View Full Version : Carter: Getting cornered

09-19-2004, 01:08 AM

Getting cornered

When other Chiefs receivers don't help passing offense, Gonzalez pays the price

By IVAN CARTER The Kansas City Star

Respect comes in many forms when you are the NFL's best tight end. Sometimes it's a nationally televised commercial. Sometimes it's a trip to the Pro Bowl.

And sometimes it means looking up and seeing the game's best cornerback staring you in the face just as you are about to run your pass pattern.

That's exactly the kind of respect Gonzalez earned last Sunday night against Denver when Broncos defensive coordinator Larry Coyer pulled the unusual move of putting four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey over Gonzalez in nickel situations.

In addition to Bailey, Gonzalez also regularly saw another corner in Kelly Herndon as well as a safety in Kenoy Kennedy. As a result, Touchdown Tony finished the season opener with a harmless two receptions for 17 yards.

“I was talking to my brother about that the other day,” Gonzalez said. “I was like, man, I can't imagine that they are going to put two guys on me every week. But you know what? I invite it because that means if they do that to me, the guys on the outside are matched up one-on-one, and that gives them an opportunity to make big plays.”

The problem against Denver was that other than Eddie Kennison's 57-yard reception on the game's second play — which opened up because Herndon came off of Kennison and jumped Gonzalez — the Chiefs were unable to generate much downfield.

After Kennison's big play, Trent Green's longest completion covered 16 yards, leaving Priest Holmes to carry the offense yet again on the ground.

It doesn't take an NFL offensive coordinator long to figure out that Gonzalez will see that kind of attention until the Chiefs make opponents pay someplace else.

One of the key factors, according to Green, is the NFL's emphasis on limiting illegal contact on receivers downfield, the kind Gonzalez has dealt with his entire career. Defenses will now focus on getting physical with Gonzalez inside those first five yards, or they will simply put a smaller, quicker player on Gonzalez and ask that player to use coverage skills.

“With the five-yard bump rule, there are going to be teams banging him off the bat, in that first five-yard area,” Green said. “Some bang past the five-yard area. It's going to be something where he's going to have to deal with that all year. Maybe what they do is use their defensive ends and linebackers to bang him for a couple of yards, then they pass it over to a DB who can cover him.

“Whether or not that throws off the timing, if you're going to commit a couple of people to him, then obviously it's going to open up a couple of things for some other people. Now, those people are going to have to step up.”

Carolina will hit Arrowhead today with a pair of rookies in the starting secondary: cornerback Chris Gamble and free safety Colin Branch. To take advantage of that youth with their outside receivers, the Chiefs must stay in manageable third-down situations. Against the Broncos, the Chiefs converted just four-of-13 third downs.

Six of those situations were third-and-nine or longer, thus drastically limiting Green's drop-back time and his receiver's route options. The Chiefs had the NFL's highest-scoring offense the last two seasons in large part because they did so well on first and second down and avoided costly penalties.

The Chiefs ranked second in the NFL last season, gaining 6.37 yards on first down while they ranked seventh by converting 41.8 percent of third-down opportunities.

“The first thing is not to commit as many errors on third down, putting us into third-and-long,” Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said, identifying his offensive goals against Carolina. “We had five penalties or something, which we can't have. We didn't get into our offense. We were out of sync. We weren't able to get into a lot of the things we do.”

One of those things is Gonzalez, who admits to being caught off guard by what he saw in Denver. During the preseason, the Broncos played a basic cover-2 in which the middle of the field was open to the tight end.

But against the Chiefs, Coyer mostly employed straight man-to-man on the outside while devoting at least one corner and often a corner and a safety to Gonzalez.

“I never saw that kind of coverage, even in my 93-catch year,” Gonzalez said. “That year, I usually saw a linebacker, then maybe a safety. I didn't expect to go in there and get double-teamed the first game of the year like that. But that's a good thing for Eddie, Johnnie (Morton) and Dante (Hall). If they're one-on-one, they'll make big plays. They have, and they're going to.”

09-19-2004, 07:08 AM
I still think its strange that Morton was out all that time and DV thought he would be able to just go in there like nothing had happened. Hall doesn't really have down the field receiving skill. Kennison was out for extended time as well so there was noone to get downfield for them. They should be more in sync this week, but I still can't believe that we didn't try to get Smith in more to break the defense down.

09-19-2004, 08:07 AM
The WRs could help Gonzalez by getting open.

Saunders could help Gonzalez and the WRs by using more play action. We have one of the best RBs in the NFL in our backfield and we kept using the drop-back pass when it was not working.

Very frustrating.

Expected [and is still expecting] better from Saunders.

09-19-2004, 08:13 AM
The head of the nail is ringing, Gaz.