KCCD Writer: Christopher Amick
“You are never quite as good as you believe you are, and you are not as bad as you think you are either.”
The old adage rings true for the Chiefs after another disappointing and lopsided season opening loss.
Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons scorched Kansas City and their depleted defense for 369 yards en route to a 40-24 victory at Arrowhead Stadium.
Many jaded fans of the franchise may say that this looks eerily familiar after the Chiefs started off the 2011 season by losing their first two games by a combined score of 89-10.
Fear not. This is still a very dangerous team. They are not a Super Bowl team, but Kansas City is still a legitimate threat to win the AFC West and get their first playoff victory in twenty years.
This is not the same squad who participated in one of the most ill-conceived training camp ideas ever last August, and Romeo Crennel has this team way more prepared to play football that his predecessor did last season.
Three reasons why the Chiefs are still contenders:
1. The Cassel Factor
Matt Cassel is much more confident in his Brian Daboll’s offensive scheme. This is evident when you watched the first half of yesterday’s game.
Cassel started strong and scored two touchdowns in the half, but added three costly turnovers late in the game.
Cassel is a sore subject amongst a big number of fans, and rightfully so.
The former USC product has not lived up to his lofty expectations since he joined the club in 2009. Cassel brought with him the hope of a franchise and a hefty price tag.
He has failed to deliver in a variety of ways outside of his 2010 campaign, where he led the Chiefs to a division crown, and even then Cassel put up rather pedestrian numbers.
Cassel also remains a victim of the extremely volatile quarterback-starved fans that reside in Kansas City. In their storied history, the Chiefs have only had a handful of quality starters under center. All of those quarterbacks were cast-offs , and Kansas City has failed to groom and grow a top-notch NFL signal caller.
During the first thirty minutes, Cassel seemed on his way to duplicating the success he had in 2010, and possibly even surpassing it. Once the second half began, the Falcons began to blitz more frequently and Cassel clearly was rattled.
Without exonerating Cassel of any blame, it was easy to see that Brian Daboll had zero interest in adjusting his scheme at halftime, and Atlanta feasted on a Kansas City offense that didn’t throw many screen passes.
The running game was also abandoned after being very potent in the first half.
It was clear that while the running game was effective, so was Cassel.
I am not a Cassel apologist by any means, but it was hard not to be encouraged with his play in the first half.
Cassel looked confident and decisive during the half and it was clearly the best he has looked as a Chief.
It is not outrageous to think that Cassel can produce the type of success that Alex Smith has had recently in his new offense.
2. The perfect storm of missing players.
Injuries are not an excuse for poor play, but you have to admit that when playing the team like Atlanta, the Chiefs lost three of their most valuable defensive players.
Atlanta is poised to become a top passing attack, and when it was announced that Brandon Flowers was missing yesterday’s game along with Tamba Hali and Kendrick Lewis, it spelled doom for Kansas City.
Without constant pressure from Hali, Matt Ryan would have all day to pick apart the Chiefs secondary, and he did just that.
No Flowers are Lewis compounded the issue, and both Stanford Routt and Jacques Reeves were burned consistently by Julio Jones and Roddy White.
Jones had two touchdowns on the day and White was a huge factor as well, and it was obvious that Kansas City missed these three players desperately.