The Morning After: Baltimore

Posted Aug 20, 2011

Chiefs first-teamers see progress, but plenty of work remains in order to be ready for September 11th

BALTIMORE, MD – Matt Cassel attempted a pass, Jamaal Charles carried the football and Tamba Hali received opportunities to rush the passer. Having been held out of action in last week’s preseason opener, Friday night served as a “Back To Football” outing for number of Kansas City front-line players.

“You really don’t feel like you’re out there until you get hit,” said Cassel, who played into the second quarter against the Ravens. “You know that you’re out there playing football again, and it’s football season when you take those shots.”

Exiting Baltimore, it’s clear the Chiefs have plenty of work to do before they’re ready to kickoff the regular season three weeks from now. Some positive strides were made against the Ravens, but the Chiefs are still in the mode of laying their foundation for 2011.

“We talked about, going into this game, just about doing some of the fundamental things better across the board – offense, defense, special teams,” Chiefs Head Coach Todd Haley said. “I thought we were able to do that a little better in more areas, which is a positive sign to me. We obviously got a long way to go.”

The Chiefs were basic by design Friday night, both offensively and defensively. That approach wasn’t much of a surprise given the way Kansas City attacked training camp practices in St. Joseph.

Kansas City didn’t spend time this week game-planning for Baltimore. Instead, Haley chose to emphasize the importance fundamentals.

“We’re not over-exotic right now,” Haley said. “We’re not really using a lot of what we’d call ‘scheme’ to make plays. Sometimes that’s frustrating for all of us, coaches and players alike. I want to be fair. We’re working really hard on the Kansas City Chiefs and figuring if we can build a really good foundation.”

“Everybody has a job to do,” Cassel addied. “Fundamentals can be something as simple as me working on my dropback, making sure that I put the ball on the outside shoulder, on those outside throws. It’s something that we have to continue to work on. And if we can get better at the basic fundamentals, then we’re going to be better.”

Scoreboard aside, the Chiefs did show several encouraging gains in notable areas. Most visible was overall improvement at the line of scrimmage.

Defensively, Tyson Jackson appeared to turn in one of his better performances as a Chief. He, along with Kelly Gregg and Glenn Dorsey were able to keep pressure on Ravens QB Joe Flacco even when the Chiefs didn’t bring second-level pass rushers. When blitz packages were called, rookie Justin Houston led the charge with a pair of sacks coming off the edge.

The Chiefs were noticeably better tacklers Friday night as well. While starters were present, much of the game was controlled by the defense.

Pro Bowler Eric Berry noticed a difference in team speed from last season.

“I think we were a lot quicker than where we were last year,” Berry said. “We just try to go out there and play hard, make tackles, and just try to set the tone and make sure that we’re doing everything right.”

With the game tied 3-3 through most of the first half, Baltimore didn’t find the end zone until the Chiefs removed their first-team defense from the game. When Baltimore found pay dirt, they were playing starters against Kansas City’s second-unit.

“It was a good experience to get out there and play pretty well on the road,” LB Andy Studebaker said. “Of course, we wanted to win. But the coaches tell us every day is a stop along the way. We feel like we made some progress here tonight.”

Offensively, Chiefs first-teamers struggled with consistency. Until Tyler Palko led the second unit on a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive just before half, Kansas City’s only score had come after Baltimore muffed a punt inside the red zone.

Ryan Succop capped off that four-play, two-yard scoring drive with a 31-yard field goal.

“We went out tonight to try like heck to win the game and it’s disappointing when the game goes the way it does,” Haley said. “There are some things that maybe you could have done to change the result, but at the same time, I just don’t want to get too far away from (the preseason plan).”

Kansas City held a 13-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter before Baltimore’s reserves were able rally 21 unanswered points over the final eight minutes of play. The Ravens late-game scoring frenzy cast a shadow on what was otherwise a productive final week of training camp in St. Joseph.

At the mid-point of the preseason, the Chiefs are now 0-2 and have lost those games by an average margin of 23 points. Regardless of the two lopsided scores, coaches and players don’t feel that they’re behind in preparation for Buffalo’s arrival on September 11th.

They just know that they’re not yet where they need to be.

“Well, we’re not there yet,” Studebaker said. “We’re not where we want to be but we need to take advantage of the time we have left to get ready for this season. We’ve got a lot of practices left and a lot of tape to watch. We feel we’ll be ready.”

The Chiefs will remain in training camp mode throughout the month of August. Camp resumes at the Chiefs Training Facility Sunday morning.

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