When: Friday, August 26, 2011
Time: 7:00 pm, Central time
Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO
Kansas City Radio and TV: KCTV5 in Kansas City, over 60 radio stations on the Chiefs Radio Network, see KCChiefs.com for affiliates.
When the Kansas City Chiefs kick-off to St. Louis at 7:00 p.m. on Friday night for their third pre-season game, the team will be looking to get a better offensive performance out of their starters, answer questions in their linebacking corps, and … I don’t know … maybe win a game?
The Chiefs have lost their first two preseason games by scores of 25-0 to Tampa and 31-13 to Baltimore. KC treated the Tampa game like a glorified practice and it was unwatchable. Especially to the tens of thousands of Chiefs fans that paid $80 to $250 a ticket to watch their team sleepwalk for three hours.
Avid fans will point out that with 10 minutes left in last weeks’ game, the Chiefs actually led 13-10 and had held Baltimore’s offense down for the most part. Only a terrific 26-yard touchdown run by the Ravens Ray Rice and a couple of nice catches by WR Lee Evans spoiled a good performance by the Chiefs first-string defense. I would agree with that and then point out that the Chiefs offense struggled in every series except one and that our defense isn’t the ’85 Bears so the offense will have to try and score some points for the team to win.
On Friday night, expect to see the Chiefs do what they’ve done for three pre-seasons under Todd Haley and that’s get prepared for the season opening game. Nothing more, nothing less. It probably won’t make for an exciting game, but if the Chiefs go 7-1 at Arrowhead in the regular season and compete for the AFC West crown, none of you will care.
Three things fans should look for in Friday’s game:
1) Matt Cassel and the offense need to establish a rhythm. The starting offense has been nothing less than stagnant in the first two games and it has been pushed around by the Buccaneer and Raven defensive lines. But did you notice that when Tyler Palko came into the game last week, the Chiefs used a two-minute, hurry-up game plan that resulted in an 80-yard touchdown drive with 15 seconds left in the half? It was light years ahead of what the offense had done before. Heck, it even made Palko look like an NFL quarterback! The Chiefs need to break the rust off of the starters before the Buffalo game in two weeks, so they should allow Cassel, Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe and Tony Moeaki to use a no-huddle scheme and get a rhythm. Since the second quarter of the Week 16 win over the Tennessee Titans that clinched the division last year, the Chiefs starting offense has scored two touchdowns over the next 18 quarters of football. They need to do better and they need to start Friday night.
2) Who will step up to be the #2 wide receiver? Dwayne Bowe is set as the #1 target for Cassel, but the Chiefs need somebody to grab hold of the #2 spot and run with it. Steve Breaston, the free agent signee from Arizona, needs to get worked into the passing game. Since Haley doesn’t care about winning, how about throwing Breaston the ball? The Chiefs biggest “splash” free agent has played in only the Ravens game and was targeted one time in the passing game. He caught that one target for a five-yard gain. Jerheme Urban has been terrible and only Verran Tucker has looked good in the passing game. Breaston’s been in camp for three weeks now and it’s time to take the diapers off, as former coach Dick Vermeil would say. Of course, rookie Jonathan Baldwin, who lost out on his bid to join the World Wrestling Federation when RB Thomas Jones put him in his place, SHOULD be competing for that spot, but with is injured hand, will have to wait another few weeks.
3) Figuring out the linebackers. Nobody seems to be making a big deal about the season-ending injury to free agent linebacker, Brandon Siler, earlier this week, but I think it will be a huge loss to the defense. Siler was a big, run-stuffing defender that also excelled on special teams. He would have fit in perfectly with Derrick Johnson in the middle of the Chiefs 3-4 linebacking corps. Now Jovan Belcher will take the job back and the problem is that he’s simply not as good as Siler. Justin Cole and Demorrio Williams could factor into this spot at some point. As far as replacing the retired Mike Vrabel on the outside spot opposite Tamba Hali, Cameron Sheffield and Andy Studebaker seem to be playing at a high level. Rookie Justin Houston, however, is showing flashes of the speed and talent that had him projected to be a first-round draft choice before some off-field issues caused him to fall into the third round. Suddenly, the Chiefs linebacking corps looks much deeper than it was last year, but it might have become an elite group if Siler was healthy.
The Rams will prove to be a good test for the Chiefs in their “dress rehearsal” game before the regular season starts. Like the Chiefs, the Rams are a team on the rise with some good-to-great talent at the skill positions.
It would be nice, however, if Todd Haley could at least try to win just a little bit more.
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