Keeler: Three prime concerns coming out of KC's close win over Dallas
Eric Fisher, Justin Houston, a short week -- these are what concern Sean Keeler on the Monday after
By SEAN KEELERFS Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. --
Even the most ardent of skeptics have to admit: That was actually a lot of fun, wasn't it? Arrowhead Stadium rocking like it was 1993 all over again. There were the Chiefs, proudly monochromatic, eschewing tradition and wearing all red for the first time in their history. An afternoon capped by a win over a franchise with an actual pulse.
For the first time in three years and just the fourth time this century, the Chiefs are 2-0, which makes the nits a bit harder to pick: Special teams, which was expected to be a strength, offered up some harrowing moments again in the form of a blocked field-goal attempt -- the second block of a Chiefs kick or punt in as many weeks -- late in the first half and a near-fatal fumble on a kick return by rookie Knile Davis late in the second. And the protection for Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was ... um, inconsistent, to put it kindly. Reassuring, yes. Perfect? Oh, heck, no ...
CHIEFS 17, COWBOYS 16: THREE UNCOMFORTABLY PRESSING MONDAY QUESTIONS
:03 ... Are there going to be more long (learning) days for right tackle Eric Fisher?
Short answer? Yeah. When you're a rookie tackle in the NFL, some weeks will be kinder than others -- just ask Jacksonville's Luke Joeckel, whose backside is still burning after what the Chiefs' Tamba Hali and Justin Houston did to him down at EverBank Field in Week 1.
Well, in Week 2 against Dallas, it was Fisher's turn to learn the ropes the hard way: one of Dallas' defensive ends, DeMarcus Ware, made life difficult off the edge with two sacks and two quarterback hits; the other two, George Selvie and Anthony Spencer, combined for six tackles, a quarterback hit and a tackle for a loss. Outside linebacker Bruce Carter was even saltier, with six tackles, a sack, a quarterback hit and a pass deflection.
Fisher had earned a minus-1.5 grade from the scouts at Pro Football Focus during the rout of Jacksonville, largely because of what they viewed as "iffy run-blocking." That sure didn't seem to be the case late in the fourth quarter Sunday, when the Chiefs' line milked just enough clock via the run game while nursing a one-point lead to pin Dallas back at its own 4-yard line with :16 left in the contest. Of Jamaal Charles' eight runs on the final
Kansas City drive, two of the three biggest gainers -- a 16-yarder and a 6-yarder -- were over Fisher's side of the line.
:02 ... So where was Justin Houston, anyway?
There are three pretty effective ways to neutralize a pass-rushing stud, and the Cowboys tried 'em all: a) Get rid of it quickly; b) Try to get the rusher upfield and then run it to his vacated space; or c) Just say to heck with it and avoid his side of the line altogether.
Of Dallas quarterback Tony Romo's 21 pass drops in the first half, 16 were out of the shotgun and four were no-huddle. Unlike the Jaguars' Blaine Gabbert, Romo countered with extremely quick decisions and made it a point to get rid of the ball within three seconds, regardless of the outcome. All of which certainly made life easier for his right tackle, Doug Free, and appeared to negate Houston, who had recorded three sacks in Jacksonville but was credited with five tackles, zero sacks and zero pressures in Week 2.
Still, even if the Chiefs lost this particular battle, nose tackle Dontari Poe more than made up for it up with pressure up the gut, recording four tackles and two sacks and generally making life miserable for rookie center Travis Frederick.
:01 ... So, push come to shove, how the heck will this team handle a short week?
Insiders will tell you that Andy Reid doesn't want "Eagles Week" to be about him, despite the inevitable subplot of his return to Philly. But more than that, he doesn't want his young team to take their collective eyes off the game plan and get too amped emotionally, especially given the national television audience and the spotlight that comes with it.
And he may have a point: Since 2003, the Chiefs have faced 15 "short weeks," and they're 6-9 in the game that has immediately followed the abbreviated prep time. The Chiefs are 1-1 on the NFL Network's "Thursday Night Football" showcase (not counting Saturdays) since its inception in 2006, but -- maybe more problematically -- they're 0-2 the week after.
Reid knows his history well enough to not want to repeat it: With what's looked so far like a very sloppy and beatable Giants team coming into Arrowhead Stadium on Sept. 29, the Chiefs are staring at a darned good chance of capping the first month of the season 3-1 or 4-0. Pull off that trick, folks, and then the fun
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.