A game of football is built on decision making. Coaches, players and officials make decisions on top of decisions, dozens of them every minute.
When a team wins, the decisions are good, even if they are bad. If a team loses the game, the decisions are bad, even if they were good.
Todd Haley was a genius on Sunday, just a week after he was considered a dolt even in a winning effort against Oakland. Getting the unexpected victory over the Steelers was built on many decisions and a lot of them went the Chiefs way.
Here are four decisions that came down on Sunday that helped the Chiefs to victory.
1. CHIEFS WIN OPENING TOSS AND TAKE THE BALL
The last two times the Chiefs won the opening coin toss, they deferred their choice to the second half. But not this week, as they decided to take the kickoff, while the Steelers chose to defend the west end zone.
We all know what happened next: Jamaal Charles ran the kickoff back 97 yards to put the Chiefs on the scoreboard after just 16 seconds
So why did the Chiefs make the decision to take the kick?
“That’s just an instinct thing,” said Haley. “You try to talk to your staff the night before the game and make a decision. You might have to change on the fly, because of weather conditions, a lot of different factors. That will be something different every week.”
One factor that fed Haley’s instinct was the fact the Steelers had already allowed three kickoff return touchdowns in the previous four games.
2. CHIEFS LEAVE THREE TIMEOUTS ON THE FIELD IN FIRST HALF
At the end of the second quarter, the Chiefs got the ball at their 30-yard line with 70 seconds to play and all three timeouts still available to them. They trailed 17-7.
When the half ended, the Chiefs had run off five plays, gained 11 yards and lost seven yards on a sack. They still had all three of their timeouts.
Why did Haley make the decision to not use his first half timeouts in that situation?
“We had a clear-cut, distinct plan against this team in what could and couldn’t happen,” said Haley. “And if we were going to error, we were going to error on the conservative side. I felt good with where we were and I did not want something negative to happen at that stage, which you see happen in the league. You are trying to do something at the end of the half and something negative happens, and now all the sudden the game is over.”
Haley’s philosophy on his game plan and approach against the Steelers was very much like the plan and way the Arizona Cardinals offense played against the Steelers on February 1 in the Super Bowl. That night, the Cardinals offense was pretty conservative for three quarters, but then in the fourth quarter they opened things up and scored a pair of Kurt Warner to Larry Fitzgerald TD passes.
“I would agree somewhat,” said Haley. “Good teams, there isn’t a lot of trickery that’s going to work out for you or fakes and those kind of things. You’ve got to execute, you’ve got to bring your A game, you’ve got to be physical.”
3. CHIEFS PASS RUSH PRESSURE FINALLY SACKS ROETHLISBERGER
In the first half, Roethlisberger threw 20 passes and was not sacked. He was almost sacked a bunch of times, but the Chiefs were never able to get him on the ground. The Pittsburgh quarterback shed some sackers, bounced off others, but always got the throw off. Most of the time, he stood back there with all the time in the world to throw the ball. It’s why he was completing 16 of 20 passes, or 80 percent of his throws.
At half-time, Haley and the Chiefs defensive staff discussed things. They tweaked a few things in the scheme. What kind of things? That type of stuff is guarded more closely than launch codes.
But whatever decisions were made, they worked. Roethlisberger hit 16 of 22 passes, but was sacked three times and intercepted twice.
“I thought we made some really good adjustments at halftime, changed it up a little bit to provide some pressure,” said Haley. “Getting three sacks against that guy is always good. He got out of some and I don’t know how he gets out of them. He’s a great player.”
4. THE PIVOT POINT OF THE GAME
The Chiefs had two tires hanging over the lip of the cliff, getting ready to plunge into the canyon of defeat. There was 7 minutes, 37 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Matt Cassel had fumbled a few minutes earlier and the Steelers took that turnover and found seven points to go up 24-17.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Chiefs were penalized for an illegal block and started their possession at their nine-yard line. The first down play was an incomplete pass from Cassel to FB Mike Cox. The second down play was a Cassel to WR Chris Chambers that produced just one yard.
Facing 3rd-and-9, with the game hanging in the balance the Chiefs called timeout.
What was discussed? What was decided? With the chance to win the game about to disappear, what was the plan?
Again, Haley provides few details. But he acknowledged how important this moment was.
“After the fumble and getting behind, momentum was turning, you could feel it going the other way,” said Haley. “Now was the time to make a play. I’ve told Matt (Cassel) many times that great players make big plays in critical situations.”
With the outcome of the game dangling by a thread, Cassel stepped up. Haley called the play, and the Chiefs quarterback went back and didn’t look just 10 yards for the first down. Cassel went down the field and connected with WR Lance Long for a 30-yard gain.
“I thought he made a tremendous throw, into tough coverage,” said Haley. “It was probably our best protection of the day; that was another thing that was talked about, just give Matt a little time and we’ll make something happen. Lance ran a very good route and he caught the ball and hung on with a pretty big hit.
“It was just about ‘Hey we have to make a play here.’ That was one of the key plays of the game.”
A play was made, and some 2:43 later, the Chiefs had the game tying touchdown, which led to the overtime, which led to the game-winning field goal.
It was a day where more decisions went right for the Chiefs. It was a day where Todd Haley’s football IQ went up, and it’s a week where he will not be considered the village’s pigskin idiot
SIGNINGS, INJURIES & MOVEMENT AROUND THE LEAGUE
- BILLS β lost both of their starting guards to injuries suffered in loss to the Jaguars. Eric Wood suffered a compound fracture in his right leg and Seth McKinney suffered a knee injury.
- COLTS β placed OT Daniel Federkeil on the injured-reserve list; promoted S De’von Hall from the practice squad.
- DOLPHINS β placed NT Jason Ferguson on the injured-reserve list.
- JAGUARS β placed LB Bryan Smith on the injured-reserve list; promoted DE Jeremy Navarre from the practice squad.
- LIONS β QB Matt Stafford has a separated left (non-throwing) shoulder and is unlikely to play on Thanksgiving Day against Green Bay.
- PACKERS β have lost OLB Aaron Kampman and CB Al Harris for the season due to knee injuries suffered on Sunday against the 49ers.
- RAIDERS β placed LB Ricky Brown on the injured-reserve list (knee).
- RAMS β QB Marc Bulger will be out three to six weeks with a fractured knee.
- RAVENS β have lost CB Fabian Washington for the rest of the season due to a knee injury.
- REDSKINS β placed RB Ladell Betts, G Chad Rinehart and TE Eddie Williams on the injured-reserve list.
- SAINTS β signed CB Mike McKenzie.
- STEELERS β lost QB Charlie Batch for six weeks because of a wrist injury that requires surgery. Batch suffered the injury sometime in the game against the Chiefs on Sunday.
FROM THE PAGES OF CHIEFS HISTORY
On November 24, 1960, the Dallas Texans lost to the New York Titans 41-35 at the Polo Grounds. More on this game from the franchise’s inaugural season later today.
On November 24, 1974, the Chiefs lost to the Cincinnati Bengals 33-6 at Riverfront Stadium. The Cincinnati defense allowed the Chiefs just 174 offensive yards, while QB Ken Anderson (right) was leading the Bengals offense to 438 yards and four touchdowns. Anderson threw three TD passes, two to WR Isaac Curtis. The Bengals got another score when they recovered a blocked punt in the end zone. CB Emmitt Thomas had an interception for the Chiefs.
On November 24, 1985, the Chiefs beat the Indianapolis Colts 20-7 at Arrowhead Stadium. Just 21,762 fans showed up for this game where the Chiefs offense dominated the ball and scored a pair of touchdowns. QB Todd Blackledge threw a 22-yard scoring pass to WR Stephone Paige. Later RB Mike Pruitt scored on a two-yard run. Nick Lowery had a pair of FGs. Blackledge was 16 of 31 for 246 yards. The KC defense had an interception by LB Scott Radecic and sacks by DEs Bob Hamm and Bill Maas and LB Calvin Daniels.
On November 24, 1991, the Chiefs lost to the Browns 20-15 at Cleveland Stadium. The Chiefs tried to rally in the fourth quarter but they were unable to overcome Cleveland’s 20-3 lead to begin the fourth quarter. Nick Lowery had a pair of FGs and DT Dan Saleaumua had a safety when he sacked Browns QB Bernie Kosar in the end zone. In the fourth quarter, QB Steve DeBerg (left) hit WR Emile Harry on a five-yard TD throw. DeBerg was 30 of 50 for 319 yards, one TD and a pair of interceptions. Kosar was 13 of 20 for 170 yards. The KC defense had interceptions from CBs Jayice Pearson and Kevin Ross and sacks from DE Neil Smith and LB Lonnie Marts.
On November 24, 1996, the Chiefs lost to the San Diego Chargers 28-14 at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chargers controlled the entire game, as the Chiefs were unable to score until the fourth quarter when they got a pair of late 17-yard TD passes from QB Rich Gannon to WR Chris Penn and RB Todd McNair. QB Steve Bono started the game, but threw a pair of interceptions to San Diego S Rodney Harrison. Chargers WR Tony Martin had five catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns. QB Stan Humphries hit 13 of 26 passes for 252 yards. Penn caught six passes for 90 yards.
SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY β¦
Born on November 24, 1939 in Dallas was DL Jerry Mays (right). He was a fifth-round selection in the 1961 AFL Draft out of SMU. Mays played 10 seasons (1961-70), appearing in 140 games and starting most of them at eight right defensive tackle or left defensive end. Mays was selected to the all-time AFL team selected by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and was named to the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 1972. Mays was selected to nine AFL All-Star games or Pro Bowls. Mays died of cancer on July 17, 1994 outside Dallas.
Born on November 24, 1961 in Denver was RB Herman Heard. He was a third-round selection in the 1984 NFL Draft out of Southern Colorado University. Heard played six seasons with the Chiefs (1984-89) and appeared in 87 games, with 51 starts. He ranks as the ninth leading rusher in Chiefs history with 2,694 yards on 651 carries and 13 touchdown runs. Heard caught 132 passes for 1,125 yards and three TDs. He was the team’s leading rusher in the 1984 and 1985 seasons.