Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Second Guess: Chiefs vs. Raiders


As exciting and intense as the revival of the Chiefs/Raiders rivalry would become Sunday, I almost forgot how completely boring and uneventful the first quarter was. Aside from a flurry of flags, a couple of failed fake punts, and just two carries by the Chiefs' best offensive weapon, Jamaal Charles, there wasn't much to speak of.

Oh, and about those first quarter flags — the last yellow on the field in the quarter was the result of a phantom defensive pass-interference call against Oakland that set up the Chiefs with a first and 10 (or 14, as Jeff Triplette and his officiating crew would soon be reinventing the game of football and its rules for us) from the Raider 14-yard line.

Second quarter: Chiefs 0, Raiders 0

Touchdown — Cassel to Moeaki!

The Chiefs faced a third and two from the Raider seven to open the second quarter when Matt Cassel hit rookie tight end, Tony Moeaki for what looked to be the game's first score. At first glance, it appeared to be the correct call, but after an odd challenge by Raiders head coach Tom Cable (even if overturned, the Chiefs would still have first and goal from the 1-yard line), the call was overturned.

What followed had to be one of the most embarrassing moments in Triplette's career, and easily the most entertaining (and stressful, for Chiefs fans) moments of the first half for those of us watching from the couch. Kansas City lined up for what it thought was a first and goal from the one. There was a flag on the play (go figure!), which was a ten-yard holding penalty against the Chiefs. As Triplette and his crew were discussing the flag prior to him making the call, Chiefs head coach Todd Haley realized the sideline down marker read "4", implying the previous play was fourth-down. Haley, at this point, was screaming at Tripplette that the previous play should have resulted in a first down. Triplette then essentially gave Haley the brick wall, and shouted back at him, "It wasn't a first down... It wasn't a first down."

Not good, Jeff.

After Triplette's holding call — the first of what felt like a hundred — the veteran referee declared that it was "still fourth-down". The camera then turned to Haley waving his arms in the air like a mad man.

"Hey! Jeff, I need you! COME OVER HERE!" Haley was obviously not pleased, and you just have to love those CBS microphones.

It seemed to take Triplette about five minutes to realize he had completely goofed the whole thing up. The first thirty seconds of his conversation with Haley, Tripplette had his arms crossed and kept shaking his head like a child refusing to eat his vegetables.

When Triplette finally got it right, he came back on the field to announce that it was a Chiefs' first down, and it was now first and goal from the one. Apparently, good old Jeff had forgotten that the Chiefs had already ran a play (on first or fourth down, depending on who you roll with), and it should have been first and goal from the 11 after the penalty. After a brief conversation with Cable, not unlike the one he had with Haley, Tripplette, by miracle, got it right.

On the very next play, Cassel connected with Verron Tucker* for a touchdown, which was challenged by Cable and upheld, leaving the Raiders without a challenge for the rest of the game. Oops.

*If you're wondering who Verron Tucker is, this may be your first time visiting The KC Eye. Somehow, the special teams extraordinaire and fifth wide-receiver on Kansas City's depth chart has been a familiar mention in recent posts. If he keeps making catches like he did Sunday, the trend will surely continue.

After a Raider fumble on the ensuing drive, the Chiefs had a golden opportunity to take complete control of the game until the drive was stalled, more or less, by a first-down fumble by Thomas Jones.* Kansas City recovered, but lost substantial yardage on the play. A Ryan Succop field goal gave the Chiefs a 10-point advantage.

*Is it just me, or does it seem like Charles gets a much greater punishment (like sitting out the next few series) when he fumbles/misses assignments than Jones does?

Following a Raider three-and-out, the Chiefs again had a chance to blow the game open on their next possession. After a nine-yard completion to Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City faced a second and one from their own 44-yard line. Charlie Weis then called two consecutive runs to Jones, who failed to pick up the first down on either play. At that point, Jones had nine rushes for eight yards and a fumble, and if there was any debate as to which Chief back deserved to be in the game prior, it should have ended then. Unfortunately for Chiefs fans, it didn't.

After yet another stop (the Raiders looked completely disinterested the entire second quarter), the Chiefs looked to have blown the game open on a Javier Arenas punt return for a touchdown. Unfortunately, Triplette and his crew were in position to make a stop (illegal block in the back).

Hey! It's The Triplette Trifecta! — After two consecutive 5-yard offsides penalties on the Raiders, Triplette and crew call a 10-yard holding penalty against the Chiefs, negating the yardage, effectively making all three plays obsolete, and completely wasting everyone's time (except for the Chiefs, who now have to go 20 yards for a first down instead of 10). This is, of course, what occurred following the punt return for a touchdown that was called back, and folks, it was a thing of beauty.

Wait a minute, there's more. In spite of Jones' ineffectiveness and Haley/Weis' refusal to get Charles the ball, the Chiefs (after throwing on third and one because of a no gain by Jones on second and one) elect to kick (and make) a 41-yard field goal to add to the lead. Unfortunately, Triplette and crew flagged Andy Studebaker for a holding on the play (complete domination by Triplette this quarter), taking another three points off the board for Kansas City. If you're counting, that's 10 for the game.

And while we're on the subject, when is the last time you saw a team get flagged for holding on a field goal attempt? Just wondering.

Not to worry, Raider quarterback Jason Campbell followed up a Chiefs punt with a horrible interception, giving Kansas City, seemingly, their 98th chance to blow the game wide open. The Chiefs refuse, though, with the help of an interception thrown in the endzone off the back foot of Cassel. Halftime.

Start of third quarter: Chiefs 10, Raiders 0

The second half began, as we know, with the Jacoby Ford show, as Triplette and crew weren't quite able to make the stop on the 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by the Oakland rookie. Not to be outdone, Triplette made up for it with the classic 'too many Raiders in the stands' excessive celebration penalty.

Eat that, Raider nation! 15 yards — courtesy of my man, Jeff!

It's worth noting that on the Chiefs' first offensive play of the second half, Charles was in the backfield. With that in mind, I'd like to remind the readers that the team went into halftime with Charles having only four total rushes. Don't worry, they didn't hand him the ball.

Charles did leave the game briefly due to injuries after helping set up a Chief field goal early in the third quarter, but contrary to what Haley reported after the game, was healthy enough to come back in on the very next drive and stayed in for the rest of the game.

After an impressive drive by the once-sleeping Raider offense, the silver and black held its first lead of the game going into the final quarter.

Start of fourth quarter: Raiders 14, Chiefs 13

The Chiefs' first possession of the fourth quarter, which began in the third quarter, was quite bizarre. I'm not sure if Weis was unsure of the time remaining in the game or if he had a relapse to the early 2000s when Tom Brady was his quarterback, but his play-calling would lead one to believe the team was either in their two-minute offense, or under the belief that their strength is the passing game. Either way, with the ball consistently in Cassel's hands, the drive, naturally, ended with a punt.

The Jacoby Ford show would continue with the first of three absurdly great catches at key points in the game by the rookie, setting up a Sebastian Janikowski field goal. After a Chiefs' three-and-out, Triplette would make his presence felt yet again.

Kansas City's ensuing punt was fumbled on the return by Raider, Nick Miller, but upon replay it looked as if Miller was down by contact before the fumble. Unfortunately for Oakland, Triplette, after collecting plenty more face-time by taking about an hour and a half deciding which team would get possession, awarded the Chiefs the football. What was also so very unfortunate for the Raiders was that Cable had thrown away his team's challenges on two separate go-to-goal plays for Kansas City early in the second quarter, neither of which would ultimately yield a positive outcome for his squad.

The result was an absolute strike from Cassel to Bowe for a 20-yard touchdown which should have been the game-winner.

After a huge defensive stop, the Chiefs, following a first down, faced a third and 12 with 2:20 on the clock, and the game, seemingly, in their pocket. Weis went bold, though, and called a pass to Bowe. Bowe, wide-open on the play, couldn't handle the pass, and the Chiefs failed to seal the deal.

A first-down, and the team would have been in victory formation.

The final, game-tying drive of regulation, may have been Triplette's crew's finest hour. There was a phantom hold called on Chiefs' defensive back Donald Washington, which, if not called, would have led to a fourth down play for Oakland. Then there was a ridiculous booth-review on an obvious catch for the Raiders, negating a spike by Campbell, effectively giving Oakland an extra down and time.

Ford's second big-time catch set up a spike by Campbell with seven seconds left — seven seconds that would have likely already ticked off the clock had Triplette's crew not handed the timeout-less Raiders two extra time-stoppages on the drive. And, Of course, Janikowski's game-tying field goal followed.

Overtime! Again! Chiefs 20, Raiders 20

As Triplette performed the overtime coin-toss, a member of his crew (presumably) blew their whistle while the coin was in the air, possibly sensing the crew had not yet put enough of their stamp on the game.

After some slight confusion, Triplette declared that Kansas City had won the toss. But after three predictable plays (the second-down play was about the seventh time Weis called a play-action rollout to Moeaki, and the Raiders knew it was coming), it was puntin' time.*

*One positive, at least, was that on third and short, Cassel went back to his money-maker, backup tight end, Leonard Pope. Pope couldn't handle the pass, not that he was open or anything, but I was just happy the team had finally pinpointed its strength. If only Cassel had gotten him the ball sooner..

After the third and final installment of the Jacoby Ford show (who burnt supposed Pro Bowl caliber-Brandon Flowers on Oakland's first offensive play in OT), it was Sea-bass time. Janikowski, as he seemingly made a living doing early on in his career, booted the Raiders to victory over the Chiefs. That was all she wrote.

Raiders 23, Chiefs 20. Final—OT

* * *

This one was an absolute gut-wrencher for Chiefs fans. It's even harder to swallow because, by letting this game slip away, Kansas City has opened the door for the Raiders and Chargers to climb back into the division race. This loss also puts added pressure on the team as they head into Denver for what is now almost a must-win.

Triplette and his crew had a rough day to say the least, but this team has no one to blame but themselves. There were a handful of opportunities to blow the game open in the first half, but the Chiefs refused to take advantage of them. An ineffective gameplan, including an ignorance to their best offensive weapon, combined with an inexcusable drop by butterfingers-Bowe, allowed for this letdown.

I think it's possible, when Haley refers to the "process" in his post-game press conferences, he's alluding to himself and the coaching staff more than anything else.


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  2. I, like gtd, am also concerned with your goal management...

    Watching a Tripplett game is so frustrating sometimes... The whole sequence inside the five was hilarious - thanks to Tripplett's "you're an idiot" looks to Haley.

    I am a big Thomas Jones fan, and it's been hard to argue the dual running backs system when both get 100+ yards each. Having said that, you have to be able to realize when one style is more beneficial. Oakland was getting so much pressure up front and closing holes that Charles' ability to make a guy miss is what we needed more of. Having Jones plow right into a non-existent hole time and time again was so frustrating. I also noticed our sudden switch to a passing team. I was encouraged by the back shoulder throws to Bowe, I thought Cassel put both of them (the completion and the drop) right on the money and I think that's a valuable assett in a passing game.

    Avery and I have been listening to a lot of Bill Simmons and think that we need our own podcast. We should think about it.

  3. "*Is it just me, or does it seem like Charles gets a much greater punishment (like sitting out the next few series) when he fumbles than Jones does?"

    It was Jones first fumble in 300+ carries. Some would call the fumble a fluke and not punishable. How many fumbles has Charles lost let alone had? That being said, the 2 back system works, when you use it correctly that is. The KC Eye is too hard on Jones, and blame should be utilization (Even though you constantly call Haley out) I feel he got left off the hook on this one.

  4. Phil Luckett was the referee in the Steelers-Lions coin flip mess-up.

  5. Thanks for the Triplett/Luckett heads up. Got my info mixed up.

  6. I agree with the Jones/Charles comparison. Charles dropped a pass on the first series of the game, and wasn't really used again until the second quarter... at least I don't remember seeing him again until the second quarter. I took that as 'punishment' from Haley. And Charles having just four carries in the first half helps affirm this.

    After Jones fumbled he was right back in the game the next series.