From Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan
In the more than three decades that I’ve covered the NFL, I don’t think I’ve seen a football team blow the effect of an appearance in the playoffs the year before like the 2011 Kansas City Chiefs.
They’ve gone from AFC West champion to AFC chump. Last week, we said they weren’t the worst team in the league, they just played like it. In week No. 2 against Detroit, they are the worst team in the league.
A team goes 0-2 and that happens in the NFL. Victories are hard to come by in this league and the Chiefs knew that the 2011 season was going to be a tough one. The schedule alone was evidence of that.
But what has happened over the last eight days is so unexpected, so jarring; it’s leaving a lot of people in the Chiefs locker room speechless.
“I don’t know what to say,” said veteran SS Jon McGraw. “It’s hard for me to have a big picture view. I just know things are not good. They aren’t good at all.”
No, they are bad. They are very bad, like six turnovers and eight penalties bad. Those turnovers and a roughing the punter call against the Chiefs that returned the ball to the Lions set up 41 of the 47 points.
The sad thing is that if none of those mistakes had happened, the Chiefs would still have come up short, 7-3.
What’s especially troublesome for Todd Haley, his staff and the locker room is the there’s more to this than simply stopping the turnovers. Even when the offense keeps the ball, it can’t sustain anything. They actually came out running the ball against the Lions to some success. Haley and offensive coordinator Bill Muir cooked up a game plan with a lot of misdirection plays that took advantage of the over enthusiastic Lions defense. It’s a problem Gunther Cunningham defenses have always had β they are so aggressive, they can be taken advantage of at times with end-around runs, traps, bootlegs and the like.
But once Jamaal Charles went down with his knee injury, and they fell behind 14-3, then 17-3, 20-3, 27-3, 34-3, 41-3 and 48-3. There’s not a lot of running that’s going to happen in those situations.
Over on the defense, they can’t stop anybody, especially the opposing quarterbacks. Last week, Ryan Fitzsimmons threw four touchdown passes. This week, Matt Stafford throws four touchdown passes. The Lions hit big play after big play in the passing game and here’s the kicker: Stafford wasn’t sacked. He was barely touched. One of the few times the Chiefs got a hand on him, he threw an interception.
Special teams aren’t helping either. Ryan Succop missed from 44 yards; he can’t be missing those types of kicks. He’s now 0 for 2 between the 40 and 49-yard lines. They got nothing on kick returns; as usual.
There are so many holes in this boat and there are not enough fingers to plug them all. So far at least, credit the locker room with saying all the right things about working harder to turn the season around.
But how can a team that already is one of the hardest working groups in the league, work harder?
“We do work hard,” said Dexter McCluster, who had his second fumble in two weeks. “We just have to do more. We have to solve the problems. The only people who can solve them are us.”
Ahead is a trip to San Diego, to face a 1-1 Chargers team. In the last seven years, the Chiefs have won in southern California just once. Without Charles, Eric Berry and Tony Moeaki, they are without three of their top players.
If they are going to solve their problems, the Chiefs β both players and coaches β had better hurry up.
Right now, they are the worst team in the NFL.
And by the way, I actually did see a team get less carryover from a season in the playoffs β it was the 1987 Chiefs. That was after they made the playoffs in 1986, losing in the first round to the Jets and head coach John Mackovic was fired 10 days after the team’s first post-season in 15 years.