Three pressing questions coming out of the Chiefs' season-opening win
SEP 09, 2013 8:44a ET
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kicking a bad franchise while it's down isn't supposed to make you feel better about yourself, but we'll make an exception: Chiefs fans got so used to being on the OTHER end of blowouts over the last two years that a little chest-puffing isn't just allowed; hell, it oughta be ENCOURAGED. So many game balls that deserve to be doled out (we saw ya, Junior Hemingway!), so little space. And yet ...
CHIEFS 28, JAGUARS 2: THREE UNCOMFORTABLY PRESSING MONDAY QUESTIONS
:03 ... What the hell, Dave Toub?
After setting the NFL (and social media) on fire with a sparkling return game in August, the Chiefs' first big special teams test of the regular season was an unmitigated disaster. At the 12:32 mark of the first quarter, after the visitors' first offensive possession netted only three yards and stalled at the Chiefs' 25-yard line, punter Dustin Colquitt set up.
Then the roof caved in.
Jacksonville linebacker J.T. Thomas found a seam straight up the gut after long snapper Thomas Gafford and linebacker Akeem Jordan released to cover the kick and Cyrus Gray shifted from the middle of the formation as a protector all the way over to the left side of the line. Thomas got a surprisingly clean shot; fortunately for the Chiefs, the ball caromed all the way to the end zone and eventually rolled out of bounds before a Jags player could pounce on it, resulting in a safety and a 2-0 lead for the hosts -- the only points for the hosts, as a matter of fact.
The rest of the special teams day proved relatively nondescript, save for a 36-yard punt return by Dexter McCluster; because of the Chiefs' defense, the club never registered an official kick return. Initially, some theorized that the Thomas block might have been the result of miscommunication and the influx of new players on the punt team; after all, the Chiefs signed seven free agents at the start of last week to finalize the active roster at 53. That doesn't quite mesh with the replays, though, as the only new Chief on the interior of the protection was linebacker Dezman Moses.
Special teams coordinator Dave Toub's credentials are nonpareil, especially from his work with the Chicago Bears, so as shocking as the Chiefs' punt gaffe was, it might be more shocking to see it happen again anytime soon.
:02 ... Can Alex Smith connect on a deep ball in crunch time?
Some of Smith's critics lovingly (and sometimes not-so-lovingly) refer to the Chiefs signal-caller as "Captain Checkdown," given his propensity to cycle back to his safety-valve receivers in the flat rather than force something riskier downfield. While coach Andy Reid tried to take advantage of that reputation and have Smith chuck it downfield to tight end Anthony Fasano on the first play from scrimmage, the rest of the afternoon, indeed, played out closer to the vest.
Of Smith's 21 completions, the distribution went like this:
+ Catches by running backs/fullbacks: 9
+ Catches by tight ends: 2
+ Catches by wideouts: 10
+ Completions of 7 yards or fewer: 14
+ Completions of 11 yards or more: 5
In Smith's defense, the game was pretty much in hand after the 3-yard touchdown pass to Junior Hemingway in the back of the end zone put the visitors up 13-2. Against this opponent, and this Jaguar offense, conservative and businesslike was the smart and prudent path to take. But what happens on a day when the Chiefs' defense isn't doing a pretty fair impersonation of the '85 Bears? We don't know what Smith's capable of in a shootout yet, but you get the feeling those answers might come sooner rather than later.
:01 ... Speaking of defense, how successful will coordinator Bob Sutton's "blitz first, ask questions later" defense look against a REAL quarterback?
It's fun to send the house at Blaine Gabbert and watch the former Mizzou quarterback curl into a fetal position. But what happens when you try that trick against Tony Romo? Or Eli Manning? Or Andrew Luck? Or, God forbid, Peyton Manning? Cripes, anybody who's got a better feel for blitz packages and/or better protection in front of him? Live by the sword, die by the sword, baby.
Still, the greener the arm, the more you can play with the head. And Sutton's dance card features more potential opportunities for fun and games, too, what with Tennessee's Jake Locker, Oakland's Terrelle Pryor, Cleveland's Brandon Weeden and Buffalo's E.J. Manuel still on the docket. And you've got to admit: The living in North Florida was pretty stinking good, wasn't it?
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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