There comes a point in the life of every bottle of wine, good or bad, when it stops aging gracefully and turns to vinegar. If Mike Goff were a bottle of wine, he would have reached that point. I’m unclear as to exactly when he turned. He played well in the first preseason game against Houston, but for two weeks straight he’s put on the kind of performance I’m accustomed to seeing from… say… Wade Smith. Is Goff as bad as Smith? Well, no. That would be a tough task to achieve. Smith proved that again tonight by repeatedly getting blown off the line by Seattle’s third stringers, many of whom will be unemployed by the week’s end. Goff, by contrast, was losing his battles against first stringers. I’d rather watch a guy that loses to starters than one who loses to scrubs.
Then again, I’d rather see neither. Matt Cassel, Brodie Croyle, Tyler Thigpen, and Matt Gutierrez agree. Tonight there were 35 passing plays called by offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. Thigpen scrambled on three after the pocket collapsed. On the remaining 32, the quarterback was sacked four times and hit four more. Eight plays out of 32. One out of every four. The offensive line was an equal opportunity offender too: on 17 designed runs they also allowed five tackles for loss. Be thankful for the perseverance of the backs themselves – even with nonexistent blocking, they posted 98 yards on those 17 carries.
To review, that’s 13 plays in the backfield on 52 snaps. Seattle’s defense, ranked 30th in 2008, penetrated the Chiefs’ line one out of every four plays. To put that number in context, Kansas City’s 2007 unit allowed contact in the backfield roughly one out of every seven downs. This line is almost twice as bad as 2007′s.
Well, not really. Tonight’s game was a bit of a statistical aberration. Take into account the Houston and Minnesota games, and this line is roughly on par with 2007′s.
This line is roughly on par with 2007′s despite having the same Pro Bowl left guard (in better shape too) and a much better left tackle. Could it really be that the right side is that much worse than the one anchored by Chris Terry? Surprisingly, the answer is yes, and Matt Cassel’s leg serves as prima facie evidence. The reinforcements brought in from Miami did nothing to improve the line’s lot either. There is still no word on what was given to bring Andy Alleman and Ikechuku Ndukwe here, but whatever the price, it was too high.
The simple fact is that Damion McIntosh, Barry Richardson, and Wade Smith, all of whom have been part of the starting lineup at some point this summer, are unfit to play in the National Football League. Mac is the only NFL-caliber athlete of the three, but lately he’s been telling reporters that he’s ambivalent as to his position on the roster. That, along with his perennially poor physical conditioning, should be a clear indication that, while he still might be employed by the Kansas City Chiefs, mentally he’s checked out. He’s 32 years old and suffers from recurring knee problems. I can’t fault him if he wants to retire, but I sure as shit can fault him for not acting on that desire. In light of his recent performance, Mike Goff very well might belong on that list too. I haven’t had nearly enough time to evaluate the two newcomers, but thus far I’m not impressed.
The defense fared only a little better. Like Seattle, they posted four quarterback hits and five tackles for loss. They also posted two sacks, which any fan who observed last year’s team will view as a welcome improvement. That’s 11 plays in the backfield, compared to the Seahawks’ 13. Seattle’s offense played 27 more downs, however, and held the ball a full 13 minutes longer.
After a few promising stops in the first quarter, the Chiefs’ front seven devolved into a bizarre approximation of last year’s unit – the shape was different, but the results were the same. There was no push at the nose tackle position, which afforded Matt Hasselbeck five seconds or longer to locate a target on most passing downs. Derek Lokey played admirably for one series, but ultimately faltered. He simply lacks the girth to be an every down player. Tank Tyler once again displayed an inability to finish plays. It was clear by the end of the game that even Seattle’s scrubs didn’t respect his size and strength enough to double team him on every play. Penetration in the middle is key in the 3-4 defense, and thus far only Ron Edwards has demonstrated any propensity to provide that penetration. Edwards, however, lacks potential. He is an average player in the twilight of his career, and for the Chiefs to look to him as the solution even for a season is a potential mistake.
Other potential mistakes the Chiefs might make include giving more starts to Demorrio Williams or giving significant playing time to Ricardo Colclough and DaJuan Morgan. Williams was the cover man assigned to tight end John Carlson, which sufficiently explains why Carlson had such a big night. Colclough was assigned to wide receiver T. J. Houshmandzadeh on several downs (can you say mismatch?). He left Houshmandzadeh a comfortable five yard cushion in the endzone, apparently unaware that prevent defense isn’t applicable inside the red zone. Morgan, easily the worst of Kansas City’s defensive backs, once again validated his draft board reputation as a marginally gifted athlete with no discipline and very limited field awareness. One can only hope Mike Brown remains healthy.
On special teams, it’s truly unfortunate that Ryan Succop’s two missed field goals (paired with Olindo Mare’s two and Brandon Coutu’s one) and Maurice Leggett’s bungled punt return were not the biggest problems. The biggest problem was that Dustin Colquitt was launching 50+ yard punts with 5+ second hang times, only to have them returned 10 yards. I thought I had seen the end of that when the team fired Mike Priefer, but I was mistaken. Given that the team is also playing poorly in the other two phases of the game, I’ll hold off on assigning blame to new coach Steve Hoffman for the time being. Still, a special teams coach doesn’t do much to coach the kicker and punter individually, and thus far those two are the only bright spots on an otherwise dismal unit. The staff has failed to develop a return man despite having a bevy of candidates, and they have also failed to develop a functional, passable coverage unit. Those are the two things the coaches can directly affect, and there is no notable improvement from last year’s product.
John Foster is a local writer of short stories. John lives his life at full tilt, which is probably why his stories are so good. He plays in a bad bluegrass band, drinks and smokes to excess, and dates women half his age (he’s of an age where the latter is legal, albeit still inadvisable). To boot, his wiring is undoubtedly a little loose. That can make it hellish to spend any significant amount of time around him, but I’ll bet that’s also part of why his stories are so good. About six or seven years ago he wrote a series of stories for a now defunct indie newspaper called F5. One of those stories contained a line which might be my favorite over any line in any book I’ve ever read: “Somewhere, thieves were sitting in church, the priest was in a brothel, and the television weatherman was lying. And God was shaking his fist and saying we’re having more of yesterday today.”
Chief fans may not be God, but today they’re shaking their fists for a very similar reason.