As Different As Chalk And Cheese
-- Orion Berridge, Kansas City Chiefs
Walking thru the locker room at Arrowhead on Sunday morning must have been a different experience than it has been before other home games for the Chiefs. From what it sounds like, the intensity reached new highs. The problem was that intensity was motivated by fear rather than true excitement to perform and win. The Chiefs came out tight as could be.
As Tony Gonzalez said to ESPN, “Seven games to lose in a row, we can't tolerate that,” commenting on the Chiefs’ seven game slide which started in the playoffs last year and carried through preseason and into the regular season. "Everybody was frustrated at halftime. Guys were wanting to make plays. We were maybe trying too hard." Gonzalez said.
I have had the pleasure of playing on a championship team and the misfortune of playing on a nearly winless team. The chemistry of the two teams was as different as chalk and cheese. What happens is when you’re in a losing pattern you have a hard time visualizing the win. You start to reach for it and then, losing confidence, you overcompensate by being physical and tight. In reality, you should continue to play loose and free relying on your training and development in the system. But a loosing team doesn’t see anything but the losses stacking up and, as a group, begins to reach.
What amazed me Sunday was how Herm Edwards was able to go into half-time and change the paradigm of the team. I don’t know what happened in that room, but it was something substantial. Herm left with a different team, a different coaching staff and possibly a different outcome to what was looking to be an unfortunate season.
The game itself was a defensive struggle, a battle of field position (or the lack there of). Both teams tried to establish a running game with the Vikings alone being successful. The Chiefs’ much improved defense ranked 4th in the NFL, a ranking anyone would have been surprised by at the beginning of the season. Jared Allen’s presence was felt. With so much attention going to him, Tamba Hali and the rest of the unit were able to operate man to man and, in some cases, uncovered. They created pocket pressure and the secondary only had to cover the route and not secondary routes like they did the last several seasons.
The Vikings’ defense was also great. They shut down Larry Johnson despite the Chiefs’ best efforts. “We wanted to run the ball down their throat. That was the game plan," said Dwayne Bowe as reported by ESPN. Thankfully, and to my utter joy and excitement, we switched game plans at halftime and came out throwing and establishing drives. The personal performances by Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez may have just saved the Chiefs’ season.
The team will need to get more creative. If Eddie Kennison can return while Dwayne Bowe is emerging, Kansas City’s passing offense will be too potent for opposing coordinators to stack the box. When Mike Solari stretches the field, Larry can get rolling. Until that happens, there’s no reason for opposing defenses to do anything but to dare Damon Huard to beat them with his arm. It’s something I have been preaching since the preseason and it looks like the coaches have started to figure it out.
This week Kansas City will be playing in San Diego against the Super Chargers who don’t seem to be Super at all, and who’s team unity may be dissolving. It’s a perfect time for Herm to let our guys off the hook and play that “we are over the hump” card. Carpe Diem boys. Play fast, play loose and throw in a “play to win the game” line since you’re Herman Edwards. Win this game and we have a season men.
Can you see where I’m going Herm? Because if you loose this game and don’t improve your team, it’s curtains. It doesn’t matter if you hold a team to 12 points if you can’t score the football.
Hats off to the coaching staff, Dwayne Bowe, Tony Gonzalez, and the whole Chiefs’ defense. Their ability to play free and loose shows why they rank above their peers at their respective positions. The next two games, at San Diego and home against the Jaguars, may define the season. But if we continue to see the kind of improvement we saw in the second half of Sunday’s game against Minnesota we might just have a contender for the AFC West. Let’s hope the second-half Chiefs show up rather than the first-half, because the two are as different as chalk and cheese.