Rewind: St. Louis Take Five

Posted Dec 20, 2010

Five pre-game focuses under review

All is alive and well in the AFC playoff picture for the Chiefs following a decisive road victory over their intrastate rivals. One week after being swept in our pre-game “Take Five,” it was the Chiefs that brought out the brooms on Sunday.

As always, the original article is posted below with the aftermath highlighted in bold.

Big-game atmosphere meets the Chiefs and Rams on Sunday in St. Louis. With two of Kansas City’s remaining three games taking place at Arrowhead, this weekend’s final road matchup dominates AFC West conversation. Most everyone knows what’s on the line…let’s “Take Five.”

1)   100 Yards

The Chiefs have been held under 100 rushing yards just twice this season. On both occasions, Kansas City was blown out…31-0 at San Diego and 49-29 at Denver.

Kansas City has suffered a handful of deflating road losses this season, but the team has generally found a way to respond. The positive outcomes have almost always been defined by Kansas City’s run game.

The Chiefs averaged 255 rushing yards in their two wins following a second-half collapse in Houston and the squad also bounced back from a lopsided loss in Denver by averaging 205 ground yards over the next three games (all wins).

Righting the ship begins and ends with the run game.

*On a side note, RB Thomas Jones needs just 17 rushing yards to become one of 25 players in NFL history to reach the 10,000-yard plateau.

Things looked bleak when the Chiefs couldn’t run the football early. Through Kansas City’s first three offensive drives, a total of -2 rushing yards were produced. Those three offensive sets ended with two punts and a turnover.

At the 10:57 mark of the 2nd quarter Jamaal Charles broke the Chiefs out of their rushing funk with a five-yard run. After the rushing totals turned green, four rushers combined to produce 212 rushing yards for the remainder of the game.

The Chiefs would score 20 unanswered points from that point forward and finished with over 200 rushing yards as a team for the sixth time this season

Jones finished with 62 rushing yards to become the 25th player in NFL history with 10,000 career rushing yards.

2)   Nickel and Dime

San Diego found success last Sunday with its short passing game. Darren Sproles made an afternoon catching short passes out of the backfield and turning them into routine gains of 10 yards. Missed tackles were a large part of Sproles’ chunk yardage.

With Sam Bradford under center, the Rams have done a nice job of nickel and diming defenses with efficiency. Bradford set a rookie record earlier this season by attempting 169 passes without an interception. Meanwhile, St. Louis’ leading receiver, Danny Amendola (68 for 567), averages just 8.3 yards per catch.

Flying to the football and limiting YAC totals on underneath routes should help the Chiefs contain the Rams passing attack.

Bradford and the Rams offense perfected the nickel and dime passing game during their first offensive drive. St. Louis matriculated down the field on a 14-play scoring drive that ate over eight minutes off the clock. During that drive, the Rams longest play consisted of a swing pass to RB Steven Jackson for 13 yards.

After the first quarter, St. Louis’ 11 remaining drives ended in eight punts, two turnovers and a TD. At one point in the third quarter Bradford carried a yards per attempt mark under 4.0. Adjustments were made and Chiefs defenders rallied to keep those short passes as minimal gains.

3)   37 Straight

Taking care of the football has been a critical component in both St. Louis’ and Kansas City’s 2010 improvement. For St. Louis, turnovers have led to automatic losses.

The Rams have lost 37 consecutive games with a negative turnover ratio dating back to 2005, which marks the longest active streak in the NFL. Of those 37-straight losses, 21 have been at home and 10 have come under second-year head coach Steve Spagnuolo’s watch.

The Chiefs won the turnover battle in San Diego ( 2), but still lost the game. That shouldn’t happen two weeks in a row.

Both of Bradford’s INTs came late and one was came a garbage down, but the two turnovers were enough to send the Rams to 38 straight losses when finishing with a negative turnover ratio. The Chiefs turned the football over just once on a first quarter Matt Cassel INT.

4) Time of Possession

This one’s easy. The Chargers more than doubled Kansas City’s time of possession last weekend by executing third-downs, on each side of the football, to near perfection. The 40:10-19:50 time of possession differential all but told the story of Kansas City’s day. The Chiefs couldn’t stay on the field offensively, nor could they stay on the field defensively.

Watch the final T.O.P. numbers on Sunday. Maybe they’ll tell the story once again.

The Chiefs start was worrisome when the Rams controlled the football for nine of the first 10 minutes. After the first quarter, however, Kansas City held time advantages for the remainder of the contest and finished the game with a 31:44 T.O.P. mark compared to St. Louis’ 28:16 total.

Two nine-play scoring drives in the second quarter helped even the lop-sided time differential from the first quarter. The Rams also converted just three 3rd downs after the first 15 minutes of play.

5) The Quarters System

Todd Haley’s four-quarters system is a perfect fit for the Chiefs down the final stretch of the season. With a goal of winning three out of every four games, Kansas City is already 0-1 in the fourth quarter. Reaching Haley’s three-win goal this quarter would put the Chiefs in the playoffs.

The Chiefs are also seeking December improvement. This is the time of year that separates pretenders from contenders and Kansas City hasn’t produced a winning record in the month of December since going 4-0 in 2004. Big games (and wins) come late in the season.

The Chiefs evened their fourth quarter record to 1-1 and face a favorable schedule the rest of the way. Both of Kansas City’s remaining games come at home, against teams without a winning record. It’s a good situation for the Chiefs to be in considering their perfect 6-0 mark at home this season.

Arrowhead hasn’t seen the Chiefs go undefeated since 2003. Ironically, that was the last time that the Chiefs won the AFC West title.

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