With the Chiefs down 3 late in the third quarter and the Steelers driving deep in Kansas City territory, LB Andy Studebaker made the play of his life. He intercepted Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger in the end zone and just started running.
“One hundred yards looked a lot like 200 yards at that point,” Studebaker said. “It was a long ways away. I don’t even know who caught me. I don’t even know where he ended up catching me.”
In the bigger picture, Studebaker’s play was pleasing to the Chiefs. They were hoping to discover whether he was capable of being the eventual successor to Vrabel.
The early answer is in the affirmative . Studebaker played well in the second half of last week’s game against Oakland after replacing Vrabel.
He was credited for being in on five tackles plus getting a half-sack against Pittsburgh.
“You get a guy like Andy Studebaker, who I said all offseason there was nobody better,” coach Todd Haley said. “Then to see it translate into some of the things the kid did out there …”
Studebaker was part of a Chiefs defense that yielded 515 yards. But the Chiefs were able to sack Roethlisberger three times, and Studebaker had his two interceptions.
The Chiefs could have dragged Roethlisberger down more, but he wriggled out of trouble several times.
“He’s a strong guy,” Studebaker said of Roethlisberger. “He’s a great quarterback and makes a living on making guys miss and keeping plays alive. We just kept after him and kept after him, and we eventually did our jobs.
“Pressure came from second-effort, third-effort, fourth-effort kind of plays. You didn’t see a lot of one pass rush move type of sacks. You’ve got to stay after them.”
The stats definitely don’t do Studebaker or the rest of the defense justice. The Chiefs were all over Roethlisberger all game long and easily could have had 4-5 more sacks. And that’s just counting the plays when they had more than a hand on him.
One of the biggest questions for the defense was how the young Studebaker would fill in for Vrabel and I’d say he answered the bell and then some. He was finally run down on that long interception by RB Rashard Mendenhall, but watch the replay again and you’ll see he was able to out run Santonio Holmes. Yes, that Santonio Holmes, owner of a 4.45 40-yard dash time.
The most surprising outcome of Sunday might have been from one of their columnists. The Kansas City Star’s Jason Whitlock put pen to paper after the game and his message was… positive.
The victory was just icing. The progress could be seen long before Matt Cassel shook off a critical fumble and began the process of rehabilitating his image.
The progress started with Kansas City’s rookie head coach, Todd Haley, who may have finally figured out what to do with his game-day emotions.
Rather than castigate his players, F-bomb his assistants and bicker with the refs, Haley spent his most productive Sunday as an NFL head coach fueling his players with positive energy. They responded with their most promising performance in two years.
Haley coached an excellent football game. He concentrated on play-calling and encouraging his players. He left the refs alone. He didn’t overreact to the mistakes made by his players.
Had the Chiefs lost the game, I would be writing the exact same thing. Haley is learning how to be a head coach. His players are noticing and appreciative of his change in demeanor.
Good things happen when you expect positive results, when you put your mind in a positive place, when you treat the people fighting with you like they have as much invested in the outcome as you do.
Haley’s transformation from coaching mad man to competent leader has been going on for several weeks. Sunday, he finally struck the right balance. His team reflected his new spirit. The players wanted to shock the Steelers as much as their coach, whose father played and worked for the Steelers.
Are things perfect between Haley and his players? No. But there’s been a lot of progress.
I would like to congratulate Mr. Whitlock on making some progress of his own. Immediately following the game I turned to a friend and started wondering out loud how he would spin this fantastic game in a negative way. But when I arrived home it was the kinder, gentler Whitlock.
I like it, Jason. Keep it up.
The Chiefs can’t celebrate this victory too long with the San Diego Chargers next up on the schedule. The Chargers manhandled the Broncos on Sunday and their defense was a machine when it came to turnovers, much to the delight of Shaun Phillips.
“One turnover, two turnovers, three,” said Phillips, the Chargers outside linebacker who’s become a defensive demon. “Turnovers become contagious.”
The Chargers have a bad case of turnoveritis. Well, a good case of them. Just as they’ve gone from a more passive bunch with a sometimes-nonexistent pass rush to an assault team with 20 sacks over the past five games — by no mere coincidence, all wins — the Chargers thrice took away the ball from the Broncos yesterday. Two of the turnovers, both fumbles recovered by safety Steve Gregory, came at critical junctures of their 32-3 victory.
The first was forced by Phillips, recording his sixth sack in five games, knocking the ball out of quarterback Chris Simms’ left hand to kill an opening drive in which the Broncos had basically run over and around the Chargers.
“They ran, ran, ran, ran,” Phillips said. “I just figured they had to pass sometime, guessed right and won my one-on-one battle.”
Turning it around on Denver, the Chargers immediately drove to what essentially stood as the game-winning touchdown. To be sure, the sudden turnabout seemed to deflate the Broncos, even though it was very early in the contest.
“Turnovers demoralize any team,” Phillips said. “Anytime we create turnovers, we put ourselves in a good situation to win. It’s one of the things we practice and practice and practice, creating turnovers. Not only trying to create turnovers, but trying to score with the turnovers.”
Kansas City saw first hand against the Steelers how huge turnovers can be and they will have to try and avoid the turnover bug next week in San Diego. Handling the Pittsburgh defense isn’t anything to take lightly, but few teams are playing as well as the Chargers right now.
20 sacks in five games?
Cassel better ice himself up today and then start warming his legs up because he is going to be doing a lot of his work on the run next week. Surviving Pittsburgh is a great opening act and now he gets to try and step onto the main stage against a division rival.