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Old 12-06-2010, 02:03 AM  
Tribal Warfare Tribal Warfare is offline
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Mellinger: Chiefs can't choke away chance to make the playoffs

Chiefs can't choke away chance to make the playoffs
By SAM MELLINGER
The Kansas City Star

Todd Haley and Josh McDaniels hug like old college buddies. Matt Cassel gets the benefit of the doubt after a limp game. Dwayne Bowe is shut out, no catches, and the reaction is basically, hey, he can’t dominate every week.

In other words, previous realities have very little relevance now.

There is every reason to believe the Chiefs can win in San Diego this weekend, but they have a big enough lead over the AFC West landlords to be able to lose and still play a home playoff game, and are we all thinking the same thing here?

The Chiefs will have choked if they miss the playoffs.

Kansas City won ugly on Sunday, 10-6 over the Broncos, and that was always the plan before this season veered off its axis.

Before Cassel-to-Bowe became the league’s most potent aerial attack and before a makeshift offensive line helped the league’s best running game and before mostly the same group that finished 30th in defense last year turned into something much stingier, we all figured they’d be ugly more often than good.

Remember that?

This is a building year, more “laying of the foundation,” as the company line goes, and it’s a weird thing to say when the Chiefs went 4-12 last year and the head coach won’t even call them a “good” team yet but the truth sounds strange enough to need repeating:

The Chiefs will have choked if they miss the playoffs.

• • •

Swagger is a delicate thing, but the Chiefs have it now, and for proof here is Andy Studebaker standing in front of his locker. The game ended maybe 30 minutes ago. Sweat is still beading on his forehead.

He has no way of knowing the Chargers will lose to the Raiders, leaving the Chiefs with a two-game division lead with just four games to play. Studebaker just knows what he feels about winning a game in San Diego that would put a virtual lock on the Chiefs’ first division title since 2003.

“It’s not going to take a superhuman effort,” he says. “Not anything we haven’t done before. It’s just another game on the way, and we need to do things right.”

The defining storyline of this Chiefs season so far has been the emergence of Cassel and Bowe, but the key to the rest of it may be how often Studebaker and the defense can dominate like they did Sunday.

Outside of Jamaal Charles, Kansas City’s offense did almost nothing. A touchdown by Charles and potential game-changing run by Dexter McCluster got wiped out by penalties. Cassel completed just 17 of 31 passes, and the offense just never moved with any consistency.

And today, instead of all that, we’re talking about the Chiefs being on the verge of a division title because the defense came up with every play it needed.

Brandon Flowers returned, but is clearly still not 100 percent — he cramped up so bad he had to be carried off the field after the game — so what happens? Brandon Carr plays perhaps the best game of his career.

Brandon Lloyd, the former star at Blue Springs High, entered the weekend as the NFL’s leading receiver but managed just two catches for 31 yards despite being thrown to 11 times.

Tamba Hali had two sacks, including the game’s biggest play when he stripped Denver quarterback Kyle Orton and recovered the fumble in the fourth quarter. If you’ve watched the Chiefs long enough, you couldn’t help but think of the 1990s.

A disclaimer is worthwhile here to recognize that Orton, who entered as the NFL’s leader in passing yardage, was awful on Sunday. The Chiefs deserve some credit for that, but Orton was bad on his own, especially on throws toward the sidelines.

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers won’t miss those, but the Chiefs are earning enough respect to think they’ll make it tough on him.

“I don’t know if it’ll be harder than the first time we played them, just different,” Studebaker says. “I don’t think it’s going to be harder. We just have to realize, look, ‘We’ve played them before, we know them a little bit, we need to watch what they’ve been doing and adjust to that.’ ”

• • •

This crazy Chiefs season began 12 weeks ago today, against the very team it continues with this weekend, and remember the feelings back then? That was the Monday Night magic, when “new” Arrowhead officially opened to a national television audience that saw the first really fun Chiefs game in too long.

Jamaal Charles trended on Twitter that night. So did Dexter McCluster. Kansas City felt like the center of something real that night, and three months later, it’s starting to feel that way again.

There is still reason to be cautious. In most ways, and on most days, the Chiefs are a step or two below the AFC’s best teams. The Chiefs’ power structure makes a point of saying this isn’t a good team yet, and some of it is for show, and some of it is semantics, but some of it is real, too.

For all the Chiefs’ successes, they’re still just 2-4 on the road and three weeks removed from an embarrassing loss in Denver. At this point, the Chiefs’ results are better than the team, but after so many years of losing does that really matter?

For coaches and executives, who are paid and judged on such things, sure.

But those are worries for the future, not for right now; the Chiefs are going to San Diego with firm control of the division and players plenty confident that all they need to do is what they’ve been doing.

So what’s stranger? That the Chiefs will have to choke to miss the playoffs?

Or that they’re good enough to believe there’s no way that should happen?
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Old 12-06-2010, 02:07 AM   #2
Count Zarth Count Zarth is offline
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I like that our quarterback throws for 196 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT and it's being described as a limp game.

His limp games last year were a lot worse.
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Old 12-06-2010, 06:44 AM   #3
PhillyChiefFan PhillyChiefFan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gif Horse View Post
I like that our quarterback throws for 196 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT and it's being described as a limp game.

His limp games last year were a lot worse.
Agreed. I am eating my words on Cassel this season. And Bowe has turned my opinion too. Cassel is, what? 23/4 td to int's this season? And would have had a couple more had Bowe not dropped some surefire touchdowns.

The core is there, many needs in the upcoming draft, but we have ourselves a football team and I trust Pioli/Haley to have a good draft this year.

With 2 more wins we equal the TOTAL wins from the last 3 years COMBINED,
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Old 12-06-2010, 06:48 AM   #4
ReynardMuldrake ReynardMuldrake is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gif Horse View Post
I like that our quarterback throws for 196 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT and it's being described as a limp game.

His limp games last year were a lot worse.
If this is considered a bad game for Cassel, I'll definitely take it. It's a huge relief to know he is no longer holding this team back.
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Old 12-06-2010, 06:51 AM   #5
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These are the kind of articles journalists write about bad teams they are worried about messing up their nancy boy favorites like manginnings and 'my pussy hurts brady'...I love it.
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Old 12-06-2010, 07:15 AM   #6
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This teams biggest needs are LB, WR, DL, OL.

I just hope we don't draft a d-lineman first round since we have utterly failed to do that three times.
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Old 12-06-2010, 08:36 AM   #7
RINGLEADER RINGLEADER is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by baitism View Post
This teams biggest needs are LB, WR, DL, OL.

I just hope we don't draft a d-lineman first round since we have utterly failed to do that three times.
Three times? Heck, I can think of a bunch of first and second round picks wasted on the D-Line: Junior Savaii, Turk and Tank, Ryan Sims, Tyson Jackson...the list goes on. We should pick up a DE in free agency and call it a day IMO.
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Old 12-06-2010, 08:54 AM   #8
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Good Article. We need to keep in perspective that this team is in transition, and that it has exceeded ALL expectations.

I fully expect us to have another solid draft, and for Larry Fitzgerald to be lining up opposite Bowe come 2011, but I'll worry about that later. For now, I am just loving this.
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Old 12-06-2010, 08:55 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RINGLEADER View Post
We should pick up a NT in free agency and call it a day IMO.
Fixed
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