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Old 07-12-2005, 07:24 AM  
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Chiefly Ignored: Kansas City on the Outs?

Chiefly Ignored: Kansas City on the Outs?

By Jason Kendall

Last season, one AFC West team came out of nowhere to shock the league with a surprising ratio of wins to losses, leaving pundits fumbling over their preseason predictions. The same club led the West and the NFL in total offense, with the league's best offensive weapon on crutches for half the year. Amid a series of crippling injuries, the team still managed to produce two 1,000-yard receivers and three runners with at least 500 yards and 8 touchdowns.

So why did the Kansas City Chiefs miss the playoffs? Why did the team pegged to grab 12 wins put up a mediocre 7-9 while the upstart San Diego Chargers steamrolled the division?

Good question.

The easy answer is the Chiefs' defense ranked 31st in the league, better than only the anemic Saints, coughing up an embarrassing 435 points in 16 games. The Kansas City defense was so bad it only held opponents under 20 points in two games all season. The secondary was the NFL's worst, getting torched for 267.7 yards per game, while giving back only 13 interceptions.

Yet, the front seven actually ranked 12th league-wide stopping the run in a division that included Denver and San Diego (though that number was helped by Oakland's pitiful ground game). The team registered 41 sacks against opposing quarterbacks, including 9 from standout rookie Jared Allen of Idaho State, while linebacker Shawn Barber, arguably the Chiefs' best playmaker (112 tackles and 5 sacks in 2003), missed the second half of the season.

For Kansas City's league-best offense, things weren't much better. Priest Holmes, on pace to set career records in rushing yards and touchdowns (1,724/28), also went down in Week 8. Runners Derrick Blaylock and Larry Johnson filled in admirably, both rushing for over 500 yards and 8 touchdowns, but still the team went 4-4 to finish the year.

While San Diego's Antonio Gates drew headlines at tight end, Tony Gonzalez quietly proved he was still the NFL's best at the position. Gonzalez caught a record 102 passes for 1,258 yards and 7 touchdowns, logging six 100-yard games along the way (Gates only had two). The Chiefs' other 1,000-yard receiver, journeyman Eddie Kennison, also had a breakout year and hauled in at least 50 receptions and 850 yards for the third year in a row. Kennison's numbers over the past three seasons are actually much better than those of division-mate Jerry Porter of Oakland, who continues to draw reviews as an underrated receiver in league circles.

Meanwhile, Trent Green continued to prove he's one of the best in the business. Green set career marks in three categories, throwing for 4,591 yards and 27 touchdowns while completing over two-thirds of his attempts. Green also proved he's still one of the NFL's most durable quarterbacks, starting his 64th consecutive game in four years, a period during which he has accumulated over 16,000 passing yards.

With the Chiefs' poor performance in '04-'05 still largely a mystery, it's no wonder Vegas odds makers have them pegged higher than their three division rivals. The latest odds to win the next Super Bowl have Kansas City at 14/1, better than all but five NFL clubs.

Certainly, Kansas City's prospects for the coming year are on the rise. With Denver and Oakland sliding down the division ladder despite high hopes and San Diego hard-pressed to repeat last year's success with this year's tougher schedule, the Chiefs can afford a run minus past expectations.

Priest Holmes in the picture for a full season would help but perhaps more important is that Gunther Cunningham's defense shows up to play week in and week out even a little. If the defense can manage to help the offense win even half of the close contests the team missed on last season, Trent Green and Co. are staring 10-6 in the eye.

Still, prospects for a quick return to 2003's glory may be even stronger. This offseason, the team has added some talent on defense, including half of Miami's secondary from a year ago, corner Patrick Surtain, and safety Sammy Knight. At linebacker, the Chiefs have brought in Kendrell Bell, who continues to battle injuries, and Texas rookie Derrick Johnson, one of the draft's best defensive playmakers. The knock on Johnson, that he's a run-around style 'backer who tries to dodge big lineman at the first level, is actually a plus in the AFC West, where he can monitor the line and seek the cutback against teams like Denver and San Diego.

Kansas City will face tough competition opening the '05-'06 season, hosting the Jets in Week 1 before playing Oakland, Denver, and Philadelphia in the next three games. However, if K.C. can head into its Week 5 bye with at least two wins, watch out. The team should have little problem trouncing teams like the Redskins, Dolphins, Texans, and Giants, who will struggle to match the Chiefs' offensive output in weeks to come.

The team will face New England, Denver, San Diego, and Cincinnati at Arrowhead in the closing weeks, but expect Vermeil to have his players ready to pull out some close finishes.
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Old 07-12-2005, 07:45 AM   #2
Thig Lyfe Thig Lyfe is offline
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Pretty good article, but if somebody thinks they're clever by using the word "Chief" as a pun in another headline, I'm going to go bezerk.
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Old 07-12-2005, 07:55 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by ArrowheadWolf
Pretty good article, but if somebody thinks they're clever by using the word "Chief" as a pun in another headline, I'm going to go bezerk.
He probably had writers cramp of the mind.
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Old 07-12-2005, 08:16 AM   #4
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Quote:
For Kansas City's league-best offense, things weren't much better. Priest Holmes, on pace to set career records in rushing yards and touchdowns (1,724/28), also went down in Week 8. Runners Derrick Blaylock and Larry Johnson filled in admirably, both rushing for over 500 yards and 8 touchdowns, but still the team went 4-4 to finish the year.
Of all the points made in this article, this one was the worst.

This team started 1-3 WITH Priest and the offense was not "ON" for much of the first half of the season.

I'm not suggesting that Priest was the problem, he's a great player. But to suggest that Johnson and Blaylock were somehow inadequate is ignoring the fact that 4-4 for the last half of the season was an IMPROVEMENT.
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Old 07-12-2005, 01:07 PM   #5
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Another bad point is looking at the running defense as being in the top half of the league. When you consider RPC they were still bad. The fact that teams found the secondary so porous indicates they didn't need to run.
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