Déjà Vu For Chiefs In Opener Victory

From Arrowhead Stadium

They spent a lot of money – close to $400 million – to renovate Arrowhead Stadium over the last three years or so. There are new clubs, concourses, televisions, scoreboards, concessions and rest rooms. Basically, the guts of the old Arrowhead were ripped out and replaced with new equipment.

But Monday night as a late summer rain storm drenched everyone in the building we found out that while there was a lot new in Arrowhead, some of the old ghosts still haunt the place.

Defense and special teams combined to give the Chiefs an upset victory over the defending AFC West champion San Diego Chargers 21-14. It was a game that looked so much like the 85 games the Chiefs played in the building back in the 1990s, when Derrick Thomas, Neil Smith, James Hasty, Dale Carter, Dan Saleaumua and a host of others banged heads against anybody that came in the Arrowhead door.

And while they couldn’t be any different physically, mighty mites Javier Arenas and Dexter McCluster brought back memories of Tamarick Vanover blowing through coverage units and finding the end zone.

For an organization that has struggled over the last four years for positive moments, this one couldn’t have been bigger, better defined and timed perfectly.

“This was a big game and it’s a big victory for the organization and the city,” said the team’s most tenured player, G Brian Waters. “For us, it was one game. But it was a good game, because we made enough plays to win.”

For head coach Todd Haley, there were a lot of game days last year where all the hard work and effort put forth by his coaches and players did not produce a victory. In this case, it did.

“If you are expecting something to look real fancy or nice, I don’t think that’s what you’re going to see here with this Chiefs team,” Haley said, after the team presented him with the fifth victory of his head coaching career. “I think we’re figuring out how to get things done.”

It was the first real game in the new Arrowhead and the first game in the NFL for a bunch of rookies, the 2010 NFL Draft class that has looked so good since they were selected back in April. WR/RB Dexter McCluster returned a punt 94 yards for a score, while Javier Arenas averaged 30 yards on his two punt returns. TE Tony Moeaki caught his first pass, it happened to be in the end zone for a touchdown. Eric Berry started and played the whole game at strong safety, while Kendrick Lewis got more than 50 percent of the snaps at free safety.

But it was those guys that Haley has been talking about since the starting of training camp – the second and third-year players who really stepped up their performances. RB Jamaal Charles picked up where he left off last year with 92 rushing yards and a 56-yard TD run. DEs Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson had the best games of their young careers.

It was a winning performance that had a lot of heroes, and they did it under terrible conditions after a second quarter rain storm brought heavy rain and roaring winds that ripped through Arrowhead, dampened the field and made things difficult.

“Everybody out there made enough plays; that’s going to be part of what makes us a successful team, all 45 guys,” said Haley. “We didn’t turn the football over and that was a critical, critical factor in our success tonight.”

The Chargers got on the scoreboard first, when QB Philip Rivers led the offense on a nine-play, 60-yard drive that ended with him connecting on a three-yard scoring pass with TE Antonio Gates. The big play in the draft was a 34-yard Rivers to Gates play where the All-Pro tight end was wide open thanks to a blown coverage. The PAT kick by Nate Kaeding gave San Diego a 7-0 lead.

But the Chiefs showed some mettle and came right back and tied the game up. On the third play of the possession, Charles ran over left guard and then weaved his way down the field for a touchdown. The only San Diego defender that touched him was S Eric Weddle, but that was only when he fanned at his heels as he was running past to the end zone.

Ryan Succop’s PAT kick tied the score at 7-7 with less than a minute to play in the first quarter.

As the second quarter began, that’s when the heavens opened up. First the wind came blowing out of the southwest and the rain started, then grew in intensity and at one point was going sideways thanks to the wind. It put a big crimp in the San Diego offense, as they had five full possessions in the period and went three plays and out, lost a fumble, three plays and out, three plays and out and gave up a punt return touchdown and then three plays and out. They managed 21 yards on 16 plays.

The Chiefs did not have those kinds of problems and that was thanks to all three phases of their team. First, the defense forced a turnover, as San Diego RB Ryan Mathews broke free for a 15-yard run, but had the ball jarred loose by LB Derrick Johnson. The fumble was recovered by CB Brandon Carr, who returned it 23 yards to the Chargers 12-yard line.

Three plays later, QB Matt Cassel found Moeaki in the corner of the end zone for a two-yard touchdown pass. The PAT kick gave the Chiefs a 14-7 lead.

Just a few moments later, that lead jumped to 21-7 and that was thanks to McCluster. Earlier in the game, Arenas handled the punt returns and took a pair back 36 and 24 yards. McCluster got his chance then, starting with a six-yard return.

But then San Diego P Mike Scifres got off a 60-yard punt that McCluster caught at the Chiefs six-yard line. He ran to his left, juked coverage man Michael Tolbert, who slipped on the wet surface, and ran untouched 94 yards for the score. It’s the longest punt return in Chiefs history.

Going to the locker room with a 14-point lead at half-time was not familiar territory for the Chiefs. But given the weather conditions their approach was simple – protect the ball and get after the Chargers on defense. They got that done on offense, as they did not have any turnovers.

At times the defense had its problems, as they went into a bend, but don’t break mode. However, a blown coverage allowed Rivers to hook up with WR Legedu Naanee on a 59-yard touchdown play. Naanee ran free down the field and there was no Chiefs defender within 15 yards of him when he made the catch.

Kaeding’s PAT kick cut the Chiefs lead to seven points, 21-14 with more than 17 minutes to play.

Here’s where the K.C. defense came up big. The Chargers drove to the Chiefs 27-yard line and came away with no points. Then, they got the ball with 4 minutes, 52 seconds to play at their 33-yard line. Within six plays they were 1st-and-goal at the Chiefs four-yard line. Rivers tried three passes and none found their mark. They ran Darren Sproles on a draw and he lost two yards.

It was a goal line stand that gave the Chiefs a victory.

“They idea is to make plays and they did it right up to the end,” said Haley. “There were some terrific plays in that mix. They played their hearts out and I’m glad it played out the way it did.”

The Chiefs are 1-0. It’s the first time they’ve had a winning record since October 21, 2007 when they beat the Raiders 12-10 and were 4-3 on the season. Between that day, and Monday night, the Chiefs had won just six of 41 games.

That didn’t matter on this night.

“Hey, were 1-0,” said LB Derrick Johnson. “It’s a start.”

23 Responses to “Déjà Vu For Chiefs In Opener Victory”

  • September 14, 2010  - Tracy says:

    The weather apparently had more impact on San Diego than KC, the D made stops when necessary and the nimble, fleet footed rookie return men made scoring look easy.

    Oh, yeah, there was blown coverage that surely gave Romeo Crenell heartburn; maybe that was due to rookie mistakes.

    Can’t call this a decisive, knock out victory but there has not been a win of such significance for longer than we care to remember.

  • September 14, 2010  - KC_Guy says:

    I liked the Defense, although they seemed to wear out in the second half. 300 yds passing allowed is not that great, but they stopped the run quite efficiently.

    On the other hand: If I saw the same game I noticed a pretty poor offensive performance. 1 TD off a fumble return, 1 TD a punt return, 1 TD on an individual great play.

    Other than that:

    9 first downs
    10/22 for 62 yards passing (2.8 yds/att)
    (Bowe 1 rec/5 targets, Chambers 1rec/4 targets)
    80 yds rushing (3.2 yds/att; not counting Charles’ 56 yarder though)
    1/11 3rd down conversion
    22:30 time of possession

    Those stats usually spell double digit loss!

    So let’s not get too excited right now – there’s a lot of work to be done ’til Cleveland.

  • September 14, 2010  - TX_ChiefAN says:

    Bob…I wish that I could have met you while we (wife and I) were here…this was an Awesome experience(first NFL game for my wife). We lost our voices and have sooooo many memories (one of which we took a pic w/ Clark Hunt…awesome guy!)
    Nice renovations and I think the team really enjoyed the crowds noise.
    I do need to ask though, who blew the coverage on that NN TD? I saw Carr trying to catch him but it wasn’t his coverage…(I recorded it so I will try to find out soon enough if the camera shows).
    I wish I could be at every Chiefs home game but oh well I will screem from my LV.

  • September 14, 2010  - Brad says:

    We snatched defeat from the jaws of victory several times in recent years, so I’m not going to apologize for winning this one without any offense apart from one long run. Cleveland is next – 2-0 would be just awesome.

  • September 14, 2010  - KC_Guy says:

    TX_ChiefAN :

    Three guys were around:

    Flowers, Berry & Vrabel (I think).

    Flowers shadowed Nanee first, but let go after 10 or 15 yds to focus on A. Gates – just as the other two did.
    So either Berry blew his assignment to take over any WR going deep or Flowers blew his because Berry was to focus on Gates in addition to Vrabel.

    I’d probably put the blame on flowers here because Berry immediately after the snap closed in on gates.

  • September 14, 2010  - Chiefs In First Place After 21-14 Opening Victory | Chiefs Football at BobGretz.com says:

    [...] Game Story: Defense and special teams key victory. [...]

  • September 14, 2010  - Andrew says:

    We are now 2-0 in 2010, let’s keep it rolling KC!!!

  • September 14, 2010  - Jesse says:

    So, I thought Trent Dilfer had some insightful comments last night as an announcer, but gawd, did anyone else get sick and tired of him talking about how he wanted to marry Phillip Rivers and have his babies?

    Go Chiefs!

  • September 14, 2010  - Edward says:

    Yea people been banging on Dorsey calling him a bust. I’ve been saying since we draft the guy it takes defensive lineman at least 2-3 yrs to really develop into what type of pro their going to be the rest of their career. This guy was lights out last night. He looks like a top 5 pick now. As for TJax hopefully he’s ok and he’ll have his flashes of brillance this yr, but next yr is when he’ll make his giant leap. Hopefully his progress is not held up this season by lastnite injury.

  • September 14, 2010  - Byzkit says:

    It was so awesome to see the D-Line look dominate…

  • September 14, 2010  - Tenand6 says:


    After reporting on the team through all those brutal days in St. Joe, it has to be great to be able to report on a game like this. Everyone paid their dues getting ready for the season.

    Winning “ugly,” to me, means Cassel is our weak link. That will be interesting to watch.

    I remember a Monday Night game when a Chief’s rookie got burned multiple times. Kevin Ross bounced back and became a very special player. I have to believe Eric Berry’s career will have a similar story arc.

    Here’s an idea: More J. Charles!

    Our D line looked very, very good. I hope T. Jackson is good to go next week. It looked like he took a step forward last night.

    Dorsey looked good, too.

    I was a little surprised Studabaker didn’t play more.

    D.J. played up to his potential. The Chiefs coaches deserve credit for bringing out the best in him.

    I’ll have to watch the game again to see if Hali was limited by his ankle injury. He needs to be 100% if we are going to get pressure on the QB. That was scary bad at times.

    The Chiefs looked like a tough, fast, disciplined and smart team last night. A big night for Haley. I like the guy so I was thrilled he got this win. His coordinators are outstanding and we may have a fun team to watch all year. We’ll see how man “W’s” they get, but it would be great to see a well coached team week in and week out.

    Thanks for the great reporting. Fantastic.

  • September 14, 2010  - Dave says:

    TX_ChiefAN–Berry blew it on the TD. Very costly error, but one that can be expected from a rookie making his first regular season start. Berry is going to be a stud.

    On the other hand, I am very close to losing all faith in Cassel.

  • September 14, 2010  - Rick says:

    I too found it surprising that Studebaker didn’t get more snaps on obvious passing downs. We sure could have used more pressure on Rivers.

  • September 14, 2010  - RW says:

    Huge victory for the good guys! The backup nearly cost the team the moment so that’s an issue very much in flux. Everyone else brought it and put it in the face of SD. A joy to watch.

  • September 14, 2010  - JohnNdallas says:

    Chiefs interior O-Line is horrific! Bob hasn’t been the only one touting the “much improved O-line” most members of the media seem to see something that I don’t see in that group. Until that O-line gets squared away, I’m going to reserve any real harsh criticism for Cassel. Having said that Haley has to be ecstatic over the way Richardson stepped in there and played well enough to give the coaches pause on who may win that starting job.

    Chiefs D played outstanding! Chiefs D was on the field 36 mins and it showed late, those last 2 drives by SD, the D-Line was exhausted, giving Rivers ALL Night to survey the field, the performance that the Chiefs Secondary displayed on those drives was monumental!

    Come on guys say it out loud…..

    The Division Leading Kansas City Chiefs!

  • September 14, 2010  - PAChiefsFan says:

    It was awesome to finally see the Chiefs in action. After following every word from Bob coming out of the off season and training camp, to actually see the Chiefs play and see what everyone was talking about was great. Thats what you get for being centrally located between Buffalo, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Seeing a Chiefs game is a rare opportunity.

    Somebody did their homework on the draft choices, nice picks. DJ proved he deserves to be with the first unit. Defense was aggressive and relentless. Charles showed last year was not a fluke. Way to go fans, it was great to hear Arrowhead rocking again. The TV was almost bouncing off the floor.

    Not perfect. Work to do. But it would appear progress is being made. Go Chiefs!

  • September 14, 2010  - Todd says:

    I’m with you, JohnNdallas. We can’t lose faith in Cassel, unless we put a lot of the blame on the Offensive Line. He needs more time in the pocket.

    That said, however, Cassel seems to miss a lot of open players and throws into double/triple coverage at times. I’m not sure what it takes to develop the kind of vision he needs. But it’s aggravating to see a dropped pass that was nearly intercepted when others are wide open.

    Also, as frustrated as I get with the O-line on pass plays, they are greatly improved on blocking for running plays.

    Last nights game was a nail biter, but I sure loved seeing the defense and special teams on fire! And that crowd noise was a thing of beauty!

    1-0 on the season. Hey we’re undefeated!!!


  • September 14, 2010  - Dave says:

    Very close to losing faith in Cassel, but not there yet :) .

    I understand the O-line isn’t great, but I’m noticing a trend of poor decision making from Cassel. Great QB’s typically become great because of good decisions and not perfect play from their team mates. I know he needs a ton of help, but I’m worried that anything short of “Patriot” talent won’t be enough. Not trying to be a bummer but we can’t count on special teams points in every game.

    The adrenaline is wearing off…wish I could head home and get some sleep!


  • September 14, 2010  - Rick says:

    I drank a big red glass of kool-aid last night after this game!!!

  • September 14, 2010  - dan in joplin says:

    I believe that all Cassel will be is a “game manager” type QB. Similiar to the announcer last night, Trent Dilfer. He won’t ever be a Brady, Brees or Manning or Rivers for that matter. IF our D continues to improve, we continue to run the ball, we get better @ catching the ball and can get good YAC and the special teams continue to be just that, SPECIAL, then that is all we need from him! I just think the expectations for him need to be real. Does he need to improve, YES, but so does everybody else on the TEAM!

  • September 14, 2010  - Russell says:

    I’m out in NM and it IS great to catch the Chiefs on the Nat TV. Great win, Cassel is Dilfer, and I see him as the ball controler-I LIKE Matt- Did you see him try to run over the guy at the Goal line! And if he loses games, Haley I don’t think wants to waste any more time with MC being the weak link. “YOUR ONLY AS STRONG AS YOUR WEAKEST LINK.”

  • September 14, 2010  - Edward says:

    Hey Bob you dropped the ball looked like Kendrick Lewis changed his number from 49 to 23.

  • September 14, 2010  - Russell says:


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