The Morning After: Buffalo

Posted Sep 12, 2011

Coach Haley gets in front of loss; players humbled in defeat

ARROWHEAD STADIUM – Is there a reset button? If there was, the Chiefs would have probably pressed it following the opening kickoff in Sunday’s season opener vs. Buffalo.

Dexter McCluster’s fumble on the opening kickoff was perhaps the worst way to start a fresh season. Five snaps after recovering the loose football on the Kansas City 26-yard line, Buffalo was in the end zone and out to an early 7-0 lead. The game’s beginning set the tone for what would become the most lopsided home-opening defeat in franchise history.

If it existed, the reset button would have gotten a workout with the Chiefs being outplayed in every facet of the 41-7 loss.

“We were bad,” Head Coach Todd Haley said. “We were bad from start to finish.

“I am taking 100% responsibility for our team not being able to be ready to go. You can point the finger right at Todd Haley.”

The Chiefs were fully inadequate Sunday afternoon. A “landslide” is what veteran NT Kelly Gregg called it; one of the “biggest losses” he’d been a part of in the National Football League.

Sunday was a surprise to plenty of folks, not just those inside the Chiefs locker room, and the errors came in all shapes and sizes.

There were obvious mistakes, such as the three turnovers that turned into 17 Buffalo points. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick faced little challenge in posting a four touchdown passing effort and RB Fred Jackson ran with serious want-to en route to a 100-yard outing where he almost always capped off a run falling forward with defenders clinging behind.

Then, there were the less identifiable mistakes, such as Matt Cassel’s decision to take a sack on a third-down red zone snap in the first half. The 12-yard loss was the type of play Cassel battled throughout his first season as a starter. It pushed the Chiefs back to the fringe of field goal range and Ryan Succop missed the ensuing 49-yard field goal attempt wide right.

Buffalo continued its early march with a field goal coming off the short field and built an early 20 point advantage as Arrowhead sat quiet.

“Personally speaking, I am embarrassed to go out there and do that in front of our crowd,” Cassel said. “We need to take great pride in being dominant at home because we have such a great fan base. They are the 12th man.”

To make matters worse, Pro Bowler Eric Berry exited early in the first quarter with a left knee injury. He’d watch the rest of the game play out from the sideline as the Bills went up and down the field.

“Injuries happen in football,” S Kendrick Lewis said. “The next guy comes in and has to step up. We can’t miss a beat.”

September 11th was a date the Chiefs had circled throughout training camp. It was supposed to be the conclusion of an outside the box approach to the preseason following an unprecedented offseason.

Haley eased his team into the preseason with heavy doses of conditioning outweighing many of the physical practices that have historically gone along with NFL training camps. Many of the Chiefs veterans didn’t hit full throttle until the fourth preseason game in Green Bay.

It goes without saying, the Chiefs training camp approach was in question after the manner in which the team was defeated to begin the regular season. Players were quick to come to Haley’s defense when pressed about the subject following Sunday’s lopsided loss.

“I don’t think (the loss) had anything to do with training camp because I think everybody busted their tail at training camp,” RB Jamaal Charles said. “Training camp was good like it was for the other 31 teams in the league. I don’t see anything wrong with St. Joseph this year. We had a great training camp.”

“I just know that we weren’t ready,” Haley said. “The Buffalo Bills were better prepared than the Kansas City Chiefs. The Buffalo Bills were more ready than we were to play. We’ll be better. We have to be better next week. We were not prepared and I’m taking full responsibility for that, as I should.”

The start to the 2011 season isn’t about a single game. It’s defined by a four-game beginning that features two home dates and two road contests. After dropping the first of those four matchups, the Chiefs face an uphill climb with back-to-back road contests against Week One winners on the horizon.

This is the time veterans must take hold of the reigns inside Kansas City’s locker room. Leadership must take a stand. The Chiefs have played a month of games and are yet to experience any kind of positive result. Fortunately, only one of the five defeats actually counts.

“There’s a lot of gut-checking (to be had),” DE Wallace Gilberry said. “As a coach, it’s his job to (take responsibility), but as a player you have to have some kind of pride to say, ‘I need to pick my (stuff) up and figure out how I can help the team.

“Losing the way we did at home is a tough pill to swallow, but we still have a lot of football ahead of us.”

In the big picture of the season, the Chiefs opener was just one of 16 games over the course of a year that spans five months. Regardless, even the most bullish of Bills fans and the most bearish of Chiefs fans didn’t’ see this result coming.

“We really just need to look ourselves in the mirror, every individual, to just see if we did everything that we could to help our team win,” FB Le’Ron McClain said. “I know that I’m going to do that myself.”

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