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Chiefs Pantalones
11-05-2006, 01:45 AM
On the road, Chiefs need directions

Kansas City’s offense clicks at Arrowhead, but it has been a different story away from home.

By ADAM TEICHER
The Kansas City Star


Playing within the comfy boundaries of Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs are a veritable scoring machine. With an average of 35 points in their last three home games, they’re a field goal better than the Bears, the NFL’s real scoring leaders.

Away from home, things are far different. The Chiefs, with an average of 12 points in three road games, can’t even keep pace with Tampa Bay, the league’s lowest-scoring team.

That’s troubling news for the Chiefs as they begin a two-game road trip with today’s matchup against the Rams in St. Louis. They’ll also play the Dolphins in Miami next Sunday.

“The road,” coach Herm Edwards said, “is always a little bit of a struggle.”

The Chiefs faced some unusual circumstances in each of their road games. They went to Denver early in the season when they were having problems blocking for quarterback Damon Huard, making his first start for the injured Trent Green.

Against the Broncos, they were conservative even by Edwards’ unadventurous standards.

The Chiefs then fell behind by two touchdowns in the first quarter to both Arizona and Pittsburgh and were forced to ditch their game plans. They rallied to beat the Cardinals, but that had more to do with Bernard Pollard’s blocked punt and Ty Law’s interception than any offensive heroics.

Not only were the Chiefs forced from their plan in Arizona and Pittsburgh, but they also had to battle suddenly hostile crowds that were emboldened by an early double-digit lead.

“Whenever you control the crowd, you control how much you can communicate and what plays you can call, what audibles you can make as the game goes on,” guard Brian Waters said. “The more the crowd is in the game, it’s harder for the offense to make adjustments.

“That’s what made it harder for us in those games.”

The Chiefs appear to be a different offensive team than the last time they took their show on the road. They showed some power two weeks ago against the Chargers by scoring 30 points against a strong defense.

They hit for 35 points and 499 yards last Sunday against Seattle. Each game featured the bonus of a winning scoring drive late in the fourth quarter.

Huard is no longer a curiosity but playing like one of the league’s best quarterbacks. The offensive line has stabilized and pass protection improved. Rookie offensive coordinator Mike Solari is growing as a play-caller.

This time, the Chiefs will have no excuses if they don’t score more points on the road.

“We certainly need to get off to a good start and get our confidence and get in some rhythm,” Huard said. “It seems like we’ve had some three-and-outs on the road, and anytime you do that it’s hard to get your rhythm going as an offense. I think more than anything we just need to stay on the field, we need to make first downs, convert on third-down situations, and then I think we’ll get some rhythm, we’ll be OK and be able to move the ball and score some points.”

Game circumstances aside, the biggest difference between the Chiefs at Arrowhead and on the road is that they’re bolder at home. They’ve taken more chances down the field at home than on the road, though Edwards bristles at the suggestion his conservatism is holding them back when they travel.

“Our basis is still running the ball at home or on the road,” he said. “People can say we opened it up against Seattle, but we ran the ball 53 times. It’s not like we got away from the running game.”

The Chiefs also had 79 plays against the Seahawks, far more than they had in any other game. They also threw it down the field more frequently against the Seahawks.

“We had to,” Edwards said. “We felt we could take advantage of that. We went down the field with it some (at home) against San Diego and San Francisco, too. When we feel comfortable with it, we’ll do that. The offensive line has come together a little bit. The whole key if you’re going to go downfield is protect the quarterback.

“At home, what we did against San Francisco and San Diego was get a short field for our offense by creating some turnovers early in the game. That gave us the ability to score early in those games. The Seattle game was a little bit different. Our offense moved the ball and gave us some big plays.”

Their only pass of 20-plus yards on the road this season was the screen Larry Johnson took down the sideline for 78 yards against Arizona, which set up the winning field goal.

“When you look at the Denver game, it was kind of orchestrated that way,” Edwards said. The Chiefs managed only two field goals and lost 9-6 in overtime.

“We were trying to take the air out of the ball and play it close to the vest. We scored a few points in Arizona. If you can score in the 20s on the road, you’ve got a shot to win some games. The Pittsburgh game, we didn’t do anything. I don’t know who those guys were in Pittsburgh.

“The only game we really played it (conservatively) was Denver, but we knew we had to play it that way. That’s the way I wanted to play it. I thought the coaches did a great job of orchestrating the thing. That was Damon’s first start.”

Solari said the process of putting together a game plan and then calling the plays is no different whether the Chiefs are at home or on the road.

“When we went to Pittsburgh, the plan we put together was the same as it was the previous week against Arizona,” Solari said. “The difference was that we just weren’t consistent. We had so many drives of just three plays. When you can’t convert on third down, the thing that happens is you lose your ability to plan your play calls. You’re trying to set up certain things, but you’re not able to do that because you can’t convert on third down.

“Once you start converting and get longer drives, you can set some things up as far as play-action fakes.”

While their running game has worked for the Chiefs in recent home games, it was a debacle for them in Arizona and Pittsburgh. Johnson had decidedly ugly rushing numbers each time: 16 carries for 36 yards against the Cardinals, 15 for 26 against the Steelers.

It’s no secret that better numbers from Johnson will equal more points.

“We’re striving for the balance,” Huard said. “When you’re hitting the long passes, you are setting up the draws and different things. Whatever we can do to strive for balance, and also it depends on how the game is going, what the score is. Are we ahead and do we want to keep the ball in ball control, or are we behind and we have to throw it and come back? I think every game is kind of different and dictates its own game plan itself and different strategy as the game goes on. We’ve had only a few games on the road this year, and hopefully this time we can score some points.”

the Talking Can
11-05-2006, 05:42 AM
confirmation we played to lose in Denver....hopefully Herm's learned....