The Morning After: Baltimore

Posted Jan 10, 2011

The Ravens left the Chiefs with plenty to remember

There is a belief that time heals all wounds. Whether or not that theory holds any truth is meaningless. The Chiefs must never forget their 2011 Wildcard Weekend experience.

Eventually, the pain of Sunday’s loss will erase. New seasons, new goals and new teams will follow. In time, Chiefs fans, players and coaches will look back at 2010 as a special season.

It was a season that defied expectations, changed the balance of power in the AFC West and saw a new wave of core players come to represent the future of the Kansas City Chiefs football.

When it’s all said and done, 2010 was a season to remember. There will be much to feel good about, but it’s also important that the Chiefs never forget what transpired on Sunday.

“Once the pain of this loss wears off, we can take away from this and not have this loss overshadow some of the things that we accomplished this year,” said S Jon McGraw. “We surpassed a lot of expectations and there can be a lot of good things taken away from a painful loss like this.”

Until then, Sunday represents the ending of only the very beginning. The close of the first chapter, if you will. Not the entire book.

“I thought we got great experience for a lot of young guys that hadn’t been part of this,” Coach Todd Haley said. “If they take from this what they need to do, which is to understand that in these big games it’s about playing your best football, or close to your best football…you can’t turn the football over and expect to win, you can’t take sacks, you can’t give up scoring opportunities in playoff games.”

Five turnovers, 137 total yards and a 23-minute difference in time of possession (41:44 vs. 18:16) tells us all everything we need to know about Sunday’s 30-7 one-and-done playoff performance. It was a shame the season couldn’t end in the same manner it started, but “31” is the number that pertains to the Chiefs future.

Prior to Sunday, more than half of the Chiefs roster owned zero games of postseason experience. To be exact, 31 of 53 players made their playoff debuts yesterday.

“We got a lot of guys some great experience in a much bigger game so that they understand and take that with them,” Haley said.

To put things into perspective, 19 of Baltimore’s 22 regular starters all owned playoff snaps prior to Sunday. When it comes to games played, those 19 starters owned more playoff experience than Kansas City’s entire roster.

While the Chiefs postseason numbers are limited, they’re actually inflated statistics, because players like Matt Cassel count as part of the 22 Chiefs with postseason experience. Prior to Sunday, each of Cassel’s four playoff games came as a holder.

Sure, no botched snaps, but no Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs or Ed Reed breathing down your back either. There were loads of first-timers playing critical snaps against playoff veterans.

The difference showed during a nightmarish third quarter that included three giveaways and a turnover on downs. Baltimore quickly more than doubled their lead as a result.

“It’s hard because you never know when you are going to get this chance again,” LB Derrick Johnson said.

Johnson, like many of the Chiefs “playoff-tested” players, owned only one game of postseason appearance prior to Sunday.

“We will learn from it,” Johnson continued. “We will start the offseason on the right foot. We did a good job but we are a young team this year. My hat is off to my teammates. We showed toughness this whole year. Nobody thought we would get this far. That is not an excuse for loosing today. Looking back to recap the year, I think we did some special things.”

As defined by Kansas City’s front office leadership, one of the primary goals is transform the Chiefs into a team that consistently competes for championships.

A division championship came out of this season. The foundation has been laid.

Remembering what led to Sunday’s third-quarter breakdown will lead to more division championships and, eventually, playoff wins. The core of Kansas City’s roster has changed. Players like Jamaal Charles, Glenn Dorsey, Brandon Flowers, Eric Berry and countless of other regulars now know what the NFL Playoffs are all about.

“I thought it was a really good year for us; year two of our program and what we’re trying to get done,” Haley said. “I thought we clearly got the ship turned around and going in the right direction and were able to have a lot of fun. I think we were able to get things going into the direction it’s going to continue to go.

“Now we just have to keep building; we have to keep building, keep adding, keep creating competition, keep getting better. It was a tough ending to a really fun year and a year where we made a lot of progress.”

Unfortunately, the 2010 Chiefs learned a valuable lesson the hard way. Fortunately, Sunday’s lesson will be a difficult one to forget.

“He just told us to keep our heads up, don’t let this game overshadow what we’ve put in all year,” rookie Dexter McCluster said. “Come back strong, remember how this felt and use this as motivation in the offseason.”

The blueprint for 2011 began long before Sunday’s game. A division championship run in year two, and a dose of playoff experience, might have been addendums to the original script.

In terms of the big picture, 2010 was a raging success.

Hali Keeps Turning Heads

Tamba Hali led the AFC with 14.5 sacks this season, but remains largely anonymous to NFL fans outside Kansas City. Some of that might be changing after Hali’s multi-sack performance on national television.

Hali finished the day with two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. At the end of 60 minutes, Hali had gained the respect of Baltimore’s left tackle, Michael Oher.

“Tamba Hali, he’s a man,” said Oher. “He comes to play and he plays every down.”

Did KC Squeeze Out Everything?

Before this season started, cautious optimism surrounded the Chiefs. Many believed that a .500 record was attainable and that the team was capable of making notable progress coming off a third-straight season of four wins or less.

But the Chiefs didn’t just turn out an 8-8 record, or even a winning season for that matter. They managed to put together the greatest single-season turnaround in franchise history, a six-victory jump from the year before.

After a surprising season to many, do the Chiefs feel like they got everything out of this year’s version?

“That’s a tough question to answer,” said Jon McGraw. “We feel like, on our best day, that we can play with anybody. We were hoping to have our four best days here going down the stretch and win these playoff games to get to the championship game. Obviously today we didn’t’ have our best day and where our team is currently at, we nee to have our best game to play with these types of teams that come up down the stretch.”

More Post-Game Notes Here

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