Game Balls: Chiefs vs. Vikings

The Kansas City Chiefs took out the Minnesota Vikings 22-17 on Sunday for their first victory of the season.  No one is going to put the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, but there is a lot to be excited about for a team that couldn’t put together any sort of consistency on offense, defense or special teams over the first three weeks of the season.

Things looked like they would continue on a downward spiral with the Chiefs offense unable to turn the Vikings mistakes into points..  As the first half went on, Matt Cassel was missing open receivers even when he wasn’t facing pressure.

Settling for field goals started to give the game a feeling of a heartbreaker waiting to happen.  Then Cassel completely gave up on a screen pass — there was a clear path for him to run to the end zone — on third down and head coach Todd Haley ripped into him.  Cassel fired back, Le’Ron McClain stepped in to try and calm the two down but they continued to have it out.

No matter if the little screaming fit between the two was the reason or not, the Chiefs offense was much more efficient for the rest of the game, thanks to more aggressive play calling.  Cassel wasn’t perfect — he failed to get beyond his second read often — but still managed to complete 15 of 22 passes for 202 yards after his televised “discussion” with the head coach.

On defense, Romeo Crennel can’t be happy to have given up 151 yards on the ground, but they held “All Day” Adrian Peterson to just 80 yards on 23 carries (3.5 ypc).  The Vikings starting quarterback didn’t have much more success with Donovan McNabb completing just 18 of 30 passes for 202 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Even though it was against a winless team, the Chiefs are no longer in the NFL cellar and with the Indianapolis Colts up next, they are in a great position to pick up back-to-back wins and get right back into the AFC West race.

Here are the three players that picked their teammates up the most on offense, defense and special teams.

Offense: Dwayne Bowe

After the Cassel-Haley showdown, it was Bowe that put the exclamation point on the new Chiefs game plan with a 52-yard catch-and-run touchdown.  He beat his man on a double move, then a wide open Bowe bobbled the ball before hauling it in, spun away from the safety and corner (who was back for more after being initially beat) and scampered in for the touchdown.

Bowe ended up with his best game of the season, catching 5 passes for 107 yards, including the 52-yard score.

For Cassel to start looking more like the 2010 version, Bowe needs to be at least this involved in the offense every single week.  Between Bowe, Steve Breaston and eventually Jonathan Baldwin Kansas City should be able to keep the playbook open going forward.

Defense: Tamba Hali

Jared Allen was the pass rusher grabbing the attention coming into Sunday’s game since he was making his first appearance at Arrowhead since being traded to the Vikings.  Despite Allen taking Cassel down twice, it was Hali that had the biggest impact on the game.

Hali once again harassed an opposing quarterback, this time it was McNabb trying to escape without much success.  The linebacker continues to be moved around from side-to-side more than he has in the past and it’s paying off.  Hali recorded another two sacks and nearly ripped McNabb in half on more than one occasion.

As amazing as he has been rushing the passer, Hali continues to impress in the run game proving he is far from a one-dimensional player.

Special Teams: Ryan Succop

The Chiefs kicker very well could have been kicking for his job against the Vikings and he was certainly up to the task.

After struggling out of the gate going 2/5 on field goes over the first three weeks, Succop rallied with a perfect 5/5 day including kicks of 51 and 51 yards.  The most impressive part of his bounce back is that his kicks were more pure as they became longer.

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