It’s obvious now: some players at One Arrowhead Drive are pretty upset with the way things are going on offense, and it’s not hard to see why.
The Chiefs rank 30th in yards, 30th in scoring and 28th in third-down conversion percentage. These sorts of numbers do not lend themselves to peace and quiet during the week.
Tuesday, Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards attempted to quash any such complaining, saying that while players may be frustrated, sometimes they don’t see the big picture.
“I always found out this about players: they play the positions, they’re not really orchestrating the game plan,” said Edwards. “They don’t look at the whole game and how it’s being played out. They look at their position and go, ‘I wish we could have done this or that.”
Today we won’t attempt to pass judgment. It’s not our place to say the players are right or the coaches are wrong or who should be fired or hired or any of that. All we will attempt to do is offer an explanation for the “grumbling,” as Nick "The Erroneous One" Athan put it Wednesday.
One such “grumbler” was tight end Tony Gonzalez, who has never shied away from voicing his opinion when things aren’t going well in Kansas City. It happened earlier this season, when the Chiefs struggled in Chicago.
It happened again Sunday after the loss in Indianapolis, in which Gonzalez had just 46 receiving yards. Understand this came in a game where he dwarfed every linebacker (save one) and defensive back on the field by at least five inches. Tony Gonzalez is not used to such sub-par games against diminutive opponents.
So you can understand why he wasn’t particularly happy with the outcome. But if you fire up your Tivo and take another look at the game – and watch Gonzalez closely – you might begin to realize even more why he was upset. Here’s the reason inside the reason – Gonzalez was not going down the field.
The first pattern Gonzalez ran Sunday came on a third-and-six play with about six minutes left in the first quarter. He muscled his way off the line of scrimmage against Colts’ cornerback Marlin Jackson, stopped and turned around to face his quarterback, about seven yards down the field.
This would become a prevalent theme throughout the afternoon. All day long, Tony Gonzalez came off the line of scrimmage – sometimes fighting off a defender, sometimes with a free release – ran five, six, maybe seven yards, and turned around, waiting for a pass.
It was almost like he was stuck in some sort of NFL Groundhog Day. Sure, there were a few 10-yard crossing patterns thrown in – Gonzalez’s first catch of the day came on one off play action – but the Chiefs kept calling those short ones.
Then the Chiefs fell behind by a touchdown.
But Gonzalez kept running short. It was like he was trapped in this five to 10-yard area just north of the line of scrimmage, almost as if the colts had strategically placed invisible barriers all around the field. No corner routes, no posts, no out-and-up patterns, nothing. Despite that, the Chiefs started moving the football, arrived at the Indianapolis 40, and then things changed.
Gonzalez exploded off the line and raced 15 yards down the middle of the RCA Dome. The Colts were so shocked by this turn of events, Gonzalez was wide open, and caught a bullet from Brodie Croyle for an 18-yard gain. He was dinged on the play and headed to the sideline, but as soon as he came back, it was more of the same. On second down Gonzalez flew out of his stance, faked an out pattern and headed down the hash mark for the end zone. Croyle’s pass was overthrown, but it didn’t matter.
Again, one play later, Gonzalez raced down the field and beat his defender toward the end zone, only to see Dwayne Bowe haul in a big touchdown pass. The key here? Gonzalez’s presence held a safety in the middle of the field, leaving Bowe one-on-one on the outside.
So the Chiefs had tied the game. Their defense stopped Peyton Manning on the ensuing possession. What happened next?
You guessed it – Tony Gonzalez went back to living as close to the line of scrimmage as possible. The Chiefs ran the ball a few times, unsuccessfully, Gonzalez blocked, and he ran a few more short routes that scared absolutely no one. The Chiefs punted, the Colts scored with a few seconds left on the clock, and eventually won.
The other part of this equation is Indy’s defense – the Cover 2. Everyone knows there’s a weakness down the middle of that defense. It would seem a great way to exploit that might be with a Hall of Fame tight end.
And hey, we’re not saying it would have worked Sunday in Indianapolis. If the Chiefs had run Gonzalez deep down the field all day, maybe Croyle would have been hit all day waiting for him to get open, perhaps Gonzalez would have taken a massive shot from Colts’ safety Bob Sanders, and the Chiefs might have been shut out.
But if you wanted to know the reason why Tony Gonzalez was so upset after the Colts beat the Chiefs last Sunday, it’s conceivable that we’ve discovered it. Hopefully, he won’t be too upset next week