And then there was one; The Chiefs are now the NFL's lone unbeaten team
“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains. Think about that for a while."
- Nuke LaLoosh, Bull Durham
Despite an idle status, the Chiefs are now the NFL’s lone unbeaten team. Sunday losses suffered by Chicago (17-3 at NYG) and Pittsburgh (17-14 vs. BAL) thrust Kansas City to the top of the NFL standings. The team will re-convene this morning to continue preparations for this Sunday’s game at Indianapolis. Coach Todd Haley is expected to address the media at 9:00 AM.
Sitting at 2-2, with two division losses, Sunday’s game will represent an important step in Indianapolis’ bid to win their seventh AFC South title since 2003. QB Peyton Manning had 352 passing yards in Indy’s last-second, 31-28 defeat, in Jacksonville and has now thrown for 51,493 passing yards in his career. That total surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer John Elway (51,475) for the second-most passing yards in NFL history on Sunday.
With the Colts' 29th ranked rushing offense (75.5 ypg.) and the Chiefs early-season propensity for stopping the run (75.0 ygp.), the battle through the air between Manning and Kansas City’s young secondary will be a pivital gameday matchup. The Colts rank third in NFL total offense (411.0 ypg.) and second in passing yards (335.5 ypg).
Another notable from Sunday’s slate of games were the rushing performances turned in by the Texans and the Jets. Houston’s 259-yard day in Oakland and New York’s 273-yard output at Buffalo pushed the Chiefs down two slots from first to third in the NFL rushing race.
Kansas City averages 160.7 rushing yards per game, behind Houston’s 172.0 average and New York’s 167.8 yards-per-contest average.
Communication is Key
Speaking of defending the Colts passing attack, the Chiefs say that communication is key for success this Sunday.
There’s no question that Manning and the Colts will test a young Chiefs secondary. With a pair of rookies logging the majority of snaps at safety, the Chiefs have seen some of growing pains that go along with the first-year learning curve.
Though the positives of rookies Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis have far outweighed the negatives to date, Indy’s passing attack will be the stiffest test that either safety has seen at the NFL level.
“Definitely communication is something we have continued to work hard on here for a long time because big plays were a problem last year at times and maybe for different reasons in different situations,” Haley said. “I have a hard time pinning it down, however, I will say communication is something that defensively is very important to us.”
Indianapolis is a team that thrives on making a big play through the air, utilizing a Hall of Fame quarterback and a high-level of team speed. The Colts rank fourth in the NFL with 15 pass plays of 20 yards and have connected for an average distance of 33.1 yards on those snaps.
The Chiefs, while they’ve improved dramatically on allowing big plays, have given up the 13th –most pass plays of 20 yards (11 for an average distance of 34.8 yards).
“It’s a process,” Berry said. “If you come in and realize that it’s a process, and realize that you’re not going to come in and know everything, that’s pretty cool. It’s good to have guys like Mike Vrabel on the team and a guy like Jon (McGraw) who has played the position for many years. It’s good to have those guys because they guide you through the whole process.”
When it comes to running the football, Indianapolis has no runs of 20 yards and the Chiefs have yielded just one rush over the 20-yard output.
More Time for Studebaker?
After LB Andy Studebaker turned in a terrific preseason, it went somewhat unnoticed that “Studie” didn’t see any defensive snaps in the Monday Night opener vs. San Diego. Against Cleveland and San Francisco, Studebaker did get into the action, but played at a workload around 10-20 plays each contest.
Today, Haley was asked about possibly feeling a need to get Studebaker more involved. To summarize, the answer was no.
“We are dressing 45 guys every Sunday and for us to have a chance to continue to make progress and be in games, we need all 45 or least 44 of them contributing,” Haley said. “We need all 45 so part of the development of this team is the development of the younger players on the team. To this point I would have to say the answer is no because of the results but knowing as you go forward that you are going to need everybody helping.”
There’s no question that Mike Vrabel has become the Chiefs on-field general of the defense, serving as an extension of the coaching staff. With young players scattered throughout the defense, a veteran like Vrabel is vital to eliminating mental mistakes and communication miscues.
Studebaker’s play-time is likely a combination of the overall play of the defense, the play of Vrabel and the week-to-week defensive game-scheme. Kansas City has shown its commitment to Studebaker in other forms, such as signing him to a contract extension last month.
Mississippi Chiefs Fans
The state of Mississippi isn’t known for it’s abundance of Chiefs fans, but that might be changing if the Ole Miss-to-Kansas City pipeline continues at its early-season success rate.
Dexter McCluster spent the bye weekend in Mississippi, taking in his alma mater’s football game against Kentucky. What McCluster discovered there, outside of a Rebels victory, was a lot of Kansas City Chiefs chatter.
“Lots of people were congratulatory about the 3-0 start,” McCluster said. “They told us that they are Chiefs fans down there now, and we’re all welcome down there anytime.”
Maybe the Rebels are gaining new fans in Kansas City as well?
In addition to McCluster, the Chiefs have three other former Rebels on the roster: Kendrick Lewis, Charlie Anderson and Darryl Harris.
Taking Standings in Stride
It’s obvious that Chiefs players are feeling good about being the NFL’s lone unbeaten team. Multiple players, when asked today, talked about the positive impact that the season’s hot start has provided from a confidence standpoint.
“That’s what you prepare for each week; to win,” LB Derrick Johnson said.
But the locker room has also been sure to echo Haley’s message points, keeping the win-loss record in perspective relative to the remaining schedule. Haley once again hit on that message today at the podium.
“To me, I am focused on us getting a little better this week and that is going to take every day we have,” Haley said. “We are playing the fourth game in the first quarter of the season and that is what it is. We are going to do everything we can to have a chance to compete and potentially win a game.”
The Chiefs won’t actually hit the practice field for Indy preparation until Wednesday. Rather than hold a full practice on Monday, Haley decided to put the team back into its normal weekly routine.
The players reported back to work early this morning and went through a running and lifting regiment before filing into positional and team meetings for the rest of the afternoon. Tuesday will continue to be a game-plan day for the coaching staff, with the players away from the building.
On Wednesday, the team will resume on-field work for Indianapolis. It is then that we will see health updates for Tyson Jackson and Ryan O’Callaghan. Both players were in the building this morning working out with teammates.
Kansas City Chiefs Baby! all the way, looking good this year! Football is my life and passion!