Since we have only been able to previously cover a 4-12 season, this is the first ever “AFC West Clinching version of Game Balls”. Here’s to hoping it’s an annual affair because Sunday at Arrowhead the Kansas City Chiefs played like the good old days.
For most of the first half the Chiefs put on a clinic, marching down the field on offense and standing tall on defense, putting the league on alert that they were not going to go quietly into the night.
Unfortunately the game turned into a sloppy, personal foul-filled mess in the second half that included Matt Cassel spending a series on the sidelines. Ultimately, though, the Chiefs were able to easily put away the Tennessee Titans 34-14 and clinch the AFC West once the San Diego Chargers fell to the Cincinnati Bengals just a few hours later on Sunday.
The Chiefs now get to prepare for the playoffs without worrying about a “must win” regular season game next week. There is still seeding to play for, but Todd Haley and his players are no doubt relieved just knowing they will be playing in the second season.
There were plenty of solid performances on both sides of the football, but here are the best of the best for the AFC West Champion Kansas City Chiefs on offense, defense and special teams.
Offense: Jamaal Charles
Cassel might be the heart of the Chiefs, but Charles represents the swagger. He might be a quiet guy on the field, but put the ball in Charles’ hands and all he does is make plays.
Charles “only” had 77 yard rushing on 13 carries without a touchdown, but he found the end zone twice in the passing game. All told, he four passes for 40 yards and the 2 touchdowns. It was his first score that could have been the highlight of the game, making a beautiful catch of a perfectly thrown pass from Cassel on a five yard strike.
There has been a lot of talk about the Chiefs needing to feed Charles the ball more and there has been no louder voice than mine. But early on you saw Haley show no hesitation to use Charles knowing that Kansas City needed to get out to a fast start. What I would take out of the early part of the game is that when the Chiefs open the playoffs, expect to see a heavy dose of Charles early and often until there’s no football left for the team to play.
Defense: Eric Berry
Has there been a rookie that has progressed as much as Berry? He wasn’t great early and that will keep him out of the defensive rookie of the year discussion, but to me their isn’t a player that has taken bigger strides.
Like Derrick Johnson, it’s surprising when Berry is around the ball and he isn’t making a big play. Be it a big tackle for a loss or a bone crushing pass breakup, the rookie seems to be everywhere on the field.
On Sunday Berry delivered the nail in the coffin with an interception of Kerry Collins that he took 54 yards to the house for one of the more impressive returns you’ll see this season.
Special Teams: Verran Tucker
The Chiefs still aren’t making much progress in the return game, but their coverage units continue to impress.
Leading the way? Tucker, an undrafted rookie that has fought his way from the practice squad all the way to arguably the most valuable special teams player Haley and Steve Hoffman have at their disposal.
There are plenty of players in the league that have enough speed to get down the field, but Tucker is showing every week that he isn’t afraid to make a big hit when he gets there. That was no different against the Titans when the rookie had three special teams tackles to help hold dynamic returner Marc Mariani to 1 yard on three punt returns.