* Upon Further Review is brought to you by the team of Boydy, Broncofan91, Bshrout and Kaptain Kirk.
Kansas City is a team in turmoil. They have a new Head Coach and staff, a new system with a new QB, and they have been beset with injuries. It could be their biggest problem is "too many Chiefs and not enough Indians." However, a recent Powwow has brought about the beginnings of a winning streak. Is it all just a Ghost dance? Let's find out UPON FURTHER REVIEW.
Weather and Conditions
The Forecast for Sunday's game is cloudy and 40 degrees.
Injuries and external factors
DB Maurice Leggett, who was moved from CB to safety last month, was placed on IR because of an injured shoulder suffered in the Pittsburgh game. Leggett contributed on both defense and ST's. He is the second safety on the Chief's list. FS Jarrad Page was placed on IR with a severely pulled calf muscle. Jon McGraw has dealt with his own injuries, and SS Mike Brown has been inconsistent. His loss will force some shuffling at the safety position, as the Chiefs have only three on their roster. Rookie Ricky Price is a candidate to come off the practice squad.
OLB Mike Vrabel is back practicing and should be ready to play against Denver. He suffered a sprained left knee on Nov. 15 and has not played or practiced since. Andy Studebaker has been starting for Vrabel at left OLB and doing a good job. Against Pittsburgh, Studebaker had two INT's, half a sack and 5 tackles.
The Chiefs are banged up on offense, although they should have all hands available against Denver. WR Chris Chambers is a bit bruised and battered, although he's missed no practice time. RBs Kolby Smith and Dantrell Savage are both fighting ankle injuries.
Areas of Competition:
KC is capable of winning games, but they often beat themselves. The Charger game had two bad snaps. The first one was recovered by the Bolts on the KC 10 yard line. Two plays later, it turned into 7 points for SD. That made the score 35 - 7 at that point. The other came on a 4th and 7, and resulted in a turn over on downs.
Against the Chargers, the Chiefs were doing fine until the wheels fell off. A few untimely penalties and bad snaps decided this game shortly after the half. The Chargers forced 4 turnovers that led to 28 San Diego points.
QB Matt Cassel and his passing numbers continue to struggle along after 11 games. His 77.6 passer rating ranks No. 22 in the league and he ranks No. 20 or lower in every category except TD passes (tied-16th) and INT's (tied-11th). His average gain of 5.93 yards ranks No. 29 among starting QB's. Only Kerry Collins, Brady Quinn and JaMarcus Russell rank lower.
In the SD game, he had 3 major mistakes. An INT by Quentin Jammer that was deflected at the line by Ogemdi Nwagbuo. That wasn't his fault. On the 2nd, the ball slipped out of his hand as he wound up for a pass, and Chargers safety Paul Oliver suddenly found the ball in his hands. He promptly ran it 41 yards for a score. The 3rd one was an intentional grounding call in the End zone after getting the ball back on an LDT fumble. This resulted in a Safety. Cassel connected on one pass play for more than 14 yards, and that was a 49-yard pass to RB Jamaal Charles. Cassel was 19 of 31 for 178 yards, and was sacked once. He is a mobile QB and can elude the rush or scramble for the 1st down marker when he must. He's gradually continued to improve throughout the year.
Jamaal Charles is a promising young RB. He is quick and goes hard to the hole. His touches have increased from 9.8 per game, to 19.3. Against San Diego, he had a big fumble in Chargers territory with the Chiefs down by 7. That led to another San Diego TD and a 14-point lead that Kansas City could not overcome. Charles averaged 6.6 yards per carry and scored a rushing TD, just the 2nd of the season for the Chiefs. Jamaal is the Chief's leading rusher with 406 yards on 78 carries, and a nice 5.0 average. He's second on the team with 26 catches for 215 yards. He is also the team's best kickoff returner, averaging 26 yards a return. Jamaal has TD's rushing, receiving and returning this year. He scored a TD for the 3rd consecutive game. Right now, he's the only threat the team has in the backfield. The one chink in his armor is holding onto the football.
Chiefs WR Chris Chambers vs. Broncos CBs Champ Bailey and Andre' Goodman. Chambers has become the big-play receiver for the Chiefs and Champ and Andre' will have to slow him down. Dwayne Bowe is serving a 4 game NFL suspension, so Chris and Jamaal Charles are the Chiefs only real threats in their passing game. All 4 of Chambers' TD's have come in losing efforts. Matt Cassel has a tendency to look for Chambers, especially in the 4th quarter. Chris has climbed to the 2nd spot in the Chief's receiving statistics after just 4 games with the team. He has 17 catches for 319 yards and 3 TD's, and his average of 18.8 yards is the highest on the team. In his first game against his former team, the WR had 70 yards receiving and a TD. He has a TD in three of his last 4 games.
The Chiefs O-Line is a mess. They have allowed Matt Cassel to be sacked 38 times this season. Only Aaron Rodgers has been sacked more (44 times). This is due mostly because of injuries. The lineup has changed repeatedly since Training Camp. It will start the same 5 players at the same positions against Denver for the first time since the opening three games of the season.
G Wade Smith has played well enough at right guard for the last month, that even if Andy Alleman is healthy to return to action, he will keep his spot with the No.1 offensive line. Smith is the 3rd player to start at RG, as Mike Goff went on the IR list with a shoulder injury and Alleman has been out for 2 games with a knee injury.
C Rudy Niswanger delivered two errant snaps to QB Matt Cassel, who was in the shotgun formation. He will spend this week trying to correct those mistakes.
Defensive Front Seven
The KC defense has been having to adapt to a 3-4 alignment. While the Chiefs are happy with the development of DE Glen Dorsey, overall the performance of the front 7 in the new alignment has been inconsistent.
One thing that has held them back this season is a lack of speed on defense. Kansas City is one of the NFL’s slowest teams, and the Chiefs aren’t likely to return to relevance until that is addressed. The Chiefs had the worst pass rush in NFL history last season, getting just 10 sacks in 16 games. This year, they have 14 sacks in 11 games, led by OLB Tamba Hali and DE Wallace Gilberry, who each have 3.5 sacks. Only Jacksonville has fewer.
The KC front seven were wildly erratic in the Jacksonville game. On one drive, they would stuff the run at the line of scrimmage, pressure the QB, and force a 3 and out. On the following drive, they would get torched for 7-9 yard runs up the middle, and give up 8-15 yard passes. Twice they had Jacksonville in 3 and 14/15 situations, and failed to generate pressure, which let Garrard complete passes for first downs. Then they follow that effort up with a sack when rushing only 3. This trend was not only evident on a team level but also on an individual level. For example, ILB Williams would deliver a bone-jarring tackle on one play, on the next over-pursue the play and allow the running back to juke him for a larger gain.
The Kansas City defense gave up 14 plays (out of 69 or 20.2%) of 10 or more yards. 3 of those 14 went for 20+ yards. 2 of those 3 went for 30+. 1 of the 2 went for over 40 yards. All of those long plays came from passes. The LBs and DBs struggled with short passes to RBs coming out of the backfield.
The line played well against the run during their win against Pittsburgh. They gave up a few 10 yard runs but overall they held Mendenhall to 80 rushing yards on 21 carries. The long runs were caused by the LB's missing their gaps. Their pass rushing was not even close to being good. They were very inconsistent during this game. Having said that, they were able to get alot of pressure when they did. They sacked Big Ben twice and would have had more if he wasn't so hard to bring down. Tamba Hali is a very good pass-rusher but nothing either of the Ryans can't handle. We should win this battle easily.
The Chiefs held the Chargers to 94 rushing yards, and while LDT scored 2 rushing TDs, he gained just 39 yards on 13 carries. Darren Sproles carried 9 times for 17 yards. The Chiefs’ young defensive line has shown improvement in run defense this season as DE's Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson mature. They will face a tough challenge Sunday in the Broncos Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter.
San Diego's Philip Rivers dropped back to pass 28 times and the Chiefs ruffled his feathers maybe once. They did not sack him and thus Rivers was able to complete 21 of 28 for 317 yards and a pair of TD passes. He averaged 11.3 yards per attempt. Rivers threw two TD'S to Antonio Gates as the Chargers improved to 8-3. Gates had seven catches for 118 yards and the KC LB's couldn't cover him.
They have a decent secondary but their LB's cannot cover. Most of the Steeler's passes went 10-20 yards down the middle. Somehow the Chiefs must find a way to put more pressure on the quarterback.
Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers made some nice defensive plays against Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Jackson, but between the Charger wideout's speed and the reliable Antonio Gates, they didn't have enough pass rush support to keep the Chargers from scoring with the deep ball. San Diego ran 63 offensive plays. 10 went for gains of at least 15 yards, and 3 went for at least 20, including a 53-yard pass that Philip Rivers telegraphed to Malcolm Floyd. That was the kill shot in a three-play drive that made it look easy to score. The problems with these two CB's are preventable with better technique.
Flowers was rarely thrown to in the game against the Steelers.
The Chiefs have just 7 INT's in 11 games, on 365 passes thrown against them. They are near the bottom of the league with the fewest INT's. Once one of the team’s few strengths entering 2009, their secondary has become suspect due to a number of injuries. FS Jarrad Page was placed on IR after a calf injury, 2nd-year man Maurice Leggett suffered a season-ending injury, and Mike Brown has struggled in an increased role as the starting SS. Bernard Pollard was released because of attitude issues. They would benefit with a complementary pass rush, but the Chiefs top off-season need lies at safety.
Those of you dreaming of Eric Berry or Taylor Mays can put away your hopes, because the Chiefs will be selecting one of them in April’s draft.
After a two-game winning streak, the Chiefs were unable to keep up their momentum and appeared unprepared to face the Chargers. Blame for that falls just as much on the coach as the players. Haley has a yo-yo team, something he doesn't want.
Haley's strategy is to play it close to the vest in the 1st half in hopes of staying in the game on the scoreboard. Then after half-time the Chiefs will take some chances.
The Chiefs struggled all season to convert 3rd down plays. They’re at a league-worst 22.4 percent in 3rd down efficiency.
They have shown that they can't come back from big deficits. Sound familiar? Haley and Scott Pioli have a big job ahead of them and they're just in the beginning of the process.
According to head coach Todd Haley, recently fired Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis will not be coming to Kansas City.
In the Jacksonville game, the kicking game was a relative strength. Kansas City kicked off five times, including two onside kick attempts. They had one touch back, and two returns, averaging 17.5 yards. KC recovered one of the two onside attempts after Jacksonville muffed the catch. Jacksonville recovered the second onside attempt. The Chiefs punted 7 times for an average of 46.6 yards. It is worth noting that one punt went for 70 yards and another for 59. Only one punt was returned -- that return went for 44 yards, and set up a Jacksonville's final touchdown (which proved to be the game winning score). Two punts resulted in fair catches inside the Jacksonville 15 yard line. Two went out of bounds, one at the Jaguars 10, the other at their 23. Two were downed by the Chiefs, one at the Jacksonville 19, the other at the Jaguar's 23.
Kansas City's return game was not as stellar in the Jacksonville game. One Jacksonville kick-off was a touch back. The Chiefs had four kick-off returns for an average of 12.25 yards. The Chiefs had four punt return opportunities. Two ended in touch backs. One was downed by Jacksonville at the KC 43. The only return went for a mere 2 yards.
In the Charger game, Ryan Succop's kickoffs landed at the 3. The Coverage unit allowed Darren Sproles to average 22.7 yards on 3 returns.
Jamaal Charles had 2 kick returns. One for 16 and the other for 45 yards. Quentin Lawrence returned 5 kicks, averaging 19 yards.
Dustin Colquitt punted 4 times, averaging 40.75 yards. None were returned and one was downed nicely at the 6 yard line.
Bobby Wade had 1 Punt Return for 2 yards.
Jamaal Charles has a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown this season.
Chiefs OTs Branden Albert and Ryan O'Callaghan vs. Broncos OLBs Elvis Dumervil. Doom leads the league with 14 sacks. His athletic ability, speed and quickness make up for his lack of size and bulk. He will be giving up six inches and 70 pounds to Albert and eight inches and 85 pounds to O'Callaghan. The Chiefs have the second worst pass protection unit in the league. Last week the Chargers only had 1 sack on Matt Cassel, but the Chargers put pressure on him all day. There were 3 tipped passes at the line and numerous hurries, one of which resulted in an INT. Albert and O'Callaghan have struggled this season, although at LT Albert seems to making weekly improvement.
Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles vs Broncos OLBs Dumervil and Haggan. Charles is explosive when allowed to get around the corner. He only had 36 yards in the Jacksonville game, but also had a 6.0 yard/carry average. He also keeps his legs running hard all the way to the ground. It often took 2-4 players to bring him down. It will be vital for our OLB to control the corner and hold Charles up long enough to allow other defenders to assist in the tackle.
Chiefs OLB Hali vs any Broncos ball carrier and vs RBs held in backfield to block. Hali is acknowledged as the best Chiefs' defender when it comes to stripping the ball from a ball carrier. He was also often used as a blitzer, and was speedy enough to bring pressure on Garrard.
Chiefs punt and kick coverage units vs. Broncos KR Eddie Royal. One area where the Chiefs have been consistent and productive has been their coverage units. They are 4th in punt coverage and 9th in kick coverage. Royal has both a punt and kick return for TD's, as he averages 11.2 yards on PR's and 24.4 on KR's.
The Stats that Don't Lie
KC 14 SD 43
Time of Possession KC 24:40 SD 35:20
3rd Down Efficiency KC 3/11 - 27% SD 4/9 - 44%
Starting Field Pos KC 25.63 SD 32
Penalties (No-Yds) KC 5 - 25 SD 8 - 55
Turnovers KC 4 SD 0
Red Zone Efficiency KC 2/2 - 100% SD 4/6 - 66%
This is the 98th regular-season meeting and KC leads the series 53-44. The Broncos have won 10 of the last 18 in this decade. The Chiefs 34-43 against the Broncos since the 1970 season. Last year, they split the two-game series, after the Broncos won both games in 2007.
The Chiefs have generally been able to hold the home field at Arrowhead Stadium against the Broncos. They've won five of the last six and 11 of the last 14 games in Missouri.
The Chiefs offense must be able to put points up on the Broncos, who are 5th in scoring defense. Any time the opponent has scored more than 23 points, Denver has lost; 23 or less points and they've won. The Chiefs have scored more than 23 points just twice in 11 games.
The Chiefs have 3 wins this year. At Washington, at Oakland, and most recently, at home against the Steelers. They lost last week in San Diego. so which team will the Broncos face? Arrowhead has been hard on Denver, but Kansas City is a team in transition. History is circular, and what comes around goes around. The team with the least amount of mistakes will win this game.