Search for answers starts with turnover battle

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Marty Schottenheimer was in town for the Chiefs’ alumni weekend before heading back to his home in Charlotte, N.C., and back into retirement.

Perhaps some Chiefs fans should have tackled him before he got to the Kansas City airport.

Yes, it’s getting that desperate in these parts.

The Chiefs not only fell to 1-3 on Sunday with yet another head-scratching stinker – this one 37-20 to division rival San Diego – they also gave the appearance of a team completely bent on self-destruction.

This again was the antithesis of “Martyball,” the dominant form of Chiefs football that stressed intimidating defense and ball security during the 1990s. On Sunday, the Chiefs committed five first-half turnovers while falling behind 27-6.

The Chiefs also committed seven penalties in that half for 65 yards, and fell asleep repeatedly on defense, allowing Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to virtually point out his targets before connecting on passes as he completed 14 of 18 for 175 yards.

The performance was so distasteful that Chiefs fans began booing with three minutes left in the first quarter. Those boos rang even louder as the Chiefs headed into the locker room at halftime.

The second half was only marginally better as the Chiefs flirted with the notion of getting back into the game when Jamaal Charles scored on a 13-yard pass from Matt Cassel to cut the lead to 27-13. But there were no heroics as there were last week in New Orleans.

In fact, the Chiefs turned the ball over one more time in the second half on Charles’ second fumble of the day, and, just for good measure, committed a devastating holding penalty after Javier Arenas returned a punt 28 yards to the San Diego 30 with four minutes left in the third quarter. That penalty was especially critical because the Chiefs’ drive instead started on their own 38. From there, the Chiefs quietly went three and out.

The Chargers then scored on a short Rivers toss to Jackie Battle with just under 8 minutes left in the game, and within seconds of that, Arrowhead Stadium emptied out with just a few thousand die-hards left. And those fans hung around perhaps just to give the home team another earful of boos after the final gun.

The Chiefs are now 1-3, and as was the case after the first two losses, will feel the heat from frustrated fans this week.

Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel certainly recognized how dire the situation has become.

“What I told the team was that it was bad football,” he said, “and to say it was bad football (to the media). So it was everybody involved today…coaches, players…everybody associated was bad. That’s how we’re going to look at it and see if we can get better.”

Good luck.

Good luck with a team that is now a staggering minus-13 in the turnover ratio through four games.

Even tackle Eric Winston seemed amazed by the stat.

“It’s surprising a team can win a game with that many turnovers,” he said.

And horrible as Cassel has been at quarterback (three more interceptions, one pick-6), it hasn’t all been his fault.

Yes, he continues to throw the ball late and behind his receivers, but he also threw a perfect pass to Dexter McCluster in Chargers territory that went right through his hands and into a Charger defender’s.

And then there was Charles, the Chiefs’ most consistent playmaker, fumbling twice, which seemed to offset his two spectacular plays – a brilliant cut-back-against-the-grain 37-yard touchdown run, and the 13-yard TD catch in which he tight-roped the sideline inside the 5 and reached the ball over the goal line.

But Charles could think of nothing other than the fumbles.

“My performance sucked today,” he said. “I can’t do that. We can win games if we don’t turn the ball over.”

Maybe, maybe not. But it’s at least a good start.