Originally written November 13, 2011 on Fox Sports Kansas City:
It's hard to pick out just five things the Chiefs have to worry about after watching them get manhandled by Denver. On top of the obvious worries KC is now 4-5 and headed backwards in the weak AFC West the Chiefs face some seriously rough water to navigate going forward. They're heading into that five-game stretch against talented playoff contenders the rugged gauntlet that everyone has seen coming as the season bumped along. The Chiefs had hoped to be 6-3 or maybe even better by this time. No luck on that one. DENVER 17, KANSAS CITY 10 1.Are they tough enough? The most obvious issue confronting coach Todd Haley and his staff was the way Denver's young lines simply overran the Chiefs on both sides of the line of scrimmage. The Chiefs couldn't open holes for the running game, couldn't protect Matt Cassel -- and on the other side, they were hopeless trying to slow down Denver's relentless power rushing attack. If your big guys are being dominated, it's impossible to win in the NFL. And yet Denver QB Tim Tebow threw only eight passes because, well, no aerial game really was necessary. Scary. Just plain scary. 2.Palko, anyone? Yes, backup quarterback Tyler Palko looked more effective than Cassel in his short time running the offense. Palko has one advantage over Cassel and maybe only one. He's nimble, and thus could scamper away from those non-stop Denver rushers. But remember that the Broncos were protecting a 10-point lead with the clock running out playing deep and safe, in other words. Palko was five for six, but he didn't throw anything deep. Denver basically allowed what turned out to be a meaningless field goal. Unless Cassel is hurt he came out holding his arm after being mugged by Von Miller it would be overreacting to suggest Palko is the answer going forward. If it's come to that, the season will be a disaster in any case. 3.Try jump balls, maybe. Even though the play didn't count, the incredible catch made by rookie Jonathan Baldwin reinforced the notion that the big kid from Pitt can dominate almost any single defender. Baldwin still doesn't completely grasp the offense, so he's in the wrong place at times, but it appears he's even more dangerous than Pro Bowler Dwayne Bowe when given single coverage. The guy has a 42-inch vertical leap, his arms seem unnaturally long and he's strong as an ox. Whenever Cassel's in trouble and needs a big play, he could do worse than just flinging the ball toward Baldwin and letting the big fella do the rest. Call it the Randy Moss Strategy. The Vikings got lots and lots of mileage from putting the balls somewhere in Moss' vicinity and reaping the benefit of his physical skills. The Chiefs may have Moss' successor in the lineup right now. Does he remind anyone else of Detroit's Charles Johnson? 4.Somebody has to tackle. Sure, the Broncos have a good young offensive line, and they benefit from the threat that Tebow can run so fakes sometimes leave you out of position. But still There were plenty of plays where the Chiefs had the Broncos outnumbered at the point of attack and still couldn't wrap up the running back. They weren't facing a Hall of Famer, either, especially once Denver had lost Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno to injury, and turned to little-used Lance Ball. Somehow, nobody in the Chiefs' front seven seemed able to put a hat on Ball or Tebow let alone wrap up. If that type of tissue-paper defense continues, we're talking about a hopeless cause. 5.Can the season be rescued? Unfortunately, it's time to ask if this Chiefs team playing without two stars on offense can score points against any good defense. And we know what's going to happen against the New Englands and Green Bays of the world if the Chiefs can't find any points. There was genuine excitement and optimism entering this year and why not, coming off a 10-6 season? But even considering the loss of those key players, the Chiefs should be better than what we're seeing. Haley and GM Scott Pioli now have to take a long look especially at the offensive line to decide if some wholesale housecleaning might be necessary. If there's anything more depressing than an average (or worse) pro team, it's a group that can't score. Sure, Cassel looks terrible but far too often he has no chance at all. It's hard to judge a guy who's running for his life. The Chiefs were just starting to bring some bodies back into Arrowhead, too. It's pretty obvious what effect a four- or five-win season will have on that. Over to you, Mr. Pioli.
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