Re-Focused: Chiefs @ Bears, Week 13

| December 6, 2011

Hail Mary, full of grace … one of these was the difference between a Kansas City Chiefs road win and what felt for much of the second half like it would have been an utterly inevitable tie between two teams putting forth some of the worst offensive football you will see this season. Both the Chiefs and the Chicago Bears struggled to establish anything with their backup quarterbacks at the helm. The running games had their moments and the defenses played their part in this game yielding only 13 points, but the over-arching theme of the game was woeful offense.

The poor performance of Chicago signal caller Caleb Hanie has sparked discussions over Donovan McNabb being brought in by Chicago, but how different might those have been had Roy Williams held on to a fine throw at the Kansas City 3-yard-line? Instead, he let it into his body, dropped it and after much bobbling, Jon McGraw came up with the pivotal interception. That single play was as close as the Bears got as the Chiefs did just enough to win courtesy of a trail player catching a ball off of another lucky bounce to pick up the decisive score. It could be said that this game was decided on two bounces of a football, so let’s take a look back at some noteworthy – and some forgettable – performances from this unremarkable game.

 

Kansas City – Three Performances of Note

Linebackers Steal the Show

On a day where malaise and mediocrity was in vogue, the one unit that really upped their game was the Chiefs’ linebackers. All four of their starters contributed in extremely positive ways and fueled the Chiefs’ stifling defensive display. The play of Derrick Johnson (+4.5) has been well documented in our game reviews here at PFF this season, but he once again put a dominant display. His work in run defense was as strong as ever – his tackle that dealt Matt Forte his injury was a particularly impressive defensive play; going under the block of Matt Spaeth to get to the Bears’ runner at the line. Johnson was not alone this week as Tamba Hali (+3.2) was his usual explosive self and rookie Justin Houston (+3.7) recorded his strongest showing as a pass rusher with three sacks, a pressure and a batted pass.

 

No More Backup Plan

After the Chiefs cut their ties with Jared Gaither this week they were left with no backup plan to the persistently disappointing Barry Richardson (-6.1) at right tackle. He didn’t exactly vindicate his coaches and front office with his display and was the lowest-graded player for the entire Chiefs’ offense this week. Whether Gaither was made a scapegoat for his false start in last week’s game or there were off-the-field issues that hastened his departure, there is little doubt that the Chiefs will need to act fast to get another contingency in for Richardson in the offseason. Once again, Richardson was beaten badly in both run and pass games, yielding two hits and a sack in pass protection along with a tackle for loss in the running game. Richardson was completely undone by Israel Idonije on that run play (Q2 2:20) and with Richardson now protecting the blindside of the Chiefs’ incumbent quarterback the rest of 2011, his poor play will come into sharper focus.

 

Fragile – Handle with Care

So Kyle Orton did take the field at Soldier Field this year …  for one play, and for the Chiefs. After a predictably mediocre opening stanza from Tyler Palko (-2.8) the Chiefs opened up the second quarter with Orton under center and went deep into the bag of tricks with a flea flicker. The pass fell incomplete and Orton was knocked out for the rest of the game with an injury to the index finger on his throwing hand – a rather ignominious debut. The task fell to Palko to lead the Chiefs to victory, which he accomplished by not leading them to defeat. Palko made very few positive contributions, grading positively for only two throws and his radar was way off for most of the game. However, in a game as tight and as poorly played as this, he adhered to the old moniker, which tends to hang around bad offensive football teams, that a punt is a good series. His worst throw all game was an overthrow to Steve Breaston which was so overthrown that the pass sailed over Bears’ safety Major Wright as well. There was little positive for the Chiefs to take from Palko moving forward but his first career win was a testament to merely not losing the game.

 

Chicago – Three Performances of Note

Fine Margins

Two bounces of a football turned this game on a 14-point swing in favor of the Kansas City Chiefs. Neither team did enough to win and arguably both teams deserved to walk out of Soldier Field with a loss to their name. However, on a bounce of a Hail Mary at the end of the second quarter and the bobble of a drop by Roy Williams (-1.6) the Chiefs scored seven points and took seven away from the Bears. On such fine margins not only are games won and lost but seemingly also are careers defined. If the combination of Brian Urlacher and Chris Conte knock down that Hail Mary and Williams plays like a pro wide receiver for a split second holding on to that pass at the Chiefs’ 3, are the Bears looking at replacements for Caleb Hanie (+1.6) today? Possibly. As aside from that game-turning play Hanie’s performance still wasn’t good enough and one play isn’t enough to look past the glaring lack of composure and accuracy he displayed all game. His interception to Brandon Carr at 6:16 in the third quarter was a stark reminder of the naivety that Hanie still possesses as an NFL QB. However, at this stage of his career is Donovan McNabb a much better option? Did the Chiefs doom the Bears’ season by claiming Orton?

 

Plumbing New Depths

The Bears offensive line and right tackle Lance Louis (-7.9) showed relative signs of life earlier this season as the Bears adjusted the offense to protect Jay Cutler better. For Louis in particular, that resurgence has come crashing back to earth in the last month and reached a new low this week with the worst showing of his pro career. Louis was responsible for five sacks charged to four different defenders and Caleb Hanie will not be thanking him for the rate at which those plays came in the second half. Up until the 1:31 mark in the third quarter Louis was having a solid day, yielding a solitary pressure to Derrick Johnson until that point. However, in the Bears final 18 pass plays, Louis surrendered five sacks and one pressure . Three of those sacks came on third downs to halt Chicago drives and two came on back-to-back plays. The Bears’ offensive line has long been a thorn in their side and with an inexperienced quarterback it proved a major handicap as Hanie couldn’t set and throw in the pocket, just when he needed to the most.

 

Defensive Line Holds Up Their End of the Bargain

While the Chiefs’ linebackers led the Kansas City charge on defense, it was the Bears’ defensive line that did the same for Chicago. Even with their talisman Julius Peppers (+5.8) having to leave the field through injury the Bears’ defensive front was stifling up front against the run all day limiting Thomas Jones to 2.3 yards per carry and Jackie Battle to 1.4 yards per carry. It was only the speed of Dexter McCluster on draw plays that had any success on the ground and most of that came on the longest rush of McCluster’s career. The Bears didn’t have much joy rushing the passer though here. Against Tyler Palko that wasn’t crucial as his accuracy is poor enough without pressure (44%). Plays such as Peppers’ pursuit to break up a screen on Palko’s first play back in at 14:53 in the second and Stephen Paea’s (+3.0) tackle deep in the backfield at 12:49 in the first showed that the Bears defensive front came ready to play this week.

 

Game Notes

- Kyle Orton wasn’t the only Chief to play a solitary snap in this game. Cory Greenwood, Andy Studebaker and Jeremy Horne all saw action on only one snap as well.

- The loss of Matt Forte meant the Bears had no backs to use in the passing game. Consequently, Caleb Hanie didn’t aim a single pass behind the line of scrimmage, a large and key chunk of the Bears’ offense lost early in the game.

- Kansas City’s 21 total QB pressures (combining sacks, hits and pressures) were their most since their playoff defeat to Baltimore in January when they recorded 22.

 

PFF Game Ball

The lack of press that Derrick Johnson still receives is utterly baffling. Yet another fine performance for the Chiefs’ defensive star this week as he continues to state his case as the best inside linebacker in the AFC.

 

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