What To Worry About … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs

I hear from a lot of Chiefs fans. Whether e-mail, voice-mail, text or just old-fashioned snail mail, the emotions, questions and analysis never stop.

I think that allows me to paint a pretty good picture of the outward happiness and inner torment those in the Chiefs Nation are dealing with right now at 5-2 and in first place in the AFC West. Its happiness over the surprising start, but there remains a nagging suspicion that it all could still be a mirage and will suddenly be ripped away and the 10-38 football of the last three years will return.

There is also the realization that there’s a lot of football left to play and there have been too many disappointments in the past to let loose with unqualified glee for a veteran of the red and gold wars.

So what’s there to worry about if you are a Chiefs fan? Let’s crystallize it down to four factors that are a concern. That we can narrow it down to four tells you how improved this team is after seven games. At this time last year there were at minimum a dozen things for Chiefs Nation to worry about, including whether the head coach would survive the season.

Progress has been made, but worries still exist. Here they are:  


The Chiefs have nine games left with seven teams. Those clubs are a combined 25-29 right now and only Seattle (4-3) and Tennessee (5-3) have winning records.

But here’s what a Chiefs fan has to worry about – five of the next seven games are on the road. Yes, at the end if the Chiefs can stay alive they finish up with two home games over the Christmas and New Year’s weekends. That’s good.

What they must do is come through this stretch where they play at Oakland and Denver, come home for a week and then play at Seattle, come home for a week and then go to San Diego and St. Louis back-to-back.

Winning on the road is a tough assignment. In the previous three seasons they were 6-18, with three of those victories coming in Oakland. Since the 2004 season, they are 16-36 on the road, with six of those victories on the Raiders home field.

“I think first and foremost you are changing your comfort zone,” said head coach Todd Haley. “The comfort level goes way down even in places where you play every year. Really, you are there once a year at the most, some places you are there one time every five years and you have new players all the time. Comfort level I think is a big thing.”

They won in Denver in the ’09 season finale. They’ve not pulled a victory out of Seattle since 2000. At San Diego it was ’07 the last time they won and ’06 in St. Louis.

The Chiefs have not won back-to-back road games since December 2004 when they won at Oakland and Tennessee.

Maybe this group is different on the road. In Haley’s 23 games in charge, they are 4-7 on the road. That’s not great, but it’s not terrible either.


The Chiefs are not a deep team when it comes to talent, especially experienced talent. If one of those bad injury stretches hits this team it could easily sink their ability to win.

Take LT Branden Albert, who is having a very good season. If he were to go down, who replaces him? Would they really move Brian Waters to left tackle on a weekly basis? That would leave positions weakened. They could move Barry Richardson from RT, but he’s not the left tackle type. Ryan O’Callaghan, the only other tackle on the roster is definitely not the left tackle type.

How about OLB Tamba Hali? There’s no one on the roster that has shown the pass rushing capabilities of Hali. If here were to go down, more than likely Andy Studebaker would come into the starting lineup. Studebaker’s a talented guy, but he’s no Hali when it comes to rushing the passer.

What if Brandon Flowers or Brandon Carr should be taken out of the lineup? Rookie Javier Arenas has done a nice job as the nickel, but there’s a question of whether he could handle the corner down after down.

Losing ILB Derrick Johnson, DE Glenn Dorsey, SS Eric Berry or either RB Jamaal Charles or Thomas Jones would cause a domino effect when it comes to filling the hole created by injury.

Players get hurt, and the Chiefs have a lot of those even now. They also get injured; it’s a fact of life in the collision sport. A streak of bad luck with the joints or bones could make it extremely difficult for them to compete.


Those ugly days where the Chiefs could barely get into double digits over an entire season with sacks are gone. But this is still not a team that gets to the passer nearly enough.

The Chiefs are No. 16 in yards allowed right now, right in the middle of the league. For a bend-but-don’t-break defensive team, that’s a pretty good ranking. But with 15 sacks they trail all but four teams in that group of 16. The best defense in the league so far has been San Diego, and the Chargers have 25 sacks. The New York Giants are No. 2, and they have 24 sacks. That’s the same number that the Raiders have.

Those 15 sacks have come on 286 passing plays, or one sack every 19 times the opponent goes back to pass. That ranks them No. 20 in sacks per passing plays among NFL defenses and it’s not good enough. That’s especially so when almost half of those sacks come from one man – Hali with seven. There are only five K.C. defensive players that have been credited with sacks. Compare that to the Raiders with nine players getting credit for all or part of Oakland’s 24 sacks.

Understand that the sack total does not always tell the whole story when it comes to pressure. The lack of a consistent pass rush shows up in the takeaways. They have just nine takeaways in seven games (six interceptions and three fumble recoveries.) Pressure on leads to poorly thrown passes that are inaccurate and badly placed. It also leads to the pass rush hat trick – the sack, strip and recovery.

The Chiefs do not have a sack, strip and recovery this year.


Since Dexter McCluster went 94 yards with a punt return for a touchdown in the season opener against San Diego, the Chiefs have not managed much of anything in the return game and its hurt them in the battle for field position.

McCluster and Javier Arenas have handled all the returns, with Arenas going solo in the last two games. Since the 94-yard score, only two punt returns went for more than 20 yards, the longest being a 36-yard return in the opener by Arenas. On kickoff returns, there are only two returns that topped 30 yards, with the longest being a 33-yarder against Houston from Arenas.

“We need to just get better in all areas,” said Haley of the return game. “Some of that is just getting the right kick at the right time. As we saw last week with the Bills and their punter, what a terrific job he did punting the football and that really had a great affect on our ability to return punts. This kicker this week, (Sebastian) Janikowski, he’ll hit a bunch that go right through the end zone so there will be nothing we’ll be able to do there.”

Since the opener, the Chiefs have averaged just 7.9 yards per punt return. They’ve faced four of the top 15 punts in the league and there are four more on their schedule.

It’s unlikely to get any better on kickoffs either. The Chiefs have faced three of the top 20 kickers in the league in touchbacks on kickoffs. Coming up they have two of the top four in Janikowski and Denver’s Matt Prater.

OK, so there’s a foursome of factors Chiefs fans can worry about. All will be in play this week in the AFC West battle at Oakland.


Thanks to a 2-for-1 promotion by the radio network that carries Raiders games, the number of empty seats is falling rapidly for Sunday’s game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. No word from the Raiders on the number of seats they must sell by 1:15 p.m. Thursday (California) time. If they are anywhere close, the NFL will give them an extension. Everybody, especially the Raiders and the NFL, want to see this game on TV in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Raiders have had 11 straight local TV blackouts.

The weather forecast for the East Bay on Sunday is not good: mostly cloudy, good chance of rain, with temperatures in the low 60s. It’s just mid-season, but the grass playing surface at the Coliseum is always problematic when it rains.


  • AFC – named Jaguars QB David Garrard offensive player of the week; Colts DE Dwight Freeney as defensive player of the week; Dolphins K Dan Carpenter as special teams player of the week.
  • NFC – named Lions WR Calvin Johnson offensive player of the week; Buccaneers CB Aqib Talib as defensive player of the week; Packers P Tim Masthay as special teams player of the week.
  • BILLS – claimed LB Shawne Merriman on waivers from the Chargers; placed OT Cornell Green on the injured-reserve list (knee) ending his season.
  • BUCCANEERS – signed DT Al Woods off the Raiders practice squad.
  • CARDINALS – named Derek Anderson as the starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Vikings.
  • DOLPHINS – claimed DB Nate Ness off waivers from the Seahawks.
  • PANTHERS – claimed LB Jason Williams off waivers from the Cowboys; released LB Abdul Hodge.
  • SEAHAWKS – signed DE Jay Richardson, last with the Raiders; signed C/G Chris White, formerly with the Texans; re-signed WR Ruvell Martin.
  • TITANS – claimed WR Randy Moss on waivers from the Vikings; placed LB Jamie Winborn on the injured-reserve list (shoulder) ending his season.
  • VIKINGS – activated WR Sidney Rice from the reserve/PUP list.

9 Responses to “What To Worry About … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • November 4, 2010  - Merwin says:

    Add to that list as number five, the passing game. With no real number two receiver and Dexter Mcluster hurt we are having problems moving the ball through the air.

  • November 4, 2010  - Pat says:

    I must admit that I am cautiously optimistic about our team this year–but I still keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Over the years, I’ve gotten too used to giving up on them when they blow a lead in the third or fourth quarter because precedent had taught me that they WOULD blow the lead and never get it back.

    These last few games have been a learning experience for me, though, especially against Buffalo. In the past, a bad team was pretty guaranteed a victory over the Chiefs–for some reason, we would compete against the good teams, but then someone like Cleveland would come in and steamroll us.

    Last week, when Buffalo tied it up, I all but washed my hands of the game, figuring the offense and then the defense would choke. Then they surprised me and pulled it out in the last seconds. So, while I remain cautiously optimistic, these Chiefs are teaching me to be more optimistic and less cautious, and I like it!

  • November 4, 2010  - RW says:

    Bottom line to all this is that the Chiefs will have to continue to win ugly. No aerial circus shows, only the grind ‘em out type games limiting turnovers and doing the basics like tackling and doing it consistently well.

    Lose pretty or win ugly? I think all of us will, or should, take the latter given the realities of the roster and schedule.

  • November 4, 2010  - el cid says:

    “Win ugly” is just so much coachspeak put out by Haley. Also “the process”. You win or lose. You are better than the team you play, or better coached, or get a “lucky break/bounce”. You just strap on your helmet and play your heart out.

    That said we surviving by running the ball. In Oakland I expect no less. Unless Weis goes peculiar again and does odd things the first qtr or on 3 or 4 down. We have no #2 WR and are not going to get one this year. If any team can stop the Chiefs running attack, we lose (all other things being equal).

    I hope some of you noted Bob’s comments on Arenas. A lot of truth, some refuse to see.

    I want coach Haley and staff to not jump into the bag of tricks. Run the damn ball down their throats and beat them, 3-0 is good enough, heck, a safety and hold on is good enough. Just win the game.

  • November 4, 2010  - Tim says:

    I agree with everything Bob has mentioned except the return game. People are taking us out of it with their kicks BECAUSE we’ve proven to be dangerous. Additionally, we rarely just let balls drop & roll anymore thus creating better field position. Haley’s correct in that the return game is much about getting the right kick at the right time.

    As for Arenas on D…we’ll see how he develops, but seems to me he has trouble staying with a receiver more than a couple of strides or so out of a receiver’s cut.

  • November 4, 2010  - matt says:

    “You play to win the game!!!!”

  • November 4, 2010  - PAChiefsFan says:

    I don’t have what David Garrard’s stats were in front of me but was his performance really better than Jamaal Charles offensive performance to be the AFC Offensive Player of the Week?

  • November 4, 2010  - Andy says:

    Bob do you know if the Chiefs will wear red pants sunday? i so hate the white on white.

  • November 4, 2010  - Mark says:

    I see the Raiders got a 24 hour extension to try to sell out the game on Sunday.

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