CBS has given us commentators Ian Eagle and former Chiefs quarterback, Rich Gannon for Todd vs. Josh II, so it's sure to be a game full of ath-a-letic plays.*
*If you've never seen a broadcast with Gannon to the color-commentary, you may be clueless here. Just know that for most people, "athletic" is a two-syllable word. For Rich, it has three.
Wow, is it me, or is there a lot of empty seats at Arrowhead? It might be a smart move to paint those $230 empty Club-level seats red, too — at least the ones in the endzone that haven't been used all year. Just saying.
Todd Haley just began the referee badgering on a Tony Moeaki dropped pass on third-down. Upon replay, there was obvious contact, but the no-call was the right call. The boos were sure loud, though.
Following a big third-down connection from Cassel to the finally-healthy, Dexter McCluster, Gannon explained to us, "What did Matt Cassel tell us the other day? He said, 'these receivers, opposite Champ Bailey, are going to have a big day.'" Duly noted.
Hiyooo! Cassel to my man, Leonard Pope for the game's first* touchdown! Or Cassel's man, I should say. Cassel and Pope have been waiting for this moment all season long. Sadly, for the blocking-tight end, it only goes down from here.
Ok. There have been two NFL Today updates of the Bills/Vikings game from CBS so far. The first one ended with what, at least I believed, was the dead, lifeless body of Brett Favre lying on the Metrodome turf, obviously having been completely overwhelmed by the ferocity of the Bills' defense. This last update was of Vikings' backup quarterback Tavaris Jackson throwing a pick-six to the aforementioned, 2-9 defensive unit. Somewhere, Daunte Culpepper is laughing.*
|Brett Favre, after absorbing a hit to his back vs. the Bills.|
*That somewhere would be with Denny Green as a member of the UFL's Sacramento Mountain Lions. (They're both where we thought they were.)
Start of second quarter: Chiefs 7, Broncos 0
Wow, aside from the one KC drive, this has been a Colquitt family punt-fest thus far (Chiefs' punter, Dustin Colquitt, is the older brother of Broncos' punter, Britton Colquitt.) I find this so fascinating. You'll see families of doctors, lawyers, even professional athletes — it's not uncommon. But to be the parents of two siblings who become the punters for rival NFL teams, what an oddly cool circumstance. Really, though, what are the odds?
Oh my! Brandon Carr, who has already made a couple nice plays, just dropped a sure-thing pick-six. This is now being referred to as the DJ effect.*
*Derrick Johnson has dropped, seemingly, 50 would-be interceptions this season, a handful of which would have been brought back for scores. Ouch.
Interesting series now for the Chiefs offense as they're driving with about eight minutes remaining in the half. After a big first-down completion to Moeaki to the Denver 39, Cassel, on first-down, got the team out of the huddle late and had to hurry the snap. The play, a pitch to McCluster, went for no-gain, and I get the sense Cassel would have called an audible had he enough time. I also get the sense Cassel would have burned a timeout (instead of the play) had he not feared the verbal blasting his head coach would deliver to him upon reaching the sideline.
Prior to the second-down play (a four-yard completion to Cassel-favorite Pope), Chiefs' receivers Dwayne Bowe (with zero catches to this point) and Verran Tucker went in motion simultaneously, which is illegal. Oddly, Haley, doing his best Bo Pelini impression, argued with the officials after the penalty was called. No clue as to what his case was, either. As his conversation with the side judge ended, it was almost as if he was coaching the official to settle down — as if it were his over-anxiousness, and not his knowledge of the NFL rulebook, that drew the flag.
On second and 15 now, having no help or guidance from their much-preoccupied head coach, the offense failed to execute again. A dump off pass on third-down gave the team fourth and five from the Denver 33 yard-line. In the defensive ball game that this was becoming, Haley chose the smarter choice (punting) over going for it or kicking a field goal.*
*More on that a little later.
The drive, however, was stalled merely by an inexperienced quarterback who chose saving a timeout (and face) over the betterment of the team and head coach whose ego got in the way of his team's success. Not much was made of this during or after the game, but the series was a complete wasted effort by Cassel and Haley, at a time when the Broncos were ready to roll over.
So.. is there a reason the 'NFL Play60' logo on the 30-yard line is twice as big as the arrowhead at midfield? Anybody?
Well, it's pretty obvious the Chiefs' rush defense is flawed. You know it's bad when the Broncos and their 30th-ranked rush offense come to town and run it right down your freakin' throat. Just ask my fantasy team.
Kyle Orton just play-faked to absolutely no one in the Denver backfield on third and short inside the Chiefs' 10. Surprisingly, it didn't work, and the Donkeys were forced to settle for three.
Whoa. Did Eagle just refer to Verron Tucker as "the surprising rookie out of Cal"? I mean, I'm not sure what's more ridiculous — the fact Tucker was described as "surprising", or the use of the word "the" by Eagle (as in, it's Verran Tucker, the surprising rookie; not Verran Tucker, a surprising rookie). It is worth noting Tucker had just four catches coming into this game, but hey, who's counting? Maybe Eagle's surprised Tucker doesn't have more catches.
To be fair to Eagle, Gannon just followed up Eagle's comment by praising The Surprising Rookie with a brief anecdote. Who needs Chris Chambers, anyway?*
*Not the Chiefs, apparently. Chambers was deactivated again this week. After signing a three-year deal in the offseason, somehow the veteran receiver finds himself in Haley's doghouse, and nobody seems to know why.
Finally, Joshy-Josh has put his stamp on this game. There's seven seconds remaining in the first-half, and Chiefs' kicker Ryan Succop gets iced by the Broncos' head coach just before booting his team to a 10-3 lead. Fortunately, Succop made his second try, making the whole thing a big waste of time — all thanks to Josh! (Isn't it cute?)
Halftime: Chiefs 10, Broncos 3
Eagle just asked if we should start referring to the Chiefs' running tandem of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones as speed and slam. Or maybe he was discussing possible nicknames for he and Gannon. Not sure.
Boy, the league has sure put itself in a sticky situation with its new head-to-head hit policy. Broncos' linebacker D.J. Williams just broke up a third-down pass from Cassel to McCluster by driving his shoulder through the ball (and McCluster). I'm not sure what else he could have done, other than not make the play. The flag has completely bailed KC out, as a punt was to follow.
The Chiefs looked like they would take advantage, having driven to the Denver two-yard line. Instead, a very ugly turn of events would follow for the team.
First, a Charles touchdown run was wiped off the board because of an illegal-formation penalty. After a Jones run negated the penalty yardage, a Barry Richardson false-start call then negated Jones' run. Somehow, first and goal from the two just turned into third and goal from the seven.
It gets worse. Following a five-yard Charles run, bringing the ball back to the two for the third time, the CBS cameras showed Richardson (who was pulled from the game because of the false-start) shoving special teams' coach Steve Hoffman during a tantrum-like outburst on the sideline.*
*Richardson shoving Hoffman like a rag doll looked bad, especially considering how many times CBS showed us the replay, but it may be getting a little blown out of proportion. You'll see on the replay that Richardson was upset, and first lightly shoved teammate away before Hoffman approached him. It's my opinion that in the heat of the moment, Richardson reacted similarly when Hoffman grabbed him, not fully realizing it was a normal-sized human-being, not a barbaric-sized teammate, who'd grabbed him at that point. Members of the media have speculated there should be some sort of disciplinary action as a result of Richardson's actions handed down by the team or even the league. Forget the league. The team may handle it internally, but this is really a non-issue going forward and has been since the moment the Chiefs won Sunday.
It gets even worse. Haley, possibly in an effort to mock his team's mental breakdowns, has one of his own, and opts to go for fourth and goal instead of kicking a field goal (and taking a ten-point lead). Now, this wouldn't be such an odd turn of events had it not been for the conservative play/decisions in the first half. The game was obviously not going to be the shootout everyone expected, and a field goal here or there might mean the game. Going for it in this instance has Haley's ego, and not the team's best interests, written all over it.
Then, with the league's best rushing offense mind you, Haley/Charlie Weis call an odd pass-play (probably to Pope) that, naturally, ends with Cassel being sacked for a 15-yard loss (The one positive of not getting the touchdown there — if you run — is you'll pin your opponent inside their own two-yard line where it's tough to run a normal offense and would likely lead to good position for your offense after making a stop). Nevermind that now, of course.
Where has this Brandon Carr been all year? Another pass deflection! Give me this guy alongside a healthy Brandon Flowers in January, and I'll give you a Chiefs' playoff defense that ain't so easy to throw on.
Not again! Kansas City just had a 50-yard run by McCluster wiped out by a Terrance Copper* hold, and this time Haley is well onto the field making his case to the official to no avail. The replay shows an obvious hold (and a beer in Haley's hand, one would think).
*Where's Chris Chambers when you... Oh, nevermind.
This is getting good. The Surprising Rookie just snagged a big third-down catch, and Gannon had the audacity to say, "Verran Tucker has really had an outstanding second part of the season". Hey, no surprise here.
My goodness. Did Carr watch tape of the 1995 Kansas Chiefs' defense this week or what? Jabar Gaffney didn't know what hit him after having the ball knocked loose by the third-year cornerback. The guy is playing his best game as a Chief by far, and everybody in Kansas City knows it including Denver receiver, Brandon Lloyd. The Blue Springs native, whom led the league in receiving coming in, has been held to just one catch thanks to Carr.
The Chiefs are driving, and... a McCluster fumble ends the drive. You know, the beauty of a Dexter McCluster fumble is that you get to watch 300-pound linemen crush a normal-sized human-being into oblivion under the pile. Another blown opportunity.
Start of fourth quarter: Chiefs 10, Broncos 3
The difference between being considered a good player and being considered a great player in the NFL is the ability to finish plays. Carr just learned that lesson after diving and just dropping an interception near the goal-line. Spectacular coverage on Lloyd, regardless.
On a first-down pass (floater) from Cassel intended for Bowe early in the fourth, Champ Bailey, who's been smothering Bowe all afternoon, makes a good play and deflects the pass incomplete. Predictably, Haley demands a flag be thrown, and it's possibly, at this point, the refs have zoned the Chiefs' coach completely out. Or maybe that happened in week one.
It's worth noting Haley would likely not be so demanding of such calls had his team taken advantage of opportunities earlier in the contest (see: third-quarter debacle; head coach's ego; non-existent run defense). Instead, the Chiefs hold a shaky four-point lead and haven't scored since the end of the first-half. The game has disaster written all over it.
Terrance Copper just dropped a would-be first-down reception on third-down, and now is a good time to mention the comment Cassel made to Gannon that Gannon mentioned earlier in the game about the receivers on the opposite side of Bailey — basically the receivers not named Bowe — and the big day they were going to have. At this point in the game, Chief wide-receivers not named Bowe had a total of four catches for 53 yards, and of course, receivers named Bowe have yet to catch a pass.
Denver running back Knowshon Moreno, after a 24-yard gain on third and long, has 160 yards rushing and looks completely unstoppable at this point. Worse, the Broncos are threatening to take what would be their first lead of the game, with a first down at the KC 25. That sick feeling I got in my stomach from the third-quarter meltdown just got a lot worse.
WOW. There's nothing like a Tamba Hali sack/fumble on a Denver quarterback in a meaningful December game at Arrowhead to swing momentum and bring back such fond memories of Derrick Thomas vs. John Elway in the 90s. CHIEFS' FOOTBALL
|Chiefs' linebacker Tamba Hali sacking Broncos' quarterback Kyle Orton.|
Now, finally, something of substance Haley can complain about. There's a reason Champ Bailey is, well, Champ Bailey, and we just got a glimpse of it here. Bowe, seemingly registering his first catch of the game, was flagged for offensive pass-interference because of a slight push-off the likes of Andre Johnson (see: Chiefs vs. Texans, week six) and Larry Fitzgerald get away with on every down.
Right on cue, CBS shows a highlight reel of Bailey covering Bowe. The only problem is the majority of the plays were running plays where Bowe's job was to block Bailey. But hey, what do they care?
Oh boy! For some reason, Joshy's dad, Thom, is standing behind the coach on the sidelines. The only thing I can compare it to is way back when I was in T-ball and our league allowed a coach to stand in the outfield with the players (yes, I played outfield) for, you know, some helpful encouragement (and a reminder there was a baseball game being played).
So, I don't know. Maybe the Broncos have some sort of T-ball-like arrangement with the league. Or maybe Joshy-poo (as Thom surely calls him) simply doesn't play well with others.
Did I mention the day Carr is having? He just denied Lloyd yet again on third-down. Can a guy claim shut-down corner status after one great game?
After a near-disastrous fumbled snap by Cassel (who recovered), the Chiefs faced third and 17 with about four minutes to play. Every Chiefs fan had to know the following play would be ultra-conservative, as a forced pass and turnover would surely prove costly. The play would be a dump-off pass to Jones who gained 12 yards — five shy of a first-down.
Now, most might consider such a play a wash, but let's consider some things. The gain moved the Chiefs from their own territory to the Denver 45, allowing (Dustin) Colquitt to pin the Broncos deep in their own territory. Had it not been for the Jones dump-off, the Broncos' first play on their ensuing drive, a 17-yard completion to the 32, may have been something more like a 17-yard completion from the 32 (to midfield). Who knows what that potential momentum would have meant for the Donkeys on what we'd find to be their last real opportunity to win the game.
Those little plays, like the one to Jones, are easily overlooked during the course of the game. Looking back, though, it was essential to the outcome.
Sometimes, I guess, it's better to be lucky than good. Orton, in the process of being sacked by Javier Arenas, flipped a pass to Moreno who had a lot of room to roam. Instead, the referee ruled that Orton was "in the grasp" of the defender, and therefore down. The sack doomed the Denver drive, and because of Joshy's next decision, it doomed their chances at winning altogether.
On fourth and four with 2:39 remaining and two timeouts to work with, little-Joshua, with father Thom at his side, elected to punt the football and play defense. Now without even considering how bad the Denver run-defense is (pretty bad), or how good the Chiefs' rushing-attack is (the best), it's obvious the decision to punt makes virtually no sense. The first thought that may have run through your mind there is that, if the Broncos went for it and didn't get it, the Chiefs would already be in field goal range. Well, thanks to a confused Chiefs' gameplan led by ego-Todd, Denver trailed by only four points, and a KC field goal would not put the game away (like it should). Also, a Chiefs' first-down virtually ends the game, so don't worry about what a touchdown could do, because if KC got that close to scoring, they'd be kneeling before then anyway.
So forget field position, it's basically irrelevant.
Ok. Let's go ahead and consider now that Denver has one of the league's worst rush-defense and haven't done so well stopping Charles today. The chances of them getting the ball back with any real time remaining is low. They have, themselves, ran the ball extremely well against the Chiefs thus-far, and remember, have only four yards to go to extend the drive.
So.. punt it is!
Wouldn't you know it? The NFL's best rushing offense got the first-down it needed.* Also, the Chiefs ran mostly stretch and pitch plays which take longer to develop and take longer for the referee to spot the football as the plays generally end outside the hash mark. Hey, at least Haley and Weis seem to know what's going on some of the time.
*They actually converted too quickly. Had the Chiefs not gained a first-down until after the two-minute warning, they would have gone to victory formation instead of having to punt.
After a (Dustin) Colquitt punt (the result of which, at first, looked like a safety for the Chiefs), Orton and the Broncos had just six seconds left to pray for a miracle that wouldn't come.
Final: Chiefs 10, Broncos 6
The Chiefs really eked this one out, and they really only have themselves to blame for it. Now, because of the Chargers being upset by Oakland later Sunday, Kansas City has a two-game lead in the division coming into this Sunday's showdown in San Diego. Even right now, at 8-4, the Chiefs are to the point where if they fail to earn a playoff berth, it would be considered one of the biggest Kansas City sports letdowns in recent memory. With a win next week, though, you can confidently start printing off those playoff tickets, folks.
Finally, after the game, what we all had been waiting for — Todd vs. Josh: The Handshake II. Would Todd point his finger again? Would Joshy-Josh retaliate? Why in the hell is Josh's dad here, and would this be a tag-team affair?
|Chiefs' coach Todd Haley and Broncos' coach Josh McDaniels kiss and make-up.|
They hugged (and then did this weird head-pat thing). As it turns out, Josh wouldn't need the hug until about 24 hours later.
I think, had he known it'd be his last handshake on an NFL football field, a return-handshake snub would have been in order.