The Morning After: Oakland

Posted Nov 7, 2010

Uncharacteristic miscues nag Chiefs in Oakland

Sunday’s game was a classic example of a final score not telling the whole story.

A glance at yesterday’s final score showed yet another classic installment in the Chiefs and Raiders rivalry. Unfortunately, the 103rd meeting of these bitter foes won’t be one that’s remembered for everything that typically goes into a three-point overtime game. The multiple lead changes, momentum twists and game-changing plays were all there, but Sunday will instead be remembered for its missed opportunities.

This football game was all-around ugly. The weather, the Black Hole, an officiating mix-up, the final result and, of course, the play on the field; it just was all-around ugly. Because of that ugliness, the race in the AFC West just got a whole lot tighter.

Start with the penalties – all 240 yards of them – and end with the turnovers. What’s characteristic of Raiders teams became a part of the Chiefs on Sunday.

“At the end of the day we just made too many mistakes,” S Jon McGraw said. “We kind of got in one of those games where they were making a lot of penalties and mistakes and we just joined right in.”

Kansas City’s 12 flags and two giveaways weren’t only self-destructive, but they were ill-timed difference makers as well. They kept points off the scoreboard and played a major role in the final outcome.

At a minimum, 10 points were left on the field in the second quarter alone. An argument could be made for increasing that tally to 14.

Javier Arenas’ 72-yard punt return TD got the ball rolling when it was nullified by an illegal block in the back at the KC 31-yard line. Instead of the seven points, Kansas City was left with a field goal try following an eight-play drive that covered 56 yards.  Second chances didn’t matter though, as points again went out the window when a holding penalty negated Ryan Succop’s 41-yard field goal.

The Chiefs would end up punting on the drive, getting no points out of a possession that literally took points off the board on two separate occasions. Flags were directly responsible for both scores being taken away.

“Anytime you make those mistakes you lessen you chances of winning,” RB Thomas Jones said.

Unfortunately, the miscues weren’t over.

On the first play following Kansas City’s punt, Oakland QB Jason Campbell gift-wrapped an INT for Jon McGraw and the Chiefs were back in scoring business yet again. Six plays and 26 yards later, the Chiefs reached Oakland’s Red Zone only to throw an interception in the with 25 seconds to play in the half.

“They were bringing a max blitz and we were trying to get the ball to Tony (Moeaki),” QB Matt Cassel said. “Unfortunately the ball got tipped in the air and they were able to come down with it.”

On the conservative side, the turnover cost Kansas City three points. For the optimists, it cost KC seven. At the end of 30 minutes, the first half flags and turnovers accounted for at total of 10 points, or maybe even 14, being left on the field.

Instead of leading 20-0, or 24-0, at halftime the Chiefs sat with a 10-0 lead.

“You can’t have minus plays and expect to win in this league,” head coach Todd Haley said. “You can’t turn the ball over in the Red Zone and expect you win. You’re just not going to do it and its going to come back to get you.”

That 10-point lead quickly shrunk to a three-point margin 12 seconds into the third quarter when Kansas City’s usually reliable coverage units didn’t come close to touching Raiders MVP Jacoby Ford.

Between Kansas City’s miscues before the half and Ford’s 94-yard kickoff return TD to begin the second half, the game in Oakland had officially flipped. Arenas would fumble on the ensuing kickoff to keep a nightmarish start to the third quarter rolling. And Oakland soon had a 14-13 lead.

“We allow a huge return for a touchdown and turn the ball over immediately,” Haley said. “It gave them a couple scores before the clock really had even started to run.”

Credit the Chiefs for fighting through the momentum change to regain the lead in the fourth quarter. They were able to do so despite their greatest asset being taken away, finishing with only 104 rushing yards on 3.1 yards per attempt.

Grit alone wasn’t enough to give the Chiefs a road win this time around. However, it might have been if it had not been for all the self-inflicting mistakes.

“We fought back and put ourselves in a position to win and had multiple opportunities there before overtime to make a play that would have sealed the game for us and we didn’t do it,” Haley said.

One of those opportunities came on Kansas City’s final drive of the fourth quarter with a chance to run out the clock. Cassel couldn’t connect with WR Dwayne Bowe on a third-and-11 that would have iced the game and it’s a play that’s been highlighted in the game. What’s overlooked is that the entire situation itself was the result of a penalty flag.

Just two snaps prior, the Chiefs were flagged for a hold during a six-yard Jamaal Charles run. The flag changed the Chiefs setting from a second-and-four at the Oakland 38-yard line to a first-and-20 at the Kansas City 46-yard line. Instead of three downs to get four yards and seal victory, the Chiefs had to go through the air to attempt a long third down conversion.

Who knows, if it weren’t for that flag, the Chiefs might have put Oakland away on a fourth down run that mirrored Week Two’s win in Cleveland. They certainly wouldn’t have faced a third-and-11 try and more time would have ticked off the clock.

Even at the beginning of the game, penalties showed their ugly effect. When the Chiefs were set to go for a first quarter fourth-and-short in Raider territory, a false start forced pushed the Chiefs backwards and Succop pooch-punted instead. A penalty killed that drive.

Penalties and missed opportunities stalled the Chiefs from start to finish. It was an uncharacteristic sight from a team that built its AFC West lead as one of the least penalized and most opportunistic teams in the NFL.

We usually break down Sunday’s Morning After with Three to Like and Three to Improve, but there’s no need to do so today. Sunday’s game was pretty cut and dry, and it was anything but pretty.

“We just have to learn from this and get back to work,” Haley said. “Our focus is to get better and become a good team. I think there is evidence today that if you’re in those situations you have to take advantage and end the game at some point and we didn’t’ do it.”

An inability to close out Oakland puts Kansas City’s first place AFC West standing on the line next Sunday in Denver. While the Chiefs sit at 5-3 the games continue to get bigger.

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