 and 3s, not the big boys who are going to be the biggest factors in winning games for the Chiefs.
“First and foremost we have to look at this tape and get better from it,” said Studebaker. “We need to take advantage of the time we have left and really get after it and get better.”
There’s a lot of getting that needs to be done.