OAKLAND, Calif. | If your buddy tells you he’s figured out the Chiefs, he’s lying, crazy or both.
At 4-3, sitting atop the AFC West, with two road victories in California and headed into their bye week, the Chiefs haven’t figured out the Chiefs.
“I thought we’d be better than this,” Herm Edwards said after Kansas City’s hard-to-watch 12-10 victory over the Raiders. “But we’re not. We are what we are … Yeah, we’re in first place, but that’s not the key. It’s where we’re going to be in December.”
No one knows. The Chiefs are a mystery Nostradamus couldn’t solve.
Pretender or contender? It’s a crapshoot.
Oh, they give us clues from time to time. On Sunday at McAfee Coliseum, the Chiefs showed us that Edwards has instilled them with a level of toughness that had been missing during the Vermeil era.
Beyond that, I’m not sure what we witnessed on Sunday.
Yeah, Jared Allen continued his contract push, recording two more sacks, racing all over the field making tackles and impersonating Miami’s Jason Taylor, the league’s 2006 defensive player of the year.
And, yeah, Damon Huard sidestepped constant pass-rush pressure and delivered the ball downfield to Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez just enough times to make KC’s offense a cut below unacceptable.
And, in a very surprising twist, Larry Johnson conducted himself like a grown man for four quarters, gutted out a few tough runs, ripped off a thrilling 54-yarder and moved the chains at the end of the game when the Chiefs were trying to eat up the clock. Larry’s 112-yard, one-TD performance was his best of the season. His on-field demeanor and body language were appropriate and professional.
But all the good — including Jarrad Page’s game-winning interception, Alfonso Boone’s fourth-and-1 stop and Priest Holmes’ 8-yard run late — was offset by signs of trouble.
The Chiefs can’t protect the passer. And Herm Edwards’ game-day decisions remain highly questionable.
Huard was sacked twice, but he was hit all day. Warren Sapp owned the interior of Kansas City’s offensive line. Sapp, a 34-year-old future hall of famer — who entered Sunday’s game with zero sacks — disrupted Huard’s pocket all afternoon.
“We didn’t pass protect very well,” Edwards acknowledged. “Damon took a lot of hits.”
KC’s protection broke down inside and outside. The tackles struggled, too. Kansas City’s offensive line lost more than Will Shields and Willie Roaf over the last two years. The line lost Mike Solari, too. Solari, of course, was promoted to offensive coordinator. His role in KC’s years of excellent line play shouldn’t be overlooked.
But most troubling was Edwards’ decision to go for two points after the Chiefs scored a go-ahead TD with 11 minutes, 30 seconds to play. Johnson’s 1-yard plunge made the score 12-7. Given how poorly Oakland’s offense had performed, the smart, easy decision was to kick the extra point, which would force Oakland to kick two field goals to tie.
There was no reason to think the Raiders could score another TD. Their running game had given them nothing. Daunte Culpepper had been inconsistent and inaccurate at best. What the Chiefs wanted to avoid was bringing kicker Sebastian Janikowski into the picture as a potential game-winner.
Janikowski owns the NFL’s strongest leg. By going for two and failing, Edwards opened the possibility of Janikowski winning the game with two field goals. When the Raiders cut the lead to 12-10, it was easy to imagine Janikowski lining up for a game-winning 60-yard kick with the wind at his back.
Going for two was foolish, the kind of mistake that could’ve easily cost the Chiefs the game.
Whatever, the Chiefs won, they’ve got the bye to regroup offensively, and their defense continues to get stronger.
“Probably a lot of people anticipated us this year to only have four wins,” Edwards said.
Those people still have a chance to be right.