|08-22-2009, 08:40 PM|
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Looney:The Morning After - Minnesota
The Morning After - Minnesota
Aug 22, 2009, 9:10:07 AM
Sixty minutes of football came down to one play on Friday night at the Metrodome. All events that had transpired prior to that point in the game were temporarily forgotten. One play would determine a winner. The same play would determine the loser. One final play is all that mattered in that instant.
It was a thriller. It was gut-wrenching. It was the one of those finishes that makes your heart pound and forget that it’s only a preseason game. What started out as a regular season atmosphere in the dome concluded with that same feeling. Fortunately, for the Chiefs, it was indeed just a preseason game. Unfortunately, the Vikings walked away from their 2009 home debut as 17-13 victors.
Facing a four-point deficit, QB Matt Gutierrez took control of the Chiefs final offensive drive at the Kansas City 34-yard line with 3:56 remaining in the fourth quarter. Gutierrez immediately went to work through the air, converting two impressive third-down plays on similar sideline routes (WRs Quinten Lawrence and Taurus Johnson) to take the Chiefs into the two-minute warning with a first-and-10 from the Minnesota 42.
Back-to-back first down passes to WR Rodney Wright and RB Javarris Williams put the Chiefs in the red zone at the Minnesota 13 yard-line with just 60 seconds left to play. The next play would see a multiple flags fly when a fade to WR Ashley Lelie in the back of the end zone was interfered with by CB Derrick Robinson. First-and-goal from the one, the Chiefs were just three feet from icing a comeback victory.
A dive to play to Williams stuffed at the line of scrimmage, an incomplete pass and the stalemate of an airborne RB Jackie Battle ultimately set up the game’s deciding moment. The Chiefs took their final timeout, setting up a fourth-and-goal from the Minnesota one-yard line with six seconds left to play.
Everything led to this one final play, a fourth-down fade to Lelie in the right corner of the end zone. Lelie came up with the grab, however, he came down out of bounds. Incomplete pass. The dome erupted and the game was over. For Chiefs fans, this one was the preseason version of the sting that was felt in the season opener at New England a year ago. Four goal-to-go tries at the end of the game.
The thing about sports, particularly football, is that every play is important. An extra yard here or an extra block there can dramatically change the outcome of a game. Hundreds of circumstances present themselves over the course of a football game that can take the game in a multitude of directions. Although Friday’s game ended with one memorable play, there was plenty of notable action before the final snap.
Let’s get to last night’s positives and negatives.
* Cassel’s Poise and Athleticism – QB Matt Cassel can run. It’s often overlooked that he put up 270 yards on the ground last season. Tonight, Cassel was under plenty of pressure and showed excellent ability to move in and out of the pocket to avoid a rush. His pocket poise allowed him to post excellent numbers (9-of-14 for 99 yards and a TD – a 108.9 rating) and his athleticism helped him elude would-be tacklers. He seems to have a natural sense of when to run and where to go when he needs to scramble.
“I was encouraged by Matt because (his ability to run) is part of his arsenal and we can’t every forget that,” Haley said after the game. “He’s a big guy who can run and he’s done a good job. He did a good job last year of running the with the football and tonight I think that showed up as something that teams have to be aware up when they are defending.”
* Getting to the Quarterback – The new 3-4 defensive scheme is already showing promise in Kansas City. Although the Chiefs didn’t record a sack on Friday, a series of stunts and blitzes saw QB Brett Favre taken to the ground and hurried on multiple throws. The generated pressure also sent QB Tarvaris Jackson on the move throughout the night. The most impressive pressure-producer may have been LB Tamba Hali’s bull rush of LT Bryant McKinney early in the game.
“I was looking to see guys tackle and put some pressure on the quarterback, which I thought we did,” Haley said.
* Two-Minute Drill – The Chiefs are getting some serious two-minute work in this preseason. Three times in just two games! Although tonight’s final two-minute drive didn’t end with victory, the base of the hurry-up was run effectively as the Chiefs drove 10 plays and 65 yards over just 1:05 to set up the final four-play set from the one. The Chiefs also turned in an impressive hurry-up performance at the end of the first half vs. Houston which resulted in a 47-yard K Ryan Succop field goal.
* K Ryan Succop – There isn’t really much to say other than the rookie kicker is doing everything asked of him his preseason. He’s a perfect three-for-three on field goals (32, 37, 47) this preseason and is putting a number of kickoffs into the end zone.
Areas to Improve
* Breathing Room — Granted the Minnesota defense is one of the leagues finer groups, but a series of stunts and a solid push from the defensive front saw Chiefs quarterbacks eluding defenders far too often. Cassel was on the run more than the Chiefs would like to see and Croyle took several big hits after delivering a throw.
* The Big Play – An otherwise stingy defensive effort was marred by a few big plays. Big plays change football games. WR Darius Reynaud’s 64-yard TD that split the safeties is the most noteworthy. Mental mistakes are usually the culprit behind a big play. Mental mistakes are generally a part of the preseason, but Coach Haley and his staff won’t let them go unnoticed.
* Staying in Coverage – It’s one of the toughest things to do in football, but it is a necessity. Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson was at his best last night when on the scramble. He bought time for his receivers to break away from a defender or settle in a soft zone and took advantage.
“It’s tough to jump plays and read routes when (Jackson) is back there because really the clock that you expect to quarterback to deliver the ball is extended,” S Jarrad Page explained. “You have to be real honest with him. If you have the zone you have to stay there and you can’t be trying to go make plays because you don’t really know what he’s going to do back there.”
“We just have to recognize a little better,” Page said. “Our play recognition on screens, we’ve got to see it quicker. I think that’s a small thing right there like seeing the linemen release. We’ve been burned on screens the last two weeks now on drives, but I think that’s a smaller thing that we can fix.”
Overall, there were definitely some things to build on tonight as the Chiefs move their camp forward. The players have today off and will hit the facility once again on Sunday with two-a-days set to resume on Monday.
|08-22-2009, 11:30 PM||#2|
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Only a Chiefs employee's heart would "pound" during a meaningless preseason game.
Though it may have been their only chance to win a game for another year.