KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs, and their fans, seemingly have nothing left to get mad about.
Instead, an eerie silence cast over the in-house crowd of about 50,000 fans at Arrowhead Stadium for most of Sunday afternoon’s Chiefs-Bengals game, won handily and rather uneventfully by the Bengals, 28-6.
Obviously, Chiefs fans had virtually nothing to cheer about, just two short Ryan Succup field goals and no real threats to score a touchdown. That wasn’t a surprise, as the worst team in the NFL dropped to 1-9.
But for the first time this season, Chiefs fans couldn’t even muster enough energy to really rip out a few boos.
Sure, there were a few scatterings of boos, mostly directed toward quarterback Matt Cassel, who was just eight of 16 for 93 yards, and toward the pitiful Chiefs’ offense, which managed just 148 yards overall in the first half as the Chiefs trailed 21-6.
But for the most part, Chiefs fans sat numb. Or uninterested.
And there was light and mostly polite applause when Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel benched Cassel in favor of Brady Quinn to start the second half. Quinn (nine of 14, 95 yards) didn’t fare much better than Cassel and perhaps was slightly worse in the only statistic that matters – points.
Quinn was shut out.
But Chiefs fans didn’t seemed to notice, at least not enough to even respond harshly. To be fair, most of them had their backs to the field for much of the second half, making the third-quarter walk to the parking lot that has become a tradition at Arrowhead in 2012.
Chiefs fans perhaps were in mourning and therefore, being respectful. After all, a good portion of them showed up wearing black – the “blackout” mandate came courtesy of a grass-roots movement in Kansas City from fans who organized and launched a website called SaveOurChiefs.com.
The blackout was a symbolic protest of the actions of lack of action by the Chiefs’ front office – namely general manager Scott Pioli, who assembled the NFL’s worst team this year.
But the protest seemed mostly a silent one at Arrowhead, which has long held the reputation as one of the loudest and toughest venues to play in.
Asked if he noticed the sounds of silence, Crennel said no.
“I was focused on the game and didn’t get into the crowd,” Crennel said. “I thought that the (fans) were trying to help us on third down. I heard the noise on third down so every time I can get that I appreciate it.”
Of course, Crennel likely was more concerned with another annoying silence – that from his offense, which had just two trips to the red zone and fizzled both times, aside from the Succup chip shots. The Chiefs also were a woeful 1-for-11 in third-down conversions.
“I expected us to do better, especially coming off the Monday night effort (overtime loss to Pittsburgh),” Crennel said. “We ended up giving up yardage, giving up points, couldn’t move the ball offensively. So, I changed quarterbacks and tried to generate some offense that way.
“It really wasn’t enough, so that’s why the score is what it is. I’m not feeling very good at this point.”
And with good reason. Crennel’s defense also put up little resistance. The Chiefs gave up 409 yards to the Bengals, who had lost four straight until beating the Giants last week.
The Bengals were more physical, grinding out 189 yards on the ground. And wideout A. J. Green had his way with the Chiefs’ secondary, snaring six passes for 91 yards, including a 40-yarder.
The Chiefs, perhaps in tune with the crowd, fell completely asleep twice – one on quarterback Andy Dalton’s 1-yard bootleg touchdown run in the first half, and again on a fake punt that the Bengals converted to keep a drive alive.
“A lot of times you think they’re going to run from the 1 (yard line),” Crennel said, “and you forget to remember that he (the quarterback) could keep it.” Can’t argue with that.
“As for the fake punt, they beat us,” he said. “We weren’t alert enough to make the play, and that gave them some juice and that hurt out team.”
Yep, can’t argue with that, either.
The problem is, Crennel’s postgame tone was as flat as his team’s performance, and as lethargic as the environment was at Arrowhead all day.
Some Chiefs noticed the deadness within the stadium.
“We can’t worry about what the fans say or do, though,” Chiefs defensive end Shaun Smith said. “We can’t worry about any of that. We just have to continue to play and execute the game plan.”
The Chiefs hardly instill confidence that they can manage that, however. Sunday’s loss was their seventh straight. The Chiefs are spiraling toward their worst season in franchise history, on pace to best (or worst) the 2-14 2008 team and the 2-12 1977 team.
This season’s version is particularly perplexing, though, considering they were the preseason pick of many observers to win the AFC West.
But equally as perplexing is Crennel’s head-scratching press conferences this year.
Earlier this year, Crennel virtually pleaded ignorance when asked after a game why star running back Jamaal Charles carried the ball only five times. Too often he has seemed puzzled by his coordinators’ game plans, and by reporters’ questions afterward as well.
Sunday, when asked if his team had shown even the slightest improvement lately, Crennel said this: “Well, it just depends whether you want wins or not. If wins are the thing, then we don’t have any wins, so we aren’t improving enough.”