Game Balls: Chiefs vs. Steelers

The Kansas City Chiefs lost their fourth straight game Sunday night, coming up just short against the Pittsburgh Steelers 13-9 in front of a national TV audience.  The loss drops the Chiefs three games behind the division leading Oakland Raiders, killing just about any hope of a playoff berth.

Much like last week’s game against the New England Patriots, the Chiefs showed early on they had a solid gameplan against a team with far superior talent.  Unlike the 31-3 blowout to the Pats, Todd Haley’s crew hung around all the way until the final minute.

More surprising than the Chiefs being able to hang with the first-place Steelers is they were able to do it despite four turnovers from journeyman quarterback Tyler Palko.  The only reason Palko played was due to the recently acquired Kyle Orton being deemed by the coaching staff as not yet ready for action after just one practice in Kansas City.

Palko dropped a snap from center Casey Wiegmann that was easily scooped up by the Steelers and he also tossed three interceptions.  Each of his picks was worse than the last, including a toss into quadruple coverage on first down as the Chiefs were driving for what would have been a game-winning touchdown.  Making matters worse, Dwayne Bowe simply watched the pass sail over his head without making a play for the ball or at least trying to stop the Steelers defender from making the interception.

Though Haley wasn’t willing to say it in his post game press conference, Orton will start for Kansas City Sunday against the Chicago Bears.  Barring an injury to Orton, it’s hard to imagine Palko will ever take another meaningful snap for the Chiefs.

Lost in the mess that was Palko’s performance is the effort by the Chiefs defense.  They were far from perfect, but considering they were on the field for over 33 minutes and were able to hold Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense to just 13 points is an impressive feat.

This game should put to rest any thought that this team has quit on Haley or are ready to roll over the rest of the way no matter who is under center.

Here are the three players that stood out most for a Chiefs squad that nearly pulled off the upset Sunday night.

Offense: Steve Breaston

It’s hard to find anyone truly worthy of bringing home a game ball this week. Bowe led the team in receiving, but put zero effort into that game-deciding interception.  Thomas Jones was the leader on the ground, though that was at a whopping 2.8 yards per carry average.

Breaston had 44 yards on four catches, including a huge conversion on third down right before Palko’s final interception.  He also did what Bowe was unwilling to do earlier in the game, going up high and giving up his body to make a catch on a poorly thrown ball.

Defense: Justin Houston

This one could have gone any number of ways after the Chiefs best defensive performance of the season.  They only got one turnover, but were constantly handed a short field with little rest and kept standing tall.

Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali were once again all over the field and led this impressive unit all night long.  They will be the reason the Chiefs stay in games in these final five games.  But it’s Houston that will help push the defense to the next level this season and beyond.

Every week you can see the rookie linebacker from Georgia getting a little bit better.  At this rate he will be a star for the Kansas City defense before long.

Special Teams: Ryan Succop

It’s becoming all too familiar: the Chiefs kicker was responsible for all of the team’s points.  Succop connected on all three of his field goal attempts as he was easily good from 41, 49 and 40 yards.

The Chiefs kicker has now hit on 15 field goals in a row dating all the way back to Week 3 against the San Diego Chargers.  After starting out the season 1-for-4, Succop has become the most consistent Kansas City player.

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