Last year, the Chiefs were a Cinderella team. Fueled by hopes and dreams, along with a cupcake schedule, they surprised everyone but themselves by going 3-0 out of the gate. After a year of solid, mistake free football, everything imploded all at once. One week, they looked like the belle of the ball against the Tennessee Titans, then midnight struck and they lost their glass slipper. No, screw that, it was more like the pumpkin exploded in their damn face. They were brought back down to reality ferociously and had to be scraped off of the collective boot of the Raiders and Ravens to end the season. No fairytale ending. It was more like the Brother’s Grimm version, if Cinderella were the one to get her eyes poked out by pigeons instead of the evil stepsisters. Tim Burton would direct.
This year, the Chiefs were considered a contender going into the season, ready to have a fun time at Camp Crystal Lake. A rough looking schedule curbed expectations some, but nothing like getting slaughtered the first two games did. The beginning of the schedule was supposed to be the easy part, just playing grabass with the other camp counselors, so why did it feel like they were getting chased through a corn field by an unnatural behemoth with a hockey mask and a machete? All they could do is watch their comrades get mangled as their odds of survival slimmed.
Despite not looking like much, like a stiff breeze would blow them over, the Chiefs mustered up the courage to fight back against San Diego. In the end it wasn’t enough. Despair formed a prison around the team, but the team kept hope. Of course, hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. People considered the value in losing in this tale of woe. Committing suicide, taking the coward’s way out of these shackles after the cell door slammed shut. But the team wasn’t ready to die. They appealed for their life in their next two games with wins against awful teams that started the year 1-9. These small victories teased them of their dream of finding a warm place with no memory to live the rest of their days, right before getting back to working on the laundry.
At the same time, the presumptively illusory monsters that had plagued them in the past proved to be real. Their first 3 opponents combined for a 13-2 start, terrorizing every promiscuous teen in their path. It’s hard to decide if it’s a comfort to know you weren’t imagining it all, or if it’s even worse knowing it wasn’t just a bump in the night.
So, what type of story will this turn out to be? A bad slasher flick that would be easy to laugh at if it wasn’t so pathetic? Or will this be a story of redemption, taking all of the bad cards dealt to them, turning them into a winning hand and sticking it to their captors in the process? Hopefully they wouldn’t have to crawl through 5 football fields of shit to get there.
One thing is certain… it’s too late to turn this into a Disney film.
Regardless of how you feel about Matt Cassel, if you’re one of the few who feel he’s Mr. Right, think he’s just Mr. Right-now, or Mr. Dear-God-I-Hope-No-One-Sees-Me-With-This-Loser, he’s still the QB of this team. That didn’t change during the offseason. Hence, logic would dictate that very little would have on that front. So, how does our passing game stack up to last season?
Matt Cassel 2011 First 5 Games
93/140, 66.4%, 945 Yards, 8 TD, 5 Int, 89.7 QB Rating
Matt Cassel 2010 First 5 Games
78/135, 57.8%, 851 Yards, 7 TD, 3 Int, 84.5 QB Rating
Matt Cassel 2010 Full Season
262/450, 58.2%, 3116 yards, 27 TD, 7 Int, 93 QB Rating
The number that jumps out the most is the much higher completion percentage. Maybe that’s what the addition of Breaston has meant to Cassel, while Bowe has continued to be an absolute beast. Most everything else seems to be in line with what he’s done lately. Would it have been even more noticeable if Moeaki wasn’t hurt this season? Cassel also has a worse TD to INT ratio, but still nothing crazy. If anything, he’s gotten off to a better start than last year, and his line is giving him fair protection, averaging the same 2 sacks a game they did last year.
So, yeah, Matt Cassel is still Matt Cassel. Many detractors will freely admit he hasn’t been given all of the tools to succeed his first two seasons with the Chiefs. The lack of receiving talent has been obvious. Even his biggest fans will admit being able to lean on the #1 run game last year helped though… but what about this year?
We all know the story. Many called for Charles to be cut going into 2009, despite talent that looked crazy good when put to the eye test. Why? He put the ball on the ground too much. Yet, when finally given his opportunities, he took that ball and ran with it, to the tune of a single game team rushing record the final game of that season against the Broncos.
2010 rolls around, and he doesn’t slow down. Charles was amazingly underrated by the national media, even as he was just a couple carries away from breaking Jim Brown’s ypc record. He still hasn’t completely shaken the stigma of being a fumbler, even after only having 3 fumbles (2 lost) all 2010. But Chiefs fans knew, this man was the heart of our offense. A consistent runner and big play threat, as long we had Charles, we had a chance…
…and then he tears his ACL.
‘Man, we’re screwed!’ That’s all I could think at the time. Thomas Jones is out of gas and we don’t have a true running back after that. But, is that what the numbers say?
Team 2011 First 5 Games
127.4 YPG, 4.6 YPC, 0 TD
Team 2010 First 5 Games
164.6 YPG, 4.9 YPC, 3 TD
Team 2010 Full Season
164.2 YPG, 4.7 YPC, 13 TD
We’ve clearly taken a step back losing Charles. Yardage-wise that’s 36.8 yards less a game, which in turn is 588.8 yards over a season. We’re still nearly as effective when we do decide to run, but the zero touchdowns are very disheartening. That may be a bit of a fluke, and we weren’t that good at pounding the ball into the endzone last year anyway. Those 13 TDs last year would put us firmly amongst the average.
This is one spot where the real story is what we have moving forward. Both Dexter McCluster and Jackie Battle have averaged 5.4 YPC so far this season. How much workload can Dexter handle? Will Jackie Battle prove he can be a feature back? How close to 100% will Charles be when he returns?
It’s unlikely we match our production from last year, but this is still more of a strength than a weakness. Despite the seemingly huge chasm when comparing the numbers, we’re still in the top 10 in the league both for yards per carry and average rushing yards per game. It puts into perspective just how good we were last year.
Individually, the Chiefs have some of the best defenders in the game. It’s hard to name a better 3-4 OLB than Tamba, a better pair of corners than Brandon Flowers and Carr, a better 3-4 ILB than DJ, or a better Safety than Berry. You could mention better ones, sure, but these are all guys that are at least in the conversation as being Pro Bowlers at their respective positions. We’ve got some pieces.
There were relatively few defensive changes. Get rid of that creepy dude that grabs balls, yet still became a fan favorite somehow (okay, Shaun Smith was alright). Add in a salty veteran on the d-line from the team that most recently annihilated you. Sprinkle in a few draft picks. Seems like a pretty vanilla offseason.
That is, until Eric Berry got hurt. I already was worried about our lack of Safety depth from when Kendrick Lewis was hurt last year. Seeing him get hurt confirmed my fears. I’d almost rather watch the Jersey Shore than watch Sabby Piscitelli get major playing time.
2011 Defense First 5 Games
369.2 YPG, 30 PPG, 5.7 YPP
2010 Defense First 5 Games
340.2 YPG, 18.4 PPG, 5.3 YPP
2010 Defense Full Season
330.2 YPG, 20.4 PPG, 5.1 YPP
Many of us remember the defense being better than they actually were last year. They were ranked 14th in terms of yardage. But that’s okay, they were a bend-but-don’t-break unit anyway, right? They still were only the 11th ranked scoring defense. They weren’t very opportunistic either. Even with one of the most talented young secondaries in the game they only forced 14 INTs, for a total of just 23 turnovers. They were barely above average at forcing sacks, tied for 10th with 39. The only stat that really stood out to me as especially good was their 5.1 average yards per play, tied for 6th in the league. Overall though, this was a very average defensive unit.
All that being said, we’re clearly worse this year. Now, maybe it’s unfair to really compare these numbers since we had more points hung on us in the first two games than we did until halfway through the 6th game of the year last year. Still, the only major change is the loss of Berry. Berry was our second leading tackler and had the talent to be our best playmaker, but was he that important to our defense?
Yes, he was important, but I present an alternate theory. Some of our guys just plain had career years and it’s going to be difficult to match that.
For instance, Tamba Hali isn’t far off of his sack numbers, 4 sacks in 5 games projects to about 13 sacks over the season compared to a career high 14.5 last year. Still, he is clearly generating less pressure as a whole. He’s been credited with 11 pressures according to Pro Football Focus, which would project to about 35 pressures over the season. That’s not bad, but a far cry from the league leading 64 pressures he had last year.
That’s just the best example. It’s harder to quantify on an individual basis, and too obvious if you just compare pass defense straight up (allowing 29.7 yards more a game), but the whole secondary looks worse to me too. Is it because the team is generating less pressure up front? Is it because they don’t have the range of Eric Berry backing them up? Is it just hard to be as consistently good as they were last year?
Maybe it all adds up.
We lucked out last year and didn’t have to deal with the injuries we have now. We don’t have the depth most good teams have. However, we have the pieces on defense to play a ton better than we have. Our offense hasn’t performed as bad as advertised either. Things could certainly get better. Our division is weak enough we could sneak up on people, so the show isn’t over yet.
It’s hard to say what kind of a movie we walked into. Some people walked out 15 minutes into it, but it’s gotten better since then. Do we hold out hope that by the end of it we won’t feel cheated of our time and money?
Call me a fool, but I’ve never walked out of a theater or football game early, and I was at opening day this year and saw the Happening.