From Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
Todd Haley just can’t help himself. Where some coaches see danger, Haley sees opportunity. Where some who follow the football book see some things as dangerous and foolhardy, the Chiefs head coach sees nothing more than a calculated risk.
In the first 15 minutes of Sunday’s game against the Colts, Haley rolled the football dice twice. He came out a loser both times. Two weeks after taking some “calculated risks” against the 49ers and looking like a genius when they worked out, Haley understands that nobody will think him mentally gifted after an onside kick and then a fourth down gamble deep in scoring territory both went belly up.
“Everyone was on the Haley bandwagon last week,” the head coach said. “When they work, you are good. When they don’t work, you aren’t good. You know that going in.
“You have to do certain things against a team of this caliber. We set out trying to do that we just didn’t executive in some areas we had to.”
Here’s a look at the plays, how and why they came down.
Haley did some research last week on onside kicks. Specifically, he investigated what happened when teams started the game with an onside kick. “Going back to 2000, teams that have opened with an onside have had a plus-60 percent win percentage whether they got it or not,” Haley said.
OK, so let’s do our own research. First, check out the chart to the left and you’ll see that since 2000 and including this season, the onside kick is a 22-percent play no matter when it happens. Near as we can find, there were 10 times in those seasons where the team opened the game with an onside kick. They were successful half the time. Here’s how the winning and losing broke down:
- – Teams that opened with a successful onside kick went 3-2.
- – Teams that opened with an unsuccessful onside kick went 3-2.
- – Ten teams attempted onside kicks to start the game and went 6-4.
In Indianapolis on Sunday, the problem for the Chiefs was Ryan Succop’s dribbler did not travel the necessary 10 yards. Ultimately it rolled dead after seven yards and CB Javier Arenas picked the ball up. That got him a penalty flag for no yardage, but it was the smart play because any player from the Colts could have swooped in and grabbed the ball and taken off to the end zone.
“We felt really good about that play,” Haley said. “We knew we were going to have to probably steal a possession in this game a couple of different ways.”
One reason Haley believed the opening onside was important was because of the Colts penchant for scoring on their first possession in games. Since 2005, Indianapolis has played 85 regular season games and they’ve scored on their first possession 39 times, or 46 percent.
“They have a great ability to open a game moving down the field and getting points,” said Haley. “We thought it was a calculated risk. It was not going to lose the game and it didn’t.”
Thanks to the Chiefs defense, the Colts were not able to get into the end zone, despite having a very short field. Eventually, they had to settle for a field goal and a 3-0 lead.
4TH-AND-TWO @ COLTS 8-YARD LINE
The Chiefs got the ball on their first possession and QB Matt Cassel drove them down the field without a really big play along the way.
Eventually, they faced a fourth down situation at the Indianapolis eight-yard line with 2:09 to play in the quarter. The Chiefs lined up to go for it, but then they called a timeout to talk about the situation.
After the break, they came out and lined up with two backs, two tight ends and one wide receiver. From the time he dropped back to throw the ball, Cassel wasn’t looking for the two yards to get a first down; he was looking in the end zone. That’s where WR Dwayne Bowe had run to just inside the goal line, with TE Tony Moeaki running a deeper route in the end zone right behind him.
Cassel threw the ball to Bowe and it was knocked down by LB Gary Brackett and instead of potentially being tied with the Colts after what would have been a 26-yard FG by Succop, they were still down by three points and had blown an opportunity.
“It was a time in the game where we felt that we were going to take a shot,” said Cassel. “The play worked out perfectly. Unfortunately we weren’t able to make that play. That stuff happens. We’re going to have to overcome that.”
That is the situation with Haley’s two gambles. Both happened early in the game and there was plenty of time for the Chiefs to make plays to overcome the three points they gave up and the three points they didn’t get.
“I didn’t believe that going for it there was going to win or lose the game for us,” said Haley. “You set your game plan, you letter your players and team now how you’re going to play and then you go out and try to do it.”