KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Five issues facing the Chiefs heading into the final seven games of the regular season.
MOVE IT, OFFENSE
There’s an old adage in sports that defense keeps you in games, and offense wins them.
Of course, that hasn’t exactly been the case so far this season for the Chiefs. Their defense has kept them in games AND won them. Look no further than their last win at Buffalo.
But moving forward, it’s hard to imagine the Chiefs can continue this kind of success without more balance, especially as they go up against Denver’s Peyton Manning twice in the next three weeks, not to mention two games against San Diego’s Philip Rivers over the final seven.
The Chiefs are 23rd in the NFL in offense, averaging just over 317 yards per game. Not good.
Granted, the Chiefs are a ball-security machine. They have committed an NFL-fewest eight turnovers, a staggeringly low total.
But at some point — perhaps this Sunday — Alex Smith and Co. will be asked to do something beyond their comfort zone, which is to go out and win a game by themselves. There has been no evidence through nine games that the offense can do this, mainly because it hasn’t been tested.
Dwayne Bowe has had a reputation since arriving in Kansas City as a bit of a selfish knucklehead, but it appeared that present management under John Dorsey and Andy Reid had gotten through to Bowe and convinced him to put the team first.
Well, that lasted nine games. While Bowe’s arrest for speeding and marijuana possession Sunday night doesn’t exactly fall under the high-crime category, it’s apparent that team management didn’t quite have his full attention. Especially considering how much is at stake this season and with a pivotal game coming up Sunday.
It is possible the Chiefs will suspend Bowe for this Sunday’s game, or they might wait until after his December court date. But then he might have bigger issues with the league and its substance-abuse policy.
Replacing Bowe won’t be easy, and you can bet Dorsey is scouring the waiver wire. Bowe wasn’t a huge factor in terms of production — just 33 catches for 369 yards. But he was somewhat of a decoy who drew defenses away from the tight end and other receivers.
Right now, the depth chart is thin, with A.J. Jenkins, Junior Hemingway and Chad Hall as backups, none of whom strikes fear in any defense. Reid may rely a bit more on slot receiver Dexter McCluster, but the Chiefs need a bigger, physical target for Smith, too. Perhaps it’s time to find out what they have in Jenkins (6 feet, 200 pounds) and Hemingway (6-1, 225).
STOPPING THE RUN
OK, there is absolutely no room to complain about the Chiefs’ defense this season. It has carried the team every week, in one fashion or another.
Was anyone else just a bit concerned when the Buffalo Bills gashed the Chiefs’ defense for 241 rushing yards in the last game? With the Chiefs’ front seven, such a whipping up front didn’t seem possible.
And actually, stopping the run has been a moderate concern all season. The Chiefs are only 23rd in the league in rushing defense, giving up over 118 yards per game.
That could be a bigger concern against the Broncos and the Chargers, who aren’t huge running teams but will be even more effective through the air if they pop some big runs against the Chiefs.
The Chiefs keep saying they intend to give rookie running back Knile Davis more game action, mainly to spare the toll on Jamaal Charles, who has an AFC-high 217 touches through nine games.
No one is suggesting Charles isn’t tough. In fact, he has shown this season some toughness between the tackles that we didn’t know he had. And he has been durable, playing through some painful blisters on his feet as well as some other nagging ailments.
But hey, there’s a lot of football left, and to keep Charles fresh for the stretch run in December and the playoffs in January, it might be time to ease off the Charles throttle a bit.
Just about every week, Reid reminds us how young his offensive line is. And outside of Branden Albert, he’s right — the other four are all 25 or younger.
But it’s time that line shows some growth as a unit, including rookie No. 1 pick Eric Fisher. Let’s face it, the Chiefs, especially if they lose Bowe, won’t be a scary passing team. Instead, they will need to dominate up front while running the ball and maintaining possession.
That means no more excuses about the unit’s youth and inexperience.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email at email@example.com.