The Chiefs may have dropped yesterday’s game to the Dallas Cowboys in overtime, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t positives they can take from the loss. Specifically — as Kent Babb reports — is the performance of Matt Cassel down the stretch without two of his starting linemen.
No pressure. Not for Cassel. Not this time.
“He was as calm as can be,” Chiefs tight end Sean Ryan said. “Whether or not inside he had butterflies, outside he didn’t show anything. When the quarterback is calm and leading the charge, everybody else is feeding off it.”
Cassel said Sunday that he had no idea what the difference was in his comfort but that he and the entire offense did something on that one possession that hadn’t been seen in a winless 2009.
“The first time we really came together as a team,” Cassel said.
Cassel had been another part of a patchwork offense that lacked a clear leader and possesses too many weaknesses to consistently be successful. For one drive, anyway, Cassel looked like a player the Chiefs can lean on.
Losing a game the way the Chiefs did against the Cowboys can debilitate a team. But when you have yet to win a game, I really think it could produce the opposite reaction for Kansas City. When you haven’t won a game, there’s no place to go but up and I think that’s the way the Chiefs are heading now. Their schedule lightens up and Cassel clearly came out of Sunday’s game as the team’s leader.
A much less memorable performance was turned in by the offensive line on the field goal unit. With just over 3 minutes left in the game Ryan Succop lined up for a 53-yard attempt, but it was blocked when Jay Ratliff hurdled the line and blocked the kick. The Star’s Adam Teicher caught up with long snapper Thomas Gafford to find out just what happend on the play.
“They’ve never tried to jump over people before, so we never saw it coming,” said Gafford, the long snapper. “The protection we use and our technique is to try to get low and get under them because they try to get under you. That left us susceptible to the jump. (Guard) Mike Goff and I didn’t know what happened. Nobody hit us. We didn’t know how the field goal got blocked. We’ll have to look at some things and see if we need to make some adjustments. It’s hard to swallow because we didn’t know it was coming. I don’t know what the answer is. I’m not the coach. I’m a player.”
Last week, the Giants exploited the same weakness in Chiefs’ protection and almost blocked Succop’s field goal.
“On special teams, a lot of things almost happen,” Gafford said. “We made that field goal.”
This time, in a close game, the Chiefs failed to make the proper adjustment and were burned because of it.
Talk about an unacceptable way for your kick to get blocked. If you get blown off the ball by a great effort then so be it. Or even if you get have never had a weakness exploited before, no problem. But for your guard — Goff — to never even get out of his crouch by design and just allow the defensive player to hop over you and block a kick after you almost had it blocked last week the same way is amazing.
For Gafford to say he didn’t know it was coming doesn’t makes sense to me. He shouldn’t be surprised by what happened but instead by the fact that the Chiefs didn’t make an adjustment after last week’s game.
The Chiefs next opponent will have to make adjustments of their own when it comes to special teams. A mistake on a late punt return helped to decide Washington’s loss to Carolina.
The Panthers had clawed back from a 17-2 deficit and trailed by five points when Jason Baker lined up to punt from Carolina’s 46-yard line. The punt was short and Randle El waved, signaling for a fair catch at the Washington 23-yard line. But as the ball fell, Carolina’s Quinton Teal came charging in and pushed Byron Westbrook into Randle El. The ball bounced free and the Panthers’ Dante Wesley fell on it at the Washington 12-yard line.
It wasn’t just fans who were confused. The officials initially awarded the ball to the Redskins. After conferring, they reversed the call and gave the Panthers possession. The Redskins challenged the ruling, but a review confirmed that the ball had bounced off Westbrook’s foot.
The first bit of bewilderment surrounded Teal shoving Westbrook into his teammate. Randle El said he didn’t realize it was legal. Officials explained to Zorn that the fair-catch call was negated when Westbrook crashed into Randle El. Zorn said after the game that he would seek further clarification, but his special teams coordinator, Danny Smith, didn’t disagree with the officials’ ruling. In fact, he said the Redskins’ similarly practice shoving a blocker into the punt returner, and Fox confirmed that it was not an accidental play on Teal’s part.
“Our guys are coached to do that,” he said. “Anybody on special teams, our team, their team included. We understand that you can push a guy into the return team. It’s a part of the game. You are able to block into them. That was an excellent play.”
Referee Walt Coleman said that because the contact was between Randle El and a teammate, there was no interference on the play and Teal’s actions were legal.
“If the Washington player is stationary and just standing there and not trying to block, then he can’t do that,” Coleman said. “If they are both trying to block, then he can knock him into him. Because they were both engaged, then that’s why there wasn’t a foul or anything wrong with that play.
“If the Washington player is stationary and just standing there and the Carolina player had come down there and knocked him, then it would have been totally different.”
Heads up play by Teal and one that I would have been up and screaming about if it happened to the Chiefs because I didn’t know it was legal. At least Kansas City will be dealing with a team Sunday that is dealing with just as many special teams issues as they are in the Redskins.
Washington has now been on the losing end of a team’s first victory of the season 3 out of 5 weeks so far and the Chiefs would love to make it 4 of 6 this coming Sunday.