View Full Version : Whitlock: Blame the offense's end game

11-29-2004, 02:07 AM

Blame the offense's end game


Kansas City's latest football loss — a 34-31 bummer to the San Diego Chargers — looked a lot like the previous seven.

Kansas City's Swiss Chiefs defense surrendered yards and points in chunks and bunches. Kansas City's special teams, despite a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, remained an eX-factor. And, most disturbing, Kansas City's offense sputtered and folded in the clutch.

When this nightmare of a season finally ends, when Carl Peterson and Dick Vermeil put their heads together and try to make sense of this disaster, they'll spend considerable time discussing why their high-priced, high-powered offense failed so many times late in the fourth quarter.

You can blame Sunday's loss on the Chiefs' soft defense. Gunther Cunningham's unit gave up nearly 500 yards, rarely touched quarterback Drew Brees and never defended tight end Antonio Gates. You can blame Dante Hall for the defeat. The eX-factor raced 77 yards with the second-half kickoff and just before gliding across the goal line dropped the football for no reason.

You can blame Hall and the defense, but if you do, you've missed the real culprit. The Chiefs are 3-8 and look nothing like last year's 13-3 squad primarily because Kansas City's offense chokes in the fourth quarter. In KC's eight losses, the Chiefs' offense has produced 33 fourth-quarter points.

Worse than that, KC's offense has failed to move the ball or produce points in critical end-of-game situations. On Sunday, with the score tied 31-31 with five minutes to play, no one was all that surprised when San Diego's Donnie Edwards reached up and snagged a Trent Green interception in KC territory.

This season, we've come to expect at least one game-turning interception from Green. There was the end zone-to-end zone Pick 6 against Houston, the late red-zone pick at Jacksonville, the high throw to Derrick Blaylock in the Big Easy, the Derrick Brooks-caused off-target toss to Tony Gonzalez against Tampa Bay and the why-didn't-they-call-pass-interference throw to Gonzalez against New England.

I'm not ready to put the INT back in Tr-INT Green. He's not solely responsible for Kansas City's late-game folds. KC's offensive line has broken down late in games and contributed to Green's struggles. No matter how much Johnnie Morton and Eddie Kennison have improved, the Chiefs still don't have the kind of big-play receivers who make plays in the clutch.

And let's not forget that Priest Holmes — KC's ATM (automated touchdown machine) — has missed the last three games and the last four fourth quarters. Coincidence? The Chiefs have lost four straight games. All four games were decided in the fourth quarter. You could argue — and get very little disagreement — that without Priest Holmes, Kansas City's high-scoring offense is just a bunch of harmless statistics.

With Priest seated comfortably and warmly in an Arrowhead Stadium suite munching nachos, Dick Vermeil is Don Nelson and the Chiefs are the Dallas Mavericks. They're fun to watch, win or lose, but there's no reason to take them seriously.

You knew the Chiefs wouldn't rebound after Green's interception and San Diego's subsequent field goal. How can a three-point lead be insurmountable when you have a record-setting offense loaded with future hall of famers and Pro Bowlers?

The Chiefs got the ball back with 2 minutes, 24 seconds to play. That's plenty of time for an offense that scored 101 points in two victories over the Colts and Falcons. Green flipped the ball to Blaylock on first down, and the Chiefs picked up six yards. Green then threw incomplete on three straight plays, and Marty Schottenheimer's Chargers began to celebrate.

“Not coached well enough,” Vermeil explained flatly when asked why his offense backfires in the clutch.

Vermeil wasn't being flippant. He was being honest. Football coaches believe they can make a real difference on game day in 2-minute situations. It's a chance for the offensive coordinator to engage the defensive coordinator in a game of chess played at the speed of checkers.

The Chiefs were pretty good at it last year. This year, they stink at it. Only against the terrible Indianapolis defense has the Chiefs offense put a team away in the fourth quarter. The Great Wall — Kansas City's offensive line — sets a beautiful table, but the Chiefs are always one playmaker (receiver) short of eating everything that's cooked.

11-29-2004, 02:14 AM
You could argue — and get very little disagreement — that without Priest Holmes, Kansas City's high-scoring offense is just a bunch of harmless statistics.

I'd agree with this to the point of saying that I've never seen it more well stated. With Priest, you guys are a freakin' behemoth... and without him, you're a paper tiger.