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Old 09-26-2010, 10:19 PM  
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Babb:Chiefs’ aggressive game plan pays off

Chiefs’ aggressive game plan pays off
By KENT BABB
The Kansas City Star

Long before it was over, the Chiefs looked brilliant. Polished, prepared and brilliant.

Who knew Kansas City was capable of such a victory? Who knew a team that lacked top-to-bottom talent could be this aggressive?

Players did. Coaches did, too.

And they were aggressive during Sunday’s 31-10 win against San Francisco. When coach Todd Haley faced a tough decision, his default setting was full steam ahead. Fourth and 1? Go for it. After the team’s first touchdown? Try an onside kick. When the Chiefs needed a big play? Call a play as successful as it was complicated, and regardless of the intricacy that happened before quarterback Matt Cassel threw the ball, it ended simply as a touchdown.

“I haven’t changed,” Haley said.

Maybe not, but the Chiefs have. Haley wasn’t shy last season about going for high-risk plays. He’s a gambler, and he’s proud of it. Maybe no one in the organization likes Las Vegas as much as Haley, and on Sunday, Arrowhead might as well have been the Vegas Strip.

Remember this part of the song? “A fortune won and lost on every deal. All you need is a strong heart and nerves of steel.”

Viva Kansas City.

A year after most of Haley’s gambles fell flat, now the Chiefs seem to be cashing in. Everything seemed to work Sunday, and no risk was too gutsy, no idea too ridiculous.

“You can see it in the linemen’s eyes and the running backs and everybody,” Cassel said “They get energized, they get excited about being aggressive, about going for certain plays, making big plays downfield.

“It’s great. And when it works, it’s awesome.”

Maybe it’s as simple as one game, but perhaps there was a deeper meaning Sunday. Haley believed in his offense — a unit that struggled in its first two contests — and went all out. The Chiefs went for it, like good teams do.

Left guard Brian Waters said that it means that the coaching staff is learning to believe in players. That the ideas aren’t so crazy if the plays are doable.

“It’s a trust factor,” Waters said. “Our coaching staff continues to grow that trust in us, and we continue to trust them.”

When the faith is there, players are chess pieces a part of a complex strategy. The Chiefs went for that fourth-and-1 play in the second quarter, and they converted it by first lining up in the Wildcat formation. Running back Thomas Jones took the direct snap and handed off to Dexter McCluster, who ran for the first down. Kansas City’s next play came in the Wildcat, too. Another run, this time Jones up the middle.

In the third quarter, the Chiefs lined up in Wildcat again. Only this time, Jones took the snap with Cassel lined up as a wide receiver. Jones handed off to McCluster, who pitched the ball to Cassel, who threw a perfect pass of 45 yards to Dwayne Bowe in the end zone.

Checkmate.

“We know what we have,” McCluster said. “A lot of people don’t know, but in this circle, we know.”

Waters said there might be another hidden meaning in the aggressive nature of Sunday’s win: That the Chiefs have gotten better and deserve to be in the discussion of the NFL’s better teams.

Bad teams don’t win like the Chiefs won Sunday. Bad teams don’t convert that many high-risk plays. Bad teams don’t make it look this easy.

“It’s not by luck,” Waters said, “and it definitely ain’t something that you just pull out of your hat.”
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