Monday, September 26, 2011

its not over ... yet.

“I was blown away, what could I say?
It all seemed to make sense.
You’ve taken away everything
That I can’t do without.

I try to see the good in life,
But good things in life are hard to find.
Blow it away, blow it away,
Can we make this something good?
Well I’ll try to do it right this time around …

Let’s start over!
I’ll try to do it right this time around!
It’s not over!
There’s a part of me that’s dead and in the ground.
This love is killing me,
But you’re the only one.
It’s not over!!!”

-- Daughtry, “It’s Not Over”. That’s Monday’s message: believe it or not … it’s not over! (Yet, anyways …)


"Sometimes, one play changes everything."

Four years ago, after the Chiefs staged an epic comeback upset of the Chargers in San Diego, thanks to a 51 yard touchdown to Dwayne Bowe on a 3rd and 19 to open the fourth quarter, that is the sentence I opened the email recap with.

"Sometimes, one play changes everything."

Chiefs fans, once again, I open a recap of a game in San Diego with those five words. Sometimes, one play changes everything. This time, that is NOT a good thing.

First, since lately it seems all we have to dwell on is the negative, let's accentuate what went right. And believe it or not, a TON went right yesterday. Especially the defensive gameplan.

Romeo Crennel, take a bow sir. That was one of the most genius defensive gameplans I have EVER seen on display yesterday. As angry as that finish made me, when I think of the efforts of the Red and Gold on the defensive side of the ball yesterday, I am proud. No really -- proud. That was a textbook in adjustments and scheming. Romeo is a horrendous head coach. (Every Cleveland Browns fan nodding their head in agreement.) He might be the brightest defensive mind this team has ever employed. And I am fully aware that the first three years under Marty, we employed Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy, and Herm Edwards. Those four guys, on one staff? Unbelievable. An embarassment of riches.

(Note: spare me the anti-Herm crap. Herm had his issues as a head coach, I will concede that. I wouldn't have fired him, but whatever. No matter what you think of Herm as a head coach, there is no doubting his defensive mind. I will go to my grave believing that if Carl had let Herm fire Gunther, and bring in his own Cover Two guys to coordinate things, that the Chiefs never would have bottomed out like they did. Anyways, back to my original point.)

Do you realize that at one point in the third quarter yesterday, that our secondary consisted of Sabby Piscitelli, Jon McGraw, and Kendrick Lewis ... and that was it? NOBODY ELSE WAS HEALTHY. And somehow, with three defensive backs available (to cover four positions), Romeo Crennel pulled it off. The Chargers never beat us deep. How, you ask? How could a team with only three DBs not get abused deep? Because the front seven was that damned good. That is the most frustrated I believe I have ever seen Phyllis Rivers during a game. He imploded mentally yesterday folks, he freaking imploded. He looked like a spoiled child, with his constant whining to the officials, his coaches, his offensive players, the hot dog vendor, anyone who would listen. Even Dan Fouts, not exactly an unbiased observer, even Dan Fouts all but told him to shut the f*ck up from the announcing booth.

Glenn Dorsey looked very impressive yesterday. That might have been the best game of Tamba Hali's career, and considering he didn't practice this week due to injury issues, that is amazing. DJ was DJ -- in perfect position to make plays. (I know he dropped a gimme INT, but (a) he was essentially playing corner on that play due to our injury issues, and (b) he ALWAYS drops gimme INTs. Oh, and (c) the Chargers punted two plays later, no damage done.)

And the secondary, take a bow. If I'd told you that Brandon Flowers would be lost for the game early in the second quarter, that backup Travis Daniels would leave two plays later with a shoulder injury, and that we would have one healthy corner in the 3rd quarter (Lewis), and he's playing safety due to injury issues back there, what odds would you have given me that the Chargers would be up 40? Even? 2:3? I'd have been paying you to just take the bet, that's how little confidence any of us would have had.

I felt that the offensive gameplan in the second half was outstanding. I don't know who finally took the keys away from our Crazy Drunk Uncle Bill* at halftime, be it Todd Haley or Jim Zorn or Scott Pioli himself, but whoever demoted Bill Muir at halftime, you deserve a raise. I have to believe the Bill Muir experiment is over. The difference in gameplan between the second and third quarters was amazing to witness. We actually looked like a legitimate offense out there for stretches of the second half yesterday.

(*: I said "our", not "mine". Yes, I have a crazy drunk uncle named Bill (scroll down to DHDII's story). I have very big shoes to fill to become the A Man's crazy drunk uncle Stevo.)

And thanks to a courageous stand on 4th and inches, Matt Cassel was finally put in a position to sink or swim. That game was perfectly set up for the Chiefs to win it yesterday. (Or at least tie it, but as shaky as Ryan Succup has been? I think ... no, I know, Haley would have gone for the end zone on that final drive until he had no choice but to kick. He would not have played it safe and settled for the three.)

Cassel will never be gift-wrapped a better chance to steal a game he has no business winning, than what he was handed yesterday. The Chargers were reeling. And to Cassel's credit, he opened strong -- a perfectly thrown pass to Leonard Pope that put the Chiefs at the Chargers 42 with about a minute to play.

At that point ... well, like I said. Sometimes, one play changes everything. First, let me cut Cassel a tiny bit of slack, in that it was an ATROCIOUS playcall. I have absolutely no idea what the Chiefs were trying to accomplish with that play. The PROPER play call there would have been a double out pattern with Bowe and Pope, or Bowe and Breaston, ideally a 12 yard cut, so you (a) pick up the first down, (b) stop the clock by getting out of bounds, and (c) enter makeable field goal range. A 12 yard out pattern to Pope (just replay the previous playcall, only have Pope cut out instead of parking 10 yards downfield) was the perfect playcall there. Quick five step drop, and if Cassel is errant with the throw, the odds are, it sails out of bounds harmlessly, which stops the clock. Nothing bad would have happened with a double out pattern.

If the Chiefs wanted to change things up a bit (which, I suspect, was the reason behind the playcall), why not call a delayed handoff to McCluster there? The Chargers had dropped seven. You keep Pope in to block, power formation on the right side, and let Pope and Asomoah blow the hole open for McCluster to sprint through. It's what we were doing most of the second half, and it was working brilliantly*. A delayed offtackle sweep or a draw up the middle there, would also have made sense. (Yes, the clock would still be running, but your receivers wouldn't be 30 yards deep. You'd lose maybe 10 seconds to get back to the line and spike the ball, leaving you with what, 30-35 seconds left? Plenty of time if you're already in field goal range, which had the Chiefs run either play I just suggested above, we would have been.)

(*: This honestly is my biggest pet peeve about playcalling -- why in the hell do you stop running something that's working? Make the defense take it away from you! Back when "The Voice of Reason" and I were roommates, we constantly played either Madden or NCAA Football against each other. Every one of our contests was, as you'd expect from two people who face off every night, a pretty competitive game. So we'd each have to try out different things to avoid becoming too predictable. Having said that, there was one play Gregg would run, that no matter what I did, I couldn't stop it. I knew it was coming. I'd even shift my defense clear down the line ... and he'd still gain 11 yards every damned time. (It's a delayed offtackle run to the power side of the formation). Gregg would keep running it ... because it was guaranteed to work. He actually ran that play so well some nights ... that I never touched the ball the ENTIRE half (we played 5 minute quarters)!

Why do offensive coordinators feel the need to get cute, and go away from what's working? I will never understand this. The only offensive coordinator the Chiefs have employed in my lifetime that "got it" was Al Saunders. He'd bleed the quick screen to Dante Hall to death. He'd bleed the quick out to Tony Gonzalez to death. Why? BECAUSE THE PLAY WAS GUARANTEED TO WORK! If you know you're going to get 12 yards and a first down no matter what every time you call a play, uuh, why wouldn't you call it over and over again?

In case you doubt me, find a copy of the opening drive of the 2005 season, against the Jets at Arrowhead. It’s not like the Jets were awful – they had made the playoffs three of the last four years, and had nearly reached the AFC Title Game the season before. (Godd*mned Doug Brien missing not one, but TWO field goals inside the two minute warning, either of which would have upset the Steelers. Instead, the Jets lose in overtime.) Our first three plays that afternoon? Al Saunders called the SAME DAMNED PLAY all three times, offtackle left. Priest ran for 50 on the first two carries, and LJ finished off the last 28 yards on the third play. If the defense can’t stop the play, why not keep hammering them with it? God bless it, I miss Al Saunders. Never more so than yesterday, there isn’t a shot in hell Al calls that final play.)

As noted, the playcall selection was atrocious at that point of the game. What really infuriated me about the playcall there as well, is that we'd tried the exact same play on our second offensive possession, and it didn't work. It nearly blew up in our faces. (It was on 3rd down after the Lewis interception, I believe it was 3rd and 4, and we called that exact play. McCluster nearly got decapitated in the backfield by his own teammate before squeezing through for a 3 yard gain.) So let me get this straight -- we not only are calling a play that makes zero sense at that juncture ... we already know it won't work, because we've tried it! Oy, my head is hurting. Hold on. (stevo pouring a stiff vodka tonic ...)

And yet, you know what? I still am going to put all the blame on Matt Cassel there, because in that one moment, by allowing that play to be run, presumably unchallenged, we now know beyond the shadow of all doubt that the one thing a quarterback HAS to be able to do -- think on his feet in the heat of the moment -- Cassel is incapable of doing. Ask yourself this -- if that play is sent in to the Patriots huddle at that same moment in the game, do you think for one second that Tom Brady would run it? Or, would he laugh at the stupidity of the idea, and audible to something he knows will work? Exactly. I know Len Dawson is defending Cassel this morning by pointing out how bad the play call was, and that's fine. But Len? Would YOU have allowed that play to be run? Or would you have audibled out of it? Exactly. You can blame the playcall if you want for setting Cassel up to fail. I blame Cassel for not being intelligent enough to see the handwriting on the wall, and changing the play in the huddle or at the line.

And as for the throw itself, my God, what was he thinking? Wait, scratch that, because the answer to "what was he thinking" is clearly "not a godd*mned thing". No, what I want to know is, did Cassel even LOOK before he threw the pass? Or did he just take a three step drop and fling it, hoping someone would be there? Again, at the end of the day, you can polish this turd up all you want, but it's still a turd. It's still an indefensible throw that arose from an indefensible refusal to override / overrule an indefensible playcall.

So, instead of coming home with a season-salvaging victory, like what Herm's Chiefs got in 2006, or what Gun's Chiefs got in 1999 and 2000 in this spot, or Marty's Chiefs got in 1997 when their backs were to the wall, now we come home at 0-3, having p*ssed away a gift-wrapped victory from San Diego. The hard part of that is, quite honestly, not the loss itself. It's not even the recognition (that should be painfully obvious to everyone by now) that the Matt Cassel experiment is an abysmal failure. No, what kills me ... is that this season is anything but over. Yesterday is quite possibly the difference between repeating as division champs, and missing the playoffs at 8-8.

We currently sit at 0-3. That doesn’t concern me all that much -- look at our next six games. You can credibly see the Chiefs winning all six, and I'm not saying that as a biased observer. The Vikings are terrible. The Colts are worse. The Dolphins and donkeys are going nowhere fast. We get the Chargers at home in prime time, Arrowhead will be the difference. And we've won 8 of our last 9 in oakland. I can see us running off six straight wins.

But then what? If you presume, like I do, that right now, the Patriots, Jets, and Packers games are guaranteed losses ... and if you presume, like I do, that it will take at least 9 wins to reach the playoffs (I think 10-6 wins the AFC West outright, 9-7 gets you into tiebreaker scenarios with the Chargers and/or raiders. This division is horrific folks, it's horrific) ... then you realize that the Chiefs literally now have ZERO margin for error. We have to win EVERY OTHER GAME ON THE SCHEDULE, save for the Pats, Jets, and Packers, to be assured of reaching (carl peterson voice) “the tournament”. That means we have to beat the Steelers here, we have to win at Chicago, and we have to win at denver (never an easy thing, no matter how awful the broncos are.) Plus we can have zero screwups in our other seven games, beginning Sunday against the Vikings.

Is it possible? Sure. Again, look at those next six games. There's still a chance. I'd say right now the Chiefs have about a 10% chance of winning this division. (I'd put the Chargers at 60%, the raiders at 25%, the Chiefs at 10%, and the broncos at 5%.) But the margin for error is now zero. Thanks to one incredibly retarded decision by Matt Cassel, with the game on the line yesterday at the Q. That one play, changed everything. Here’s to hoping it didn’t cost us everything as well.

So, to answer a couple final obvious questions at the end here ...

* Yes, I will still be out there, rain or shine, win or lose, for the remaining seven games this year. Well, at least six of them; I'm having issues finding a flight back from Miami early enough on November 6th to ensure I can make kickoff. (Of COURSE we’d host the Dolphins on the weekend when I will be in Miami. Of COURSE it works like that.)

* Yes, we will still be there when the gates open, in our usual spot (the grassy lot by G30), doing what we do best (drinking ridiculous quantities of alcohol).

* No, I am NOT pulling the plug on this season. Did you not read the last four or five paragraphs before this? Do you not remember 2006? This season is NOT over yet! But Sunday is as close to “Must Win Sunday” as you can find in this League entering October.

* The main course for Sunday (as of now) is those burgers with the cheese already grilled into the center of them. Needless to say, someone can have my couple burgers, as I have no desire to spend an hour in the crappers at Arrowhead because of the cheese. If you're coming out, please feel free to join us, we'd love to have you.

* Oh, and Wednesday night, I am swinging by the Bus Barn to see if the "piece de tailgating resistance" is operational. Yes, someone with absolutely nothing better to do has built us a beer pong table. Right down to the table having 10 perfect depth holes (allegedly) for ponging it up. It's ... I ain't gonna lie, I took a look at it yesterday. It is pure white trash. The guy built it out of old beer signs in a smoking bar. It's ... the only way this thing can get any more redneck is if the folks playing it are shirtless and barefoot. (Hey, wait a second, that's me on any nice, sunny afternoon. No wonder I like this thing!) So hopefully we'll have that to enjoy on Sunday as well.

I do hope that everyone reading this can make it out there Sunday. The weather looks spectacular. (Long ranger as of Monday afternoon is 81 and sunny. Sweet!!!) Tickets are about as cheap as I've ever seen them, at least for an early in the season contest. Yes, we're 0-3. Yes, our quarterback (apparently) has the in-game IQ of a tackling dummy. But as bad as things are for us, realize this -- it's not going to get any worse this year, than it is right now. If we lose on Sunday, then season over, and we full on embrace “Suck for Luck”. (Or as I prefer, “Don ‘t Score for Moore!” I love Kellen Moore of Boise State, even more than I like Luck.)

But if we win Sunday? Then season still on (life support), but still on. It’s not over yet folks! It’s NOT OVER! This right now is the season's lowest point. Either we crap out and hit rock bottom on Sunday, or we start to rise a little bit towards the surface. I'm betting on the latter. But I'm surprisingly ok with the former ...

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