Game-Plan Sunday … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs

From Houston, Texas

It has been one of the favorite subjects of discussions among those in the Chiefs Nation this past week – how will the Chiefs attack the Texans and return to their winning ways?

The Chiefs and Texans will kickoff at noon Sunday at Reliant Stadium. TV coverage is on CBS.

Will this be the game where QB Matt Cassel rips apart a battered Texans secondary? Will the Chiefs assign their best player CB Brandon Flowers to cover Houston’s best player WR Andre Johnson (right)? Might this game be decided by the running game of both teams that rank in the league’s top 10?

These two teams share many characteristics, but the biggest one makes them part of a very large group of NFL teams. While both have winning records – the Chiefs at 3-1 and Houston holding a 3-2 mark – they are flawed teams. There does not appear to be a great team in the NFL so far this season. There are a few good ones and a few bad ones, but the bulk of the league is stuck in the middle. Those teams have parts that are strong and productive, but they also have facets of the team that are not up to average NFL standards, let alone that of a contender. It’s what makes them all pretenders right now.  

In this game between the Chiefs and Texans, the weaknesses match up. The Chiefs have trouble throwing the football, ranking No. 27 in passing yards. That’s one reason their third-down conversion percentage is so low and why they are forced off the field so much. The Texans have trouble stopping the pass, ranking No. 32 and dead last among league defenses, allowing 329.6 yards per game.

Flip the coin and the strengths of these teams also go head-to-head. The Chiefs are among the league’s best running teams, ranked third in the league. The Texans are pretty darn good against the run and are ranked fifth. Houston also has had great success running the football this season, with the fifth most rushing yards on offense. The K.C. defense has done a very good job with their run defense, ranked at No. 6 at this point.

Strength against strength; weakness against weakness. It’s one of those games that figures to become a chess match, especially since both clubs are so-called “game plan” teams. The modern definition of that football term is they fit their plan on offense and defense to what they expect to see from the opponent.

“I’ve seen enough versatility or variables in the way they’ve done things in all areas for that to be clear,” Chiefs head coach Todd Haley said of the Texans. “They have a plan for each team they play.

“That’s part of the deal – you have to come out and part of playing better than your opponent is figuring out fast how they’re trying to defend you, attack you and so forth.”

Every coaching staff that’s ever put together a game plan has tried to take advantage of the weaknesses of the other team. But those old days when NFL teams basically ran the same offense and defense from week-to-week is dying. In that thinking the idea was to train the players to run the same plays or scheme, and that would improve their ability to execute.

More and more teams are going the direction of the Chiefs and Texans. For instance, everyone knows Haley and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis want to run the ball. We know this because they frequently remind us.

“We go into every game, the first thing we try to do is establish the run,” Weis said this week. “That’s what we try to do and the passing game springs off of there.”

But it’s how the Chiefs will go about running the ball that changes. With tools like Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster in the backfield, there are a lot of different avenues for the play calling to take each week against different defenses.

Against Indianapolis last Sunday, coordinator Romeo Crennel showed what happens when you a team game plans for each opponent. The Chiefs went with a base 2-4-5 defense, something Crennel has used many times in the past against QB Peyton Manning and the Colts. When it was an obvious passing situation, they went to a 2-3-6. But that change had a wrinkle because S Jon McGraw was a defensive back in the base, and then really played a linebacker spot in the sub-defense.

“You have to adapt to what you are going to see and what you think the other team does and try to put yourself in the best position to play that team,” said Crennel. “That does change from week to week and so this week it will be different from last week. Next week will be different from this week. We look at the guys we are playing and try to determine what we need to stop and how we are playing ourselves because that has a lot of impact as well.”

The offensive strengths of the Texans are WR Andre Johnson, QB Matt Schaub and RB Arian Foster. They also have a nice tight end in Owen Daniels. Given how badly the New York Giants crushed Houston last week (34-10) at Reliant Stadium, it would not be a surprise to see head coach Gary Kubiak try to re-establish some toughness with his offense.

Defensively, the Texans secondary is young and the cornerbacks Kareem Jackson and Glover Quin have been picked on week-after-week. Houston has allowed 11 touchdown passes against four interceptions and the duo of Jackson-Quin has just one of those picks.

What will the Chiefs do on offense? Will they try to hammer the Texans defense, or will they go after the troubled secondary? No matter what the plan is going into the game, the Chiefs have considered what the next step will be after Houston makes its initial moves.

This is where it really becomes a chess match.

“You definitely think that way,” said Haley. “You have a plan, that’s part of your plan, we’re going to do this, this and this and then we’re going to do this, this and this. If they’re doing this, then we’re going to have to do this. That’s part of the deal. That’s why those Mondays and Tuesdays seem like they go on forever but then yet you never have enough time; you’re scrambling right up until Wednesday meetings.”

One edge the Chiefs have is on special teams, where their kickers, returners and coverage teams rank ahead of the Texans in all but one category – kickoff returns. The Chiefs need a healthy Javier Arenas back and returning kickoffs this week, something he hasn’t done since the San Francisco game.

The game’s outcome won’t come down to the best game plan. It will come down to the best game plan that’s implemented by the players on the field. Drawing it up on paper, reacting to an opponent’s reaction … it’s all well and good. But if the guys with the helmets on can’t make it work, it doesn’t matter.

But change the plan each week, the Chiefs will.

“It’s probably an overrated term but I’ve just always known that the way that I was brought up was a game plan coach,” said Haley.


  • BRONCOS – released RB Andre Brown and OL D’Anthony Batiste; promoted from their practice squad S Kyle McCarthy and LB Kevin Alexander.
  • GIANTS – signed K Shayne Graham; placed WR Victor Cruz on the injured-reserve list (hamstring) ending his season.
  • LIONS – signed TE Tony Scheffler to a 3-year contract extension through the 2013 season. The deal included a $2 million signing bonus.

5 Responses to “Game-Plan Sunday … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs”

  • October 17, 2010  - KC_Guy says:

    This game may/will show what the Chiefs really think about Matt Cassel and the reiciving corps. If they don’t attack Houston’s secondary it becomes more than obvious they don’t trust their air game.

  • October 17, 2010  - aPauled says:

    Disagree. KC is a running team. Good running teams run on anybody. May have to keep changing it up with Charles/Jones/McCluster, but we still have to establish and live off of the run.

    With the Texans secondary, Cassel should hit on the passes that he does make. I don’t see us passing anymore than usual though (55/45 run).

  • October 17, 2010  - el cid says:

    Without repeating over and over, listing the names of under preformers, etc. There is no reason to assume the Chiefs “trust” their passing game. Trust what? It has not been there and on the road where are the offensive tds.

    Need to hope the Special Teams step it up again. They have been decent but very ordinary recently. Of course the defense has to play like they are totally nutz.

  • October 17, 2010  - Edward says:

    It’s no question Cassel can win games with his arm don’t believe go watch them New England highlights that’s all they did he threw deep, middle, and short. Question is will the receiving core finally shake its underperformancing and emerge as some kind of a threat. Bowe and Chambers need to step up. Bowe has been one of the offseason stars. All I read about was great he’s looked since going to Fitzgerald camp. Its time for all that hard work to come to fruition in the games and it needs to start Sunday. Chambers has to earn his money. We gave him second chance after being dumped by the Chargers. He needs to earn his money by hanging on to the ball and getting separation. If he’s hurt then sit and allow someone like Jeremy Horne to get on the field and make some plays. Where is Dexter in the passing game. I’ve seen few plays last game where they tried get him the ball he’s got to catch and when runnning his routes he has to maintain his footing. Moeaki just needs to keep doing what he’s doing. As for running game no question we just have to keep running the football to setup play-action pass.

    As for defense side. Stop Foster and contain Andre Johnson. If Chiefs can do that should be able to shut down Texans offense. Texans don’t have good enough 2 and 3 receivers to take pressure off Andre Johnson. Daniels is good the tight end so they need keep eye on him but if you stop Johnson and Foster you preety much can shut down Texans offense. Get after Schuab. Tamba is facing Texans second string offensive tackle since their starting left tackle is suspended. So he should have a big day.

  • October 17, 2010  - RW says:

    When/if/until the Chiefs iron out their inconsistencies, it’ll be ‘What team is showing up today?’ time again. I think they’ll attempt to do what they do best and be consistent in doing it like running/taking care of the ball and playing strong defense.

    They do that, and I like their chances for a W, regardless of whether Cassel/Bowe and the receivers turn their individual games around.

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