The Morning After: Seattle

Posted Nov 28, 2010

Short-handed Chiefs fight through adversity for impressive road victory

Although the AFC West race is far from decided, the Chiefs played like a division champion on Sunday.  Road wins are difficult to obtain on any occasion, but they’re particularly elusive when visiting a division leader in post-Thanksgiving Day football.

Sunday’s win wasn’t just about the Chiefs kicking the road monkey off their back in a victory over the Seahawks. Executing a team identity away from Arrowhead and overcoming adversity defined Kansas City’s 42-24 win in Seattle.

“It was a big game,” S Kendrick Lewis said. “Coming into it, we knew that we had to get a road win and today showed us building as a team. We came out together and we faced adversity.”

A short-handed Chiefs team squared off against the NFC West leading Seahawks without two of its top players. Injuries kept left tackle Branden Albert and cornerback Brandon Flowers out of action, but the Chiefs found various ways to manage by using a mixture of reserves.

Despite the absence of Albert, Kansas City still rushed for 270 yards and didn’t allow Matt Cassel to be sacked. Without Flowers, the Chiefs were still able to pick off Matt Hasselbeck twice and limit the Seahawks to less than 300 yards of offense.

Finding a way to win on the road was a point of emphasis all week. To keep division hopes alive, the Chiefs had to find a way to win games on the road. Kansas City’s past two road trips had been disasters and the team hadn’t seen a road victory since Week Two in Cleveland.

Sunday’s win in Seattle was one that the team can hang its hat on heading into the final stretch of football this December.

“I mean definitely this is part of the next step in the young team that we are in that we learn how to win on the road,” G Brian Waters said. “This is a hostile environment, a first place team in their division, so they had a lot of fight. So we knew we were coming into a place that was going to be very hostile.

“To get the win, and win in the fashion in which we did – it wasn’t perfect, but we were able to overcome those mistakes. That’s a big step for a young football team.”

Some of the same mistakes that had plagued Kansas City in recent road trips to Oakland and Denver re-appeared in Seattle. The difference in the final outcome was the way that the Chiefs were able to handle those miscues.

Excluding an extra point try, Seattle blocked Kansas City’s first two kicks – a field goal and a punt – in what likely resulted in a 10-point swing. Ryan Succop’s 43-yard FG try was a very makeable kick and Seattle’s blocked punt tied the game at 7-7 despite the Chiefs holding a first quarter total yardage advantage of 128-14.

“Generally when you give up blocked kicks and blocked punts for touchdowns, you’re not happy at the end of the game, but we’re happy,” Haley said. “I think its just our guys went out and we really had to go out and put our mark on this game.”

Every time the Seahawks snapped back, Kansas City had an answer.

Though the final score doesn’t show it, there were a number of occasions where it looked as if Seattle had re-captured the momentum and would ride it’s vocal 12th Man crowd to take a lead.

Seattle had two opportunities to take the lead in the third quarter alone, but two critical third down stops kept the Seahawks from ever taking holding a scoreboard advantage. One of the stops was a diving pass breakup by one of Flowers’ replacements (Travis Daniels) and the other was turned in by Wallace Gilberry batting down a Hasselbeck pass at the line of scrimmage near midfield.

The Chiefs always found a way to respond. Eventually, a dominating rushing game took over.

Though Kansas City’s “Chiefs Will” mantra remains undefined, Sunday was a first-hand example of what the phrase that’s printed on t-shirts and painted inside Arrowhead Stadium tunnels just might mean.

Sunday’s win is proof that this team is improving. The Chiefs made some key mistakes and played short-handed, but still managed to pull off what would end up being a blowout victory over a division leader. While it may not have been a defining victory, Sunday’s result was close.

“Our calling card is becoming clearer and clearer to us and to me, which is that we’re a pretty physical team,” Haley said. “When we play physical, we have got a chance to go toe to toe with teams. I thought that you saw some of that today. I thought we had some young guys step up that hadn’t played a lot. They stepped in there and got some legitimate time and snaps."

Kansas City’s identity flourished some 1,800 miles northwest of Arrowhead. The Chiefs won the turnover battle, limited penalties, ran the football, stopped the run, balanced the pass and protected the quarterback. The Chiefs may have missed a few check offs on the pre-game list of goals, but the overall performance was more than enough for victory in Seattle. 

With San Diego pulling off an impressive road win last night in Indianapolis, the AFC West race remains as competitive as ever. The Chargers victory made Kansas City’s ability to handle adversity in a hostile environment all the more critical. This weekend presents yet another challenge in a home re-match against Denver.

“My head is down, my teammates heads are down, and we’ve got one goal,” Bowe said. “The big picture is yet to come, so the things that happened today that we did good – records and all that good stuff, all that is good, but the main goal is trying to win it all. I won’t feel right to we at least make it there, make it to the big dance – whatever dance that is.”

To win this division the Chiefs must play their best football of the season after Thanksgiving. Sunday was a good start.

News and Notes

  • Although he was active, a groin injury kept Branden Albert off the field on Sunday. Starting right tackle Barry Richardson flipped to the left side while Ryan O’Callaghan drew the start on the right edge.
  • Even with Albert out of action, the Chiefs didn’t allow a sack for the second consecutive week.
  • Jackie Bates got the start at left cornerback in place of the injured Brandon Flowers. Javier Arenas played in the nickel until Bates left the game with a second half knee injury. Arenas then moved outside and Travis Daniels took over as the nickel corner.
  • Shaun Smith became the first player to score a TD and record a sack in the same game since William Perry in 1985. Read more about Smith’s goal line carry here.
  • Matt Cassel’s four-TD performance now gives him 22 TDs and just 4 INTs in 2010. Three of his TD passes went to Dwayne Bowe.
  • Bowe now has 13 TD catches over the past seven games. His second TD catch of the afternoon broke Chris Burford’s single-season TD reception record set in 1962 (12). Bowe also notched his third consecutive 100-yard game and his fifth multi-TD game of 2010. He finished with 13 catches for 170 yards and three TDs.
  • Jamaal Charles surpassed 1,000 rushing yards on the season, giving him his second consecutive 1,000-yard season.
  • Rookie Verran Tucker started his second straight game at wide receiver.
  • At one point on Sunday, the Chiefs were leading the time of possession battle 17:31 to 3:21. Seattle had run only seven plays as of the seven-minute mark of the second quarter and didn’t log a first down until under the six-minute mark of the second quarter.
  • The Seahawks finished with just 20 rushing yards on 12 attempts (1.7 avg.).
  • Kansas City finished with a 65% third down percentage and was a perfect 5/5 in the Red Zone.
  • The Chiefs wore their white jersey/red pants combo for the first time this season.
  • There was a huge Chiefs contingency on hand in Seattle. Many of the fans found themselves seated behind the Chiefs bench in what were likely Seattle PSLs.
  • More post-game notes can be found here. Game Balls

Offense: Jamaal Charles

Dwayne Bowe was superb with a three-TD day. Matt Cassel was equally efficient with four TD passes. But when push came to shove, the Chiefs rode the legs of Jamaal Charles to victory.

While his second quarter fumble was a costly mistake, Charles more than made up for it with 7.9 yards per carry on 22 attempts. His 173 rushing yards paced the Chiefs 270-yard total and it was Charles’ ability to help grind out clock-controlling drives in the third and fourth quarters that preserved a Chiefs victory.

“I’m proud of Jamaal Charles,” Haley said. “I’m glad that guy is on our side. Our guys up front were great and we were missing some guys including Branden Albert. Some other guys have to step in and play and make plays at the tackle position and Ryan (O’Callaghan) and Barry Richardson did a terrific job for the most part.”

Defense: Jackie Bates, Travis Daniels and Javier Arenas

Aside from Ben Obomanu’s 87-yard TD amongst blown coverage, Kansas City’s relief pitchers did a nice job filling in for staff ace Brandon Flowers. Bates was sturdy in his first career start, Arenas shifted out of the nickel when called upon and Daniels picked up an INT coming off the bench. It all added up to the Chiefs being effective without their top cornerback.

“We came out and executed the game plan well, knowing that we wouldn’t have Flowers, “ Daniels said. “We knew that meant some people had to step up. It was my job to come in and be a relief pitcher, it was Jackie Bates job to be a relief pitcher too. Everybody stuck to the game plan and played their responsibility.”

Special Teams: Jackie Battle

RB Jackie Battle continues to serve as a major contributor for a number of special teams units. He finished with a team-high two tackles in special teams coverage and also forced a fumble.

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