Chiefs Earn First Moral Victory of Season
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Kansas City Chiefs lost a game here Sunday, 19-9 to the Colts, and the last of the 2010 NFL unbeatens is history. The '72 Dolphins don't have to wait until late December this year. They get to pop their champagne and toast their nearly four-decade stranglehold on perfection with three weeks left before Halloween.
Of course, the joke is that they could have popped those corks a week ago, since there was nobody anywhere who thought the Chiefs of all teams had a chance to run the table. But even as they were losing this game, the Chiefs offered a great deal of proof that they're no joke. This may be a Kansas City team no one saw coming, but it's also a tough, disciplined team that plays very good defense and isn't scared of anybody. Not even Peyton Manning in his big, loud, downtown Indianapolis barn.
"We're a team trying to make a little progress every week, and all things considered, we made progress today," Chiefs coach Todd Haley said. "This team-in-transition made progress today."
This is the fascinating dichotomy of these Kansas City Chiefs. They are unquestionably a team in transition, having won 10 games total over the three years prior to this one. They're getting by with the help of a so-far remarkable 2010 draft class and a defense that's buying into Romeo Crennel's schemes, game plans and philosophies every week. They obviously could use some help in the passing game, as supposed No. 1 receiver Dwayne Bowe showed by dropping two straight passes, including one that would have been a touchdown, directly after the defense intercepted Manning in Colts territory in the second half. And until they get that figured out, they're going to have a tough time scoring enough to keep up with the league's better offenses.
But even as they transition, the Chiefs do find themselves 3-1 and in first place in the AFC West. It's nice to be happy with "progress," but this year's Chiefs have to balance that rebuilder's mentality against the reality that they're a contender at the quarter pole of their season.
"You bounce back," Chiefs guard Brian Waters said. "This is something we've got to learn from, and we're learning and building on the fly here. Just like we were (trying to not get too) excited about the wins, we've got to make sure we don't get too down now that we have a loss. We have to move on and realize it's about how we prepare this week. That's how we'll know how good we are."
Waters, for the record, believes his team is very good. He watched the defense discombobulate Peyton Manning all game, until he finally got it together for the fourth-quarter touchdown drive that finished off the Chiefs. He sat with his fellow offensive players and lamented that they weren't able to offer more help.
"Our defense, they did everything they could to keep us in the game," Waters said. "My hat's off to them. They had to play a lot of snaps just because we weren't as efficient as we wanted to be on offense, and they really stood up and held their own."
The Colts gained plenty of yards on the ground in the first quarter, but it looked as if the Chiefs were almost daring them to run, using a nickel-type defensive look with only two down linemen on some plays. Colts running back Joseph Addai had 15 carries in the first half, while Manning had just 14 pass attempts.
But when it came time for Manning to start throwing the ball in the second half, it didn't go especially well. The Chiefs' pass rush dominated the Colts' offensive line, forcing Manning out of the pocket and into multiple bad throws, and the receivers simply could not get past the secondary to accomplish anything downfield.
"Just doing what coach (Romeo) Crennel told us to do," Chiefs rookie safety Eric Berry said of the team's defensive coordinator. "Keep everything in front of us, no cheap plays, make him earn it. That's what we did."
It's one thing for a coach like Crennel to come into Kansas City and impose proven ideas for successful defense. It's quite another to have a young team that hasn't accomplished anything buy into it and play it with such discipline and devotion to the individual assignments. That's what gets Haley excited about what his team in transition might be able to accomplish.
"The discipline aspect of our team has been showing up for a long time," Haley said. "I've seen the discipline signs going way back, and that's one of the reasons I was so encouraged coming out of '09. Overall discipline, we've been one of the least penalized teams in the league, which is a sign of that. And the way our defense is playing, continuing to work hard and play the technique. Discipline is something I've felt real good about with our team for a while now, and going forward."
And there's no doubt they made Manning earn this one. He failed to throw a touchdown pass. He threw for just 244 yards. And he mixed in his second interception of the season. When it was over, the Colts knew they'd won a legitimately tough game.
"They did exactly what they've done all year in terms of keeping teams out of the end zone," Colts coach Jim Caldwell said. "They just did it in a different way, a little bit more of a nickel front, a couple of unusual things. They did a good job. They're a heck of a team."
Especially for a team whose coach describes it as one in transition. The Chiefs may be rebuilding on the fly, but they're legitimate contenders, and they showed why in Sunday's loss. They may not have the firepower to play with the Colts on offense, but they play hard, smart and disciplined. And in this league, there's no surprise that equates to 3-1 so far