With a bye weekend at his disposal, Matt Cassel didn’t head to either coast, or Vegas, or back to his alma mater at Southern Cal.
Cassel stayed in Kansas City. He spent time with his wife and other family members. Cassel got some coach time and suffered through watching Oregon rise up and batter his Trojans. Considering how the first part of this season has gone, Cassel’s lucky he didn’t have to spend his off weekend in traction.
“The break was great,” Cassel said on Thursday as the Chiefs continued their preparations for Sunday’s game in Jacksonville. “To get a few days away from here, to re-energize, come back focused, ready to go. We need to start getting on a roll here and hopefully we can start putting some wins together.”
One of the ways the Chiefs can get the roll going that Cassel is talking about would be more production at the start of the game from the Chiefs offense. So far this season, they have been ineffective and unproductive on the first play, first possession and first quarter. There isn’t anything where the Chiefs rank first near the middle of the 2009 season.
It’s a pretty gruesome offensive picture early in these games:Β
In their first seven plays in a game, the Chiefs have gained 34 yards or less than five yards per play. But that’s misleading because nearly half of those yards came on a single play. Here are the first snaps for the Chiefs offense:
- Baltimore β Larry Johnson run for five yards.
- Oakland β Quentin Lawrence end-around run for 16 yards.
- Philadelphia β Matt Cassel pass to Mark Bradley for four yards.
- N.Y. Giants β Johnson run for two yards.
- Dallas β Johnson run for four yards.
- Washington β Cassel to Bobby Wade for zero yards.
- San Diego β Johnson run for three yards.
On average, the Chiefs began their first play with a 1st-and-10 at their 23-yard line.
The Chiefs have had seven first possessions that have all ended with punts by Dustin Colquitt. They are the only team in the league that has ended all of their first trips with the ball by punting it away.
Their first possessions have produced no points; making them one of four teams without points, joining Denver, Houston and Oakland.
Here’s how those first possessions went down:
- Baltimore β three plays, one-yard gained, punt.
- Oakland β four plays, 19 yards, punt.
- Philadelphia β five plays, minus-five yards, punt.
- N.Y. Giants β three plays, eight yards, punt.
- Dallas β four plays, six yards, first down by penalty, punt.
- Washington β three plays, zero yards, punt.
- San Diego β three plays, three yards, punt.
That’s 25 plays, 32 yards, one first down by penalty and seven punts.
No team has scored fewer points in the first quarter than the Chiefs with their six points, a pair of Ryan Succop FGs. Here’s how it looked offensively in the first quarter:
- Baltimore β six plays, five yards, no first downs.
- Oakland β 23 plays, 99 yards, five first downs, one FG.
- Philadelphia β 11 plays, zero yards, one first down by penalty.
- N.Y. Giants β 11 plays, 33 yards, one first down, one FG.
- Dallas β eight plays, seven yards, one first down by penalty.
- Washington β 20 plays, 63 yards, three first downs.
- San Diego β 11 plays, 18 yards, no first downs.
Overall, the Chiefs have had 21 possessions in the first quarter, or that started in that period; eleven of those went three plays and out. They’ve had 90 offensive plays that gained 225 yards, or an average of 2.5 yards per play.
That’s the offensive ugliness. So how do the Chiefs turn this around?
“I think we just have to get into a rhythm early,” said Cassel. “I think we’ve struggled a little to get into a rhythm early, whether it be getting in third-and-long situations early in the game and not being able to keep the drive alive. Then all of a sudden we’ll get into a little bit of a rhythm, but we need to do it earlier.
“I can’t pinpoint one thing for you and say we need to run the ball more or we need to hit more short passes. I think we just need to come together as a unit and make a few first downs and get going early.”
The offensive coordinator can help with his play selection. The Chiefs are five runs to two passes on those first plays, a trend most defenses won’t have trouble deciphering. That’s slightly higher at 71 percent, than Haley has been in overall 1st-and-10 play selection, where he’s 60 percent run, 40 percent pass.
Overall, the Chiefs are 54 percent pass, 46 percent run through their 443 offensive plays, not surprising given the types of games they’ve been involved in during this 1-6 season, trying to make up points on the second half scoreboard.
Better kick and punt returns setting up field position for that first possession would be helpful as well. They got the ball three times on kickoffs, with an average start at the 24.3-yard line. The other four times came on punts, with three returns and one fair catch, an average of nine yards per return.
Better results on returns would give Haley more options in play calling thanks to improved field position.
Seven weeks in the offense and a bye-week to work on the system may also help. But there’s no question that the Chiefs need to find more success on their first chance with the ball. At the end of the first quarter, they are losing 45-6. They are down 77-33 at half-time. In seven games, they’ve had just one lead at the end of the first 15 minutes, a 3-0 advantage against the Raiders. They’ve been down 14-0 twice, 10-0 another time and 7-3. Two games they were even at 0-0 at the start of the second quarter.
Obviously the defense needs to step forward in that first period as well. But that 39-point differential rests largely on the offense’s ledger.
Haley has set up practices in hopes of getting out of the blocks faster.
“Every period we start out here we talk about starting fast,” Haley said. “You’ve got to catch the ball, got to get our blocks; quarterback has got to get rid of the football, all different things a period starts that’s as close as we can get to starting a game.
“(Friday) we’ll do a period that will be the next closest to starting a game. You just have to coach it up, try to come up with the right mix of plays that give you the right opportunity to start fast and guys can execute. There are a lot of factors and you just don’t know.
“I’ve been on teams that were great starters and been on teams where we were slow starters. I think it would definitely serve us well to start faster.”
SIGNINGS, INJURIES & MOVEMENT AROUND THE LEAGUE
- COLTS β have lost CB Marlin Jackson for the rest of the season with a knee injury suffered in practice on Wednesday.
- FALCONS β placed S Jamaal Fudge and C Mike Schneck on the injured-reserve list; signed C Bryan Pittman and S Charlie Peprah.
- TEXANS β placed TE Owen Daniels on the injured-reserve list; activated DE Jesse Nading from the practice squad.
FROM THE PAGES OF CHIEFS HISTORY
On November 6, 1960, the Dallas Texans beat the Buffalo Bills 45-28 at War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo. Details on this game coming later today.
On November 6, 1966, the Chiefs beat the San Diego Chargers 24-14 at Municipal Stadium in front of a crowd of 40,986 fans. The Chiefs got all the points they needed in the first half, as QB Len Dawson threw a pair of TD passes and RB Bert Coan scored on a one-yard run. Dawson found WR Otis Taylor for 27 yards and WR Chris Burford for 10-yard scoring tosses. San Diego QB John Hadl (left) threw a pair of TD passes to WR Lance Alworth of seven and 46 yards. Chiefs RB Curtis McClinton ran 23 times for 90 yards and Burford caught five passes for 77 yards. The KC defense got interceptions from FS Johnny Robinson and CB Willie Mitchell.
On November 6, 1977, the Chiefs beat the Green Bay Packers 20-10 at Arrowhead Stadium in their first game after the firing of head coach Paul Wiggin. With interim head coach Tom Bettis running the team a crowd of 62,687 fans watching, the Chiefs offense had a nearly 10-minute advantage in time of possession, while the Kansas City defense held Green Bay to 199 offensive yards. The Chiefs had a one-yard touchdown run by RB Ed Podolak and a three-yard TD pass from QB Mike Livingston to WR Henry Marshall. Podolak finished the game with 98 yards on 18 carries, while also catching four passes for 51 yards. The Chiefs defense sacked Green Bay QB Lynn Dickey three times. After the game, Bettis announced that the game ball was going to go to a fellow in Mission with the initials P.W.
On November 6, 1983, the Chiefs lost to the Raiders 28-20 at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Chiefs held a 13-7 lead at the start of the fourth quarter, thanks to a pair of Nick Lowery FGs and a one-yard TD run by RB Theotis Brown. But Raiders QB Jim Plunkett came off the bench and led the L.A. offense to a pair of touchdowns, on a one-yard run by RB Marcus Allen and a 19-yard TD throw to WR Dokie Williams. The Chiefs got a TD on a two-yard pass from QB Bill Kenney (right) to RB Ken Thomas. The Raiders scored last, as LB Rod Martin returned an interception 40 yards for a TD. DE Art Still had three sacks.
On November 6, 1988, the Chiefs lost to the Denver Broncos 17-11 at Mile High Stadium. The KC offense struggled in this game, unable to score a touchdown. The Chiefs only points came on a safety from the defense and a hat trick of Nick Lowery FGs. The Broncos got a pair of TDs from their offense, as RB Sammy Winder scored on a one-yard run and QB John Elway threw a six-yard TD pass to WR Vance Johnson.
On November 6, 1994, the Chiefs beat the Los Angeles Raiders 13-3 in a Sunday night game at Arrowhead Stadium. In front of 78,709 fans and a national TV audience, the Chiefs defense dominated the game, allowing the Raiders only three points, while forcing three turnovers and five sacks. Safeties Charles Mincy and William White had the interceptions, while DE Neil Smith had two sacks and DE Darren Mickell and LBs Derrick Thomas and George Jamison added one sack each. The only touchdown of the game came in the second quarter when QB Joe Montana hooked up with TE Derrick Walker on a 57-yard scoring throw. K Lin Elliott had a pair of field goals.
SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY β¦
Born on November 6, 1971 in Detroit was WR Derrick Alexander. He joined the Chiefs as an unrestricted free agent in 1998, after spending four seasons with the Browns/Ravens franchise. Alexander spent four seasons with the Chiefs (1998-2001), appearing in 60 games with 56 starts. He caught 213 passes for 3,685 yards and 19 TD catches. Alexander’s best season was 2000, when he caught 78 passes for 1,391 yards and 10 TDS. That yardage total is the single season franchise record. He also has one of the longest runs in Chiefs history, going 82 yards with an end-around against Pittsburgh in 1989. Alexander finished his career with one season in Minnesota.