No matter how you slice it, the Kansas City Chiefs' offense has been a disaster this season. Quarterback Matt Cassel went into the team's Game 5 matchup with the Baltimore Ravens tied for second in the league in interceptions with seven (Tony Romo leads the league with eight), and only Cleveland Browns rookie Brandon Weeden has a lower Passing DYAR than Cassel, a condition that will probably change after this week's slate of games, when Cassel will most likely hit the bottom.
This week, there were many calls to bench the team's franchise quarterback (including a few from the sky!) but head coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli stayed with their starter.
The game plan against the Ravens, especially in the first half, went as far away from Cassel as possible. In the first 30 minutes, Cassel completed just five passes in seven attempts for 37 yards, while the Chiefs ran the ball 34 times for 179 yards. That total rushing yardage on the first half was the eighth-most the Ravens' franchise had allowed in any game since they opened for business in 1996, but the numbers are somewhat inflated when all you're facing is a bunch of running backs.
At the start of the second half, we saw the wisdom of that strategy. The Ravens fumbled the opening kickoff, giving the Chiefs the ball at the Ravens' 29-yard line. After a six-play drive, the chiefs lined up at the Baltimore one-yard-line ... and Cassel fumbled it away. Ed Reed recovered the fumble in the end zone, and the Ravens drove down to kick a field goal and go up, 6-3.
That's the shame of the failures on the offensive side of the ball for the Chiefs -- the defense has actually been playing very well.
On the Chiefs' next drive, they went three-and-out on three straight rushing plays. On the next drive, Cassel threw a ball right in Dwayne Bowe's chest, Bowe let the ball go deflected in the air, and Ravens cornerback Cary Williams picked it off at the Baltimore 26-yard line. That "drive" wasted a Brandon Flowers interception, and the Kansas City offensive ineptitude rolled on.
Early in the fourth quarter, Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata hit Cassel hard after a throw, and Cassel went to the ground ... leading to the "emergence" of backup Brady Quinn, who hasn't thrown a regular-season NFL pass since 2009. Cassel went to the locker room, came back, and was booed at Arrowhead Stadium. Quinn looked to throw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Bowe on his first drive, but the score was negated by an offensive pass interference penalty on Dexter McCluster, and the Chiefs had to settle for a field goal. In the end, the Chiefs lost, 9-6, fell to 1-4, and added more frustration to the fanbase.
It's easy to blame offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for this conservatism, but when your quarterback is incapable of making the most basic play, what are you supposed to do?
"I've cut down on some plays here or there as we've gone," Daboll told the Kansas City Star on Friday. "It's been so early in the game the last few weeks that you can still go with your plan. Then it gets to that certain point where you've just got to be ready to go and you have a condensed package and you have to start throwing it around a little bit."
There's nowhere else for Daboll to go, unless he wants to regress even more and check out what Harvard and Yale were running in the late 19th century.
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