As we approach the 8:30PM ET kickoff of the 2-1 Washington Redskins at the 3-0 Kansas City Chiefs, we can enjoy being the last undefeated team in the league for at least another few hours. Entering this game, the Redskins are coming off a dominant 27-10 win against the Oakland Raiders. Meanwhile, the Chiefs played a closer than we’d like 24-10 victory over AFC West rivals, the LA Chargers.
So far this year, the KC offense is 2nd in yards/game with 397.3 and Washington in 6th with 373.7. Although close in yards/game, those yards aren’t translating into points at the same rate. The Chiefs are in 3rd with 31 points/game and the Redskins are tied for 12th with 23.7. Let’s hope this trend continues.
On the defensive side of the ball KC is ranked 27th with 369 yards/game and Washington is ranked 3rd with 272 yards/game. However, the yardage per game isn’t translating to points the way the Redskins would like. The Chiefs are tied for 8th only giving up 19 points/game while Washington is tied for 14th with 20 points/game. So, despite giving up almost 100 yards/game more, the points/game is one less. Let’s hope on this continuing also.
A key area that seems to be mentioned in every NFL game is winning the turnover battle. KC is tied for 4th and Washington is tied for 12th, with only 3 games played. KC is +4 and the Redskins are +1. These numbers are more a reflection of protecting the football better than they are of us taking the ball away more.
My final thoughts before kickoff are that for the good guys to come out of this game with a victory, we are going to need Alex Smith and the offense to play the high caliber ball they have been playing in games 1-3. We also need to win the turnover battle and have our defense pressure Kirk Cousins.
Heart meds – check, AED – check, jersey/hat – check, let’s go Chiefs!
Here At the Half
Thanks to the local LA Charger fans, I was delayed from getting to a TV out here in La La Land until the second quarter. I walk into the hotel and look over at the bar TV. There we sit, down 10 points with a little over 10 minutes in the second quarter. What was my first thought? OMG, what have I done? I am not wearing my Justin Houston jersey nor am I wearing my ironically funny gold hair visor. I have doomed the team to a loss on game 4. As I entered the depths of despair, I began reaching and grasping for anything to save myself. And then, at the last possible second, my figurative hand struck purchase and I began to claw my way to sanity. The reason the team was losing was that I wasn’t watching. It wasn’t my wardrobe, that would be silly. The Chiefs can’t win if I don’t watch. Well, game on!
I quickly got my statistical bearings and caught up on where we were. In a hole. Down 10 points at home, to the Redskins. OK. So, so wood to chop.
Momentum changing march dialed up. We need 73 yards and a TD to regain the momentum. Well, in steps Travis Kelce to snag the TD and ice this need. A few plays later and we are trying to close out the half tied 10-10. Instead, we shank a kick and go into the half down by 3.
Although I have been counseling my TV screen on proper NFL coaching techniques, I decide to back off and see what it can do to regain some level of performance. Net result:
Chiefs 7 and Redskins 10, moving on.
As seems to have been the way all along this season, our Kansas City favorite Chiefs start the game too close for comfort in scoring. Even when we got some early takeaways and scored, we didn’t get beyond a two score game. I distinctly remember thinking that the Redskins were physically abusing us in the first half, but that shifted significantly in the second.
Second Half Anxiety
While the analysts talked about the games over the weekend the anxiety of a game we were losing crept in. Would this be the first game we lose in 2017? Would we end up Week 4 tied with the Broncos? Would we no longer be the last undefeated team? I sure hoped not.
When the team came out for the second half we seemed to have made some adjustments and were playing better. Although I would have preferred we started playing with authority and done what we wanted with the ball, I was encouraged by the momentum we were gaining.
At 9:20 in the third, team leader and quarterback Alex Smith, crossed the goal line for a touchdown to take the first lead in the game. We had marched 79 yards on 10 plays with a series of passes and Kareem Hunt rushes, only to have AS11 pull the ball from Hunt when the entire defense seemed to crash on him. Smith was able to walk into the end zone through a gigantic hole in the line. Chiefs 14 and Redskins 10.
The next 25 game minutes were a back and forth battle of scores, shifting the lead from KC to Washington, and back. Each team was making plays and keeping the game in hand. We must give credit to the coaches and players of the other red and yellow team with a native American sounding name. The Redskins were playing some good football and a real physical game. However, I also noticed a few plays where the Chiefs started to hit back and/or make the necessary yardage to keep the chains moving down the field.
I think one of the best adjustments made in this game from the prior is the team discipline. I wrote a tongue in cheek article on KC being first in the league in penalties. Well, not this week, we were only penalized three times for 15 yards.
As the game approached the end of regulation, KC and Washington were trading field goals in this close game. Each team moving the ball down the field, but stalling out the drive before entering the endzone. The last Redskin drive ending with an incompletion in the endzone. That play was too close for comfort as it looked like the reception was made, but the receiver just couldn’t hold onto the ball all the way to the ground. The game of inches edging in favor of the Chiefs.
Heart pounding, with 4 seconds left, rookie kicker and new Chief Harrison Butker, puts the ball through the uprights. Butker missed his first kick as an NFL place kicker, but came back with 3 straight opportunities to put KC up 23-20.
In the end, the final field goal was enough for the victory, but Washington gave it one last try on the kickoff. The Redskins tried a return with a lateral, however that was put onto the ground. Justin Houston recovered the fumble and took it the few yards needed and scored as the clock expired.
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As I watched players and coaches come onto the field at the end of the game, I started to feel my heart beat return to normal. All was right with the world and KC remained the only undefeated team in the league.
Although it wasn’t as I had imagined we would start the season, we were 4-0, beating not only the New England Patriots, but three teams that were better than expected in the Eagles, Chargers, and Redskins. I am very encouraged by our ability to find ways to win games instead of ways to lose them. In past years, we always seemed like we could give up the one play needed to lose. That isn’t happening this year.
Looking back at the stats a few jump out to me as better than the score sheet would indicate or keys to victory.
Although I mentioned at the start of this article, we needed to win the turnover battle to win the game, it wasn’t really needed here but did seal the game with a defensive touchdown. We were only able to come up with one fumble recovery in this game. Washington did a nice job protecting the football throughout the game and only gave up the fumble on a last second gamble to score with 4 seconds left.
On the night our defensive effort was good enough to hold the Redskins to 20 points, which is below their season average of 23.7 per game and under 23 minutes of possession. While they didn’t register a sack on the night, they did limit the overall effectiveness of the Washington offense while they were on the field.
By sustaining drives and controlling the football for over 37 minutes in the game, Kansas City was able to keep the Redskins from scoring and our defense rested. Over the course of the game we ran almost 50% more plays than the Washington offense. Although it is always possible for an NFL defense to score, it isn’t near as likely as the offense. A solid gameplan will always be to win the time of possession battle, which is typically done with running more plays on offense and not turning the ball over.
While the game was close for most of the night, the offense and defense did their part and walked out of Arrowhead with a victory. Now comes the after action on the game to learn where we can improve and move in with the season. One thing I saw that I think we need to figure out is protecting the QB. We gave up 32 yards on 4 sacks and this seems to be about the norm per game. Negative plays, like penalties, put the team in a place where the likelihood of stalling a drive goes up. I would put this at the top of the list to fix quickly.
As I finally recover from a game that was closer than I would like, I take stock of where we are in the season. Record is 4-0. First in the AFC West. Defeated 2016 season Superbowl champs. Defeated both of the NFC teams we have faced this year. 1-0 in the division (12-0 in last 12 games) and haven’t lost a division game since 2015. And finally, KC has scored 24 more points and only given up 3 more than our next closest competitor in the division, Denver.
Our beloved Chiefs are ranked 3rd in scoring for the year, (although Miami and Tampa Bay have played one fewer game – but aren’t even close in scoring) with 122 points, behind New England and the Los Angeles Rams, and 11th in points against. However, we are first in point differential with a +45, with the next closest being the LA Rams at +37. Let that sink in for a second. We are scoring about 11 more points per game than our competition, making it a 3 score advantage.
Do I dare ask the question? With a quarter of the season in the books, with 4 wins and no losses, do we finally have the right mix of offense, defense, and special teams to go deep into the playoffs and possibly even win the big game?
While we aren’t dominating every game, we do persist and win. While we aren’t shutting out teams, or even holding teams out of the end zone all the time, we are limiting points better than average. While we aren’t breaking returns for TDs, we are maintaining good field position. Each phase seems to be playing their part and contributing to the team.
One thing I will say is that this team is playing as a team. The identity isn’t the “Greatest Show on Turf” or the “Steel Curtain” kind of identity. I would say it is what we hear the team leaders say when the break down a huddle, “Family”. They have the identity of all in it together. All part of the machine that wins games. Each phase ready to step up when needed. Each one capable of putting points on the board for us, or keeping the opponent off.
I am really looking forward to the next 12 games of the regular season and seeing where we can go from here. What do you guys think? Where will this season take us?
Until next week, there’s The Rub!
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