Chiefs still making same mistakes
Dwayne Bowe walked into the Kansas City Chiefs locker room on Monday, exchanged hugs and handshakes with teammates who shouted out ``D-Bowe!'' as he arrived.
Back from a four-game drug suspension, Bowe was a welcome sight at the Chiefs' training complex.
On the field, not much has changed.
In losing 16-10 to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, the hapless Chiefs made many of the same mistakes that have haunted them all season.
Matt Cassel had another shaky game. A mediocre rushing team ran all over the Chiefs' defense. The offense kept tripping itself up. Coach Todd Haley made a questionable call or two. Receivers dropped crucial passes.
The 10th loss was not a whole lot different from the others. It's almost as if the Chiefs are stuck in a ``Three's Company'' marathon - each episode looking a whole lot like the last.
``I don't have any doubt we're making progress,'' Haley said. ``It's tough when you look at the record and see that. I just go on what I see on a daily basis, during the game, after the game, certain responses by players, desire of the players to get better. We're making progress.''
At times, Cassel was much better than the week before, when he was yanked in the fourth quarter against Denver with a 14.6 quarterback rating. Cassel threw for 224 yards on 26-of-43 passing and twice drove the Chiefs within reach of victory in the closing minutes.
But he also was sacked four times and had four interceptions, two in the final 2:11. Cassel's first interception, in the third quarter, was just a poor decision and worse throw. Two others came on deflections and another was a desperation heave into the end zone.
Catch a break or two, get Chris Chambers to come down with a goal-line catch with just over 2 minutes left, maybe Cassel and the Chiefs win. Didn't happen, though, and now Kansas City's $60 million man has lost 10 games as a starter after winning 11 with New England a year ago.
``I thought the quarterback did a good job of fighting through some adversity and ultimately put us in a position to win that game,'' Haley said. ``And that is the bottom line, a win or a loss.''
Kansas City's run defense was another trouble spot.
Buffalo entered as one of the NFL's worst rushing teams and ran over the Chiefs all game. Missing tackles and getting bowled over at the point of attack, Kansas City gave up 163 yards to Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch, and 200 total for a 5.7 yards-per-carry average.
``We didn't do a good enough job, obviously,'' linebacker Mike Vrabel.
Offensively, the Chiefs actually had a decent game, at least yardage-wise. Jamaal Charles had a career day, rushing for 143 yards and a touchdown, and Kansas City finished with 354 total yards to Buffalo's 273.
What hurt the Chiefs were the negative plays. Seventeen in all. Four sacks proved costly as the did the five penalties, two of which negated big gains during Kansas City's penultimate, and ultimately unsuccessful, drive.
``When you have 17 minus plays, you're in a hole too much of the time,'' Haley said.
A few calls by Haley could have changed the outcome.
The first came on a fourth-and-goal at the 1 in the first quarter. Taking a gamble, Haley called for Cassel to run a naked bootleg. Buffalo dropped Cassel for a seven-yard loss.
Faced with a fourth-and-9 at the Buffalo 37 in the fourth quarter, Haley opted to punt instead of having Ryan Succop try a career-long 55-yard field goal. Punter Dustin Colquitt, who had a rare off day, punted the ball into the end zone for a 17-yard net punt.
This after the Chiefs failed miserably on a fake punt deep in their own end last week against the Broncos.
``I don't know that I'd do a whole lot different on the fourth-down calls,'' Haley said. ``Those are in-game, ebb and flow of the game decisions that you've got to make, you've got to make fast. When they don't work, there's going to be some criticism of them and when they do, probably not so much.''
At least the Chiefs should have a fighting chance this week. They play at home against Cleveland (2-11) and get back Bowe, Cassel's top target.
Even so, Kansas City can't expect a walkover. The Chiefs are still going to have to shore up those mistakes haunting them all season.
If they don't, the reruns will continue.
``As I've said many, many times, it's a big job,'' Haley said. ``We're not talking about a team that's been at the top in quite a while, but I think it's turning, we're getting better, we're doing it the right way. We're staying with the plan in all areas and we've just got to keep on keeping on.''