The Kansas City Chiefs turned in a much better effort Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium, but still fell to the Baltimore Ravens, 9-6. The loss saw the Chiefs lose starting quarterback Matt Cassel to a concussion and gain national attention for cheering him as he lay on the ground.
The first-place Ravens had their hands full after marching through the Chiefs easily the last time they came to Kansas City, a 30-7 Wild Card blowout in January of 2011.
With a struggling Chiefs team in this game until the final minutes, the story should be about Romeo Crennel’s gritty squad, but instead the focus is on the fans reaction to Cassel being knocked out.
An already frustrated crowd had grown increasingly volatile as Cassel only attempted 15 passes, tossed two interceptions and fumbled on the goal line. Then when he was smashed on a short pass by Ravens lineman Haloti Ngata and stayed on his back, cheering could be heard from the crowd.
Backup Brady Quinn took the reigns of the offense and after two runs by Jamaal Charles, he fired off a 20-yard completion to Dwayne Bowe and the Chiefs were in business. Four plays later, Quinn hit Bowe again, this time for a touchdown that would have given Kansas City their first lead in regulation of the season. That play, however, was wiped out by an illegal pick and the Chiefs had to settle for a field goal.
The Ravens got the ball back with just over four minutes remaining, giving the Kansas City defense plenty of time to get the ball back.
For one of the few times all game, the Baltimore offense was up to the task. They had gone just 1-9 on third down up to that point, with the only conversion coming thanks to a Chiefs penalty. On that final drive, the Ravens were 2-2 on third down, ending the game.
As bad as 1-4 looks right now, the Chiefs are just two games out of first place and are just a week away from regrouping with the help of a bye week. Before we look to the options for the rest of the season, let’s look at the best for the Chiefs Sunday afternoon on offense, defense and special teams.
Offense: Jamaal Charles
It was clear early the Chiefs had no confidence in Cassel throwing the ball. Just four of their first 34 plays were in the air and the man given the burden of carrying the majority of the load was Charles.
Often looking worn down and sporting a limp, Charles just kept making plays, finishing the day with 140 yards on 30 carries. He also caught all three passes thrown his way for 21 yards.
Even if he’s completely recovered from the town ACL that cost him most of 2011, Charles will need to get a lighter load, something no one in Kansas City ever thought would be a problem. After years of being underused, Charles is getting the kind of work load that could prevent him from helping this team next year and beyond.
Defense: Justin Houston
The Kansas City pass rush was back on Sunday, getting in Ravens QB Joe Flacco’s face all day long. If it wasn’t Tamba Hali waking up with two sacks or rookie Dontari Poe getting a push in the middle for a short-handed defensive line, it was Houston continuing to emerge as a star.
With another two sacks (six on the season), Houston is proving to be a player offenses will need to game plan for the same way they have for Hali over the years. Working with a motor that is on par with that of his running mate, Houston is a monster coming off the edge and always seems to find his way back to the quarterback, no matter how the pocket has shifted.
Special Teams: Ryan Succop
The struggling Chiefs special teams actually had a good day against the Ravens. Shaun Draughn returned a kickoff 41 yards and veteran special teamer Terrance Copper showed great awareness when he picked up a bouncing punt and gained 25 yards on a surprised Baltimore coverage unit.
Dustin Colquitt punted the ball five times, for a healthy 47.2 yard average, including three inside the 20. He very well could have taken home the game ball this week on special teams without any argument.
Succop gets the nod because, as has too often been the case during his career, he was the only Chief to score, providing field goals of 30 and 31 yards.