The Morning After: Arizona

Posted Nov 22, 2010

The Chiefs back-to-basics approach pays off in 31-13 win over Arizona

Home is where the heart is, and the Chiefs re-found their core at Arrowhead on Sunday afternoon.

Moving to a perfect 5-0 at home this season and re-gaining control of the AFC West, Kansas City succeeded in the areas that had previously plagued the team during a two-game losing streak. The Chiefs looked fundamentally sound in their 31-13 drubbing of the Cardinals after embracing a “back to basics” approach to practices throughout the week.

“We were really looking forward to getting back here to get back on track, to get back to basics like we said all week; that means back to playing football the way we had been playing it, really for the majority of the season,” Coach Todd Haley said.

Arrowhead witnessed a fundamentally sound football team in all three phases of the game. The league’s top-ranked rushing offense ran for more than 5.0 yards per carry and produced over 150 yards on the ground, while the passing game was equally efficient. QB Matt Cassel pushed his TD/INT ratio improve to 18/4 and didn’t turn the football over. The Chiefs also saw only 23 yards taken away via penalty, didn’t allow any sacks and made key defensive stops throughout the game on third downs.

Things clicked across the board for the Chiefs in a return to Arrowhead.

“Anytime you, unfortunately, lose two games in a row and you get to come home in front of your home crowd and get a win, it’s big for you,” Cassel said. “We kind of stopped the bleeding so to speak. Hopefully, we can build on this win and move forward from here.”

The difference in Sunday’s outcome came down to execution. From a statistical perspective, the Cardinals and Chiefs finished nearly dead even. The two teams ended their day within 30 totals yards of one another, while third down efficiency numbers and time of possession totals weren’t far apart either.

Kansas City’s ability to play mistake-free, complimentary football proved to be a critical factor in a lopsided final score, despite an otherwise even stat book. The Chiefs played as a team on Sunday and it’s hard to find a better example of complimentary football than the set of plays that preceded Kansas City’s first score of the game.

Facing a 3-0 deficit near the end of the first quarter, the Chiefs defense forced an Arizona three-and-out inside the Cardinals 10-yard line. A 17-yard punt return by Javier Arenas would follow to help change the game’s field position and Kansas City re-gained possession at the Arizona 38-yard line. The offense then capitalized on the ensuing snap with a 37-yard pass from Cassel to Dwayne Bowe that set up a one-yard Cassel/Bowe connection three plays later.

The span of plays that concluded the first quarter, and began the second, would serve as a momentum turner at Arrowhead. Kansas City found the swagger that it had been missing during the past two games and the Chiefs wouldn’t trail the Cardinals again for the rest of the day.

“This was a really good team win for the Kansas City Chiefs,” Haley said.

The win was critical to the Chiefs goal of becoming AFC West champions. During the six quarters that preceded Sunday’s homecoming, the Chiefs had gotten off track. They weren’t doing the simple things that had made them successful throughout the first half of the season. It was those six quarters that made the race for the division crown a whole lot closer and very few of those miscues appeared at Arrowhead on Sunday.

Four solid quarters of football helped right Kansas City’s ship on Sunday. The next awaiting the Chiefs is for the team to play its best football after Thanksgiving.  

“I think this time of year is when teams are defining themselves because each and every year starts brand new; there’s no carry over from the year before, whether you’re a good team, a bad team, or in between,” Haley said. “The process we go through defines what our team’s going to be and we’re right in the middle of that grind or the second half of that grind. Teams that can grind it out and win some games like this make the aches and pains not hurt quite so bad and that’s the secret to becoming a good team.”

Postseason teams take care of business at home and the Chiefs have done that thus far in 2010. Arrowhead hasn’t seen a 5-0 record since the 2003 season, which also happens to be the year that Kansas City last won a division championship. The Chiefs finished a perfect 8-0 at home that season.

In a week where the Chiefs desperately needed not only a victory, but also a confidence booster, the Sea of Red came through.

“The fans, you can’t say enough about them,” Cassel said. “Every time we get to come home, I think every man in that locker room is excited to play in front of our home crowd. They bring so much energy and enthusiasm. It’s just a great place to play and I wouldn’t want to be any other place. That’s why I think they’re the 12th man out there – the defense feels it, the offense feels it. It’s been pretty special to have Arrowhead back to where it should be and to have these fans to continue to support us like they have all year.”

The Chiefs, and their fans, showed a lot of character in the way they beat the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

News And Notes

  • Dwayne Bowe continued his six-game TD streak and set a franchise record in the process. He continues to reel in difficult catches and his run after catch displays have been equally, if not more, impressive. (read more on Bowe’s day here).
  • Shaun Smith made his Red Zone debut at fullback, plowing the way for Thomas Jones on a one-yard TD run.
  • With offensive playmakers Dexter McCluster and Tony Moeaki out of action, Javier Arenas made a brief appearance at wide receiver.
  • With Moeaki out, Jake O’Connell saw several looks in the passing game. He finished with two catches for 24 yards.
  • Demorrio Williams saw time as a rush end during sub-packages and tallied a sack. He received similar looks coming out of a three-point stance during the preseason.
  • Rookie Verran Tucker drew the start at wide receiver opposite Dwayne Bowe. He finished the day with one catch for 13 yards.
  • Branden Albert (hip) and Brandon Flowers (hamstring) left Sunday’s game with injuries. Starting right tackle Barry Richardson shifted to the left side and Ryan O’Callaghan came off the bench to take Richardson’s post when Albert left the game. Filling in for Flowers was Ricky Price. Price has played both cornerback and safety for the Chiefs, similar to the roles we’ve seen Donald Washington and Maurice Leggett play.
  • Former Tennessee Volunteers head coach Phillip Fulmer was on hand in the press box to watch former Vols players Eric Berry and Dan Williams. Berry said that he received well wishes from Fulmer earlier in the week.
  • For more notes on Sunday’s game, visit the Chiefs postgame notes page here. Game Balls

Offense: Dwayne Bowe

Bowe’s second consecutive 100-yard game and record-setting TD streak has him just one TD catch shy of tying Chris Burford’s single-season franchise record. Burford established the mark in 1962 with 12 TD receptions. Bowe’s current mark of 11 TD catches leads all NFL receivers.

Defense: Javier Arenas

Arenas was all over the field for the Chiefs on Sunday. He contributed on offense and special teams in addition to his role on defense. Arenas led Kansas City with eight tackles, a sack, two quarterback hurries and recorded a pass defensed.

Special Teams: Dustin Colquitt

Colquitt used Arrowhead’s windy conditions to his advantage by averaging 52.8 yards per kick on five punts. He booted a long punt of 64 yards, hit two punts for touchbacks and had one punt downed inside the 20-yard line. Arizona’s averaging starting position was its own 22-yard line.

^ TOP ^