NFC South: Kansas City Chiefs

Jon AsamoahUSA TODAY SportsEx-Kansas City linemen Tyson Jackson and Jon Asamoah should give Atlanta toughness in the trenches.
The Atlanta Falcons raided the roster of the Kansas City Chiefs in the opening moments of the free-agent signing period, adding defensive end Tyson Jackson and guard Jon Asamoah. Jackson was the Chiefs’ first-round draft pick in 2009 and the third choice overall. Asamoah was selected by the Chiefs in the third round of the 2010 draft.

ESPN NFL Nation reporters Adam Teicher (Chiefs) and Vaughn McClure (Falcons) discuss the signings.

Teicher: Vaughn, tell us how Jackson and Asamoah fit into the Falcons’ plans and why they liked those players more than some other available players at their positions.

McClure: In my opinion, they’re both great fits for a team that lacked some toughness up front on both sides of the ball. The offensive line getting pushed around last season led to Matt Ryan being the league’s most-pressured quarterback and the running game being the league’s worst. Asamoah will step in immediately at right guard, where the Falcons tried three players last season but had little success. In terms of Jackson, he has 3-4 experience, and the Falcons are set to move more toward a 3-4 base defense. And if Jackson is as good a run-stuffer as Asamoah touted him to be, the Falcons should be in business.

From the Chiefs’ perspective, what were the pros and cons to keeping or parting ways with both Jackson and Asamoah?

Teicher: The Chiefs would have liked to have retained Jackson but not at the price the Falcons got him for (five years, $25 million). He developed into a solid run defender the past couple of seasons but was still just a part-time player who came out of the game on passing downs. Still, the Chiefs may have to go out and find his replacement in free agency or the draft. They also thought Asamoah was too pricey for them at more than $4 million per year. The Chiefs last year had some good depth on the offensive line. They drafted five linemen in the top three rounds over the previous four drafts. Asamoah was one of them and the other four will start for them next year. They didn’t re-sign any of their three free-agent offensive linemen and never came close to reaching a deal with any of them. The Chiefs have some developmental prospects they may try to plug into the starting right guard spot that is now vacant or they could find a guard in free agency or the draft.

These signings have Scott Pioli’s fingerprints on them. He was the Chiefs’ general manager when they drafted Jackson and Asamoah and is now Atlanta’s assistant GM. How much say do you think he has on personnel matters for the Falcons?

McClure: I think it will be a team effort, Adam, with general manager Thomas Dimitroff, director of player personnel Lionel Vital, and Pioli leading the way. Of course, Pioli obviously had some input in these signings. He had a familiarity with both Asamoah and Jackson and could speak on their behalf. But Pioli learned some lessons from his experience in Kansas City, particularly how to be more open-minded. So, like Dimitroff said, Pioli will be another voice at the table. I’m curious now to see how they all put their minds together and decide what to do in the draft. They need both an offensive tackle and edge pass-rusher.

Adam, since we’re talking, I have to ask you this question. My sources told me that the Seattle Seahawks indeed talked about trading for Tony Gonzalez. And there were reports that Kansas City felt the same way. What exactly happened there? And Gonzalez is a free agent now, you know?

Teicher: Bringing Gonzalez back to Kansas City for the last half of last season would have made sense on a number of levels. They had some injuries at tight end and needed a pass-receiver at that spot. The fans would have loved it. But the Chiefs never seemed serious about it. It was fun for everyone to talk about, but it was never close to becoming a reality. That would be something if the Chiefs signed Gonzalez now as a free agent, but their chance to get something done with him was last year.
Ron Rivera and Andy ReidUSA TODAY SportsRon Rivera and Andy Reid are both deserving of coach of the year -- but only one can win.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera and Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid are among the favorites to win the Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year award on Saturday.

Rivera took a Carolina team that hadn't been to the playoffs since 2008 from a 1-3 start to a 12-4 regular-season record and the NFC South title. Reid took a Kansas City team that had the worst record (2-14) in the NFL in 2012 to an 11-5 record and second place in the AFC West.

Both lost in the playoffs, Carolina 23-10 in an NFC divisional game against San Francisco and Kansas City 45-44 to Indianapolis in a wild-card game.

Rivera and Reid are in New York City, where on Saturday night the NFL will salute the best of the 2013 season with "NFL Honors" at Radio City Music Hall.

New England's Bill Belichick and Philadelphia's Chip Kelly also are under consideration for Coach of the Year. ESPN.com NFL Nation Panthers reporter David Newton and Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher are here to tell you why it's a two-man race:

Adam, first of all, do you agree this should come down to Rivera or Reid?

Teicher:Those are the two strongest candidates. Some others deserve consideration. Think it was a strong year in this regard. Mike McCoy in San Diego, Bill Belichick in New England and Chip Kelly in Philadelphia did a nice job as well. But when you boil it down, Reid and Rivera are the two best candidates. The Chiefs had too much talent in 2012 to win just two games, so maybe this speaks to what a lousy job their previous coaching staff did. The Chiefs weren't just bad when Reid walked through the door. They had been blown out in most of their games in 2012. They didn't have many narrow losses. I know how far the Panthers have come as well. They were so bad in 2012 that they were one of the two teams to lose to the Chiefs.

Which way would you go with your vote?

Newton: I could see it going either way, but I'd have to say Rivera. The Panthers started 0-2 and then 1-3. There was speculation there could be a coaching change before the bye week if they went to 0-3. It's tough enough to turn around a team that is used to winning. Rivera did it four games into the season with a team that hadn't had a winning record in five years. Winning eight straight and 11 of the final 12 regular season games -- including back-to-back wins against San Francisco and New England -- was impressive. That the Panthers really had to win all those games to win the division and even make the playoffs with New Orleans, San Francisco and Arizona breathing down their backs for the final two spots is a testament to the work ethic Rivera instilled. That he didn't panic or make changes to what he was doing when the season was on the brink made the turnaround possible. That the players fought for him when he didn't have a track record for winning -- as Reid did -- also speaks volumes.

So who do you think deserves it more?

Teicher: It's a tough call. No doubt there's more to like about Carolina's body of work this season. Kansas City was 10-0 against non-playoff teams and 1-5 against teams that made the postseason. But I still believe the Chiefs travelled a longer distance. Reid did more than help the Chiefs win games. He helped change what had been the miserable, rotten culture that permeated the entire organization. When he walked in the door, the Chiefs were infested with people who pulled in different directions and were out for themselves. He got everybody to believe in the greater good. He was able to get a lot of players to put aside personal goals for those of the team. That's a long-winded way of saying I would vote for Reid.

Having said all this, it seems every year this award goes to a coach whose team has an amazing turnaround. Do you think it's unfair to coaches like Belichick that win all the time?

Newton: Miserable? Infested? Rotten? You trying to make me change my vote? The culture wasn't that bad at Carolina, but the losing was and Kansas City had more talent to start with, which again sways me back to Rivera. But to the question, I agree coaches like Belichick get overlooked because they do such a good job every year. I compare it to Dean Smith when he was the basketball coach at North Carolina. It took him 16 years to finally win the national coach of the year award even though year in and year out he had one of the best programs in the country. People overlook the obvious. Belichick doesn't get the credit because people see he has Tom Brady and forget how he meshes sometimes average players into a playoff team. Having said that, I'd still vote for Rivera this year.

Note: Carolina middle linebacker Luke Kuechly is up for Defensive Player of the Year and outside linebacker Thomas Davis is up for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles is up for the Offensive Player of the Year Award.

Falcons' Dirk Koetter a hot name

December, 31, 2012
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The Atlanta Falcons' offensive success during a 13-3 season could come at a price.

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will interview with the Kansas City Chiefs for their head-coaching vacancy, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. The Falcons already have granted the Chiefs permission to talk to Koetter and the interview reportedly will take place Tuesday.

There also is a report that Koetter will interview for the vacancy with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cleveland Browns are also reportedly interested in Koetter.

Assistants on playoff teams with a bye can interview for jobs as head coaches this week.

This isn’t a huge surprise because Koetter was expected to be one of the "hot" names this offseason. He’s had success as a coordinator and has been a head coach on the college level.

Koetter joined the Falcons this season after Mike Mularkey left to become the head coach in Jacksonville.

Wrap-up: Chiefs 27, Panthers 21

December, 2, 2012
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Thoughts on the Carolina Panthers' 27-21 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday:

What it means: The Panthers fall to 3-9, and this one isn’t going to help coach Ron Rivera’s job security. Carolina lost to a team that had won only one game this season. That ended an opportunity for Rivera to put together back-to-back wins for the first time since Weeks 15 and 16 of last year. Rivera said it’s been made clear to him by owner Jerry Richardson that he needs to finish the season on an upswing to have a chance to keep his job. But Carolina flubbed a chance to get on a bit of a roll. Barring some dramatic turnaround to finish the season, it seems likely the Panthers will be looking for a new coach after the season.

No defense: The Panthers came in knowing they were facing a good running back in Jamaal Charles. But they weren’t able to slow Charles down at all. More importantly, the Panthers made quarterback Brady Quinn, who entered the game without a touchdown pass this season, look like a Pro Bowler. Carolina’s defense simply couldn’t get Kansas City’s offense off the field. The Chiefs dominated in time of possession, largely due to lengthy touchdown drives in the second and third quarters. The Chiefs ended up holding the ball for 37:13.

All for nothing: Quarterback Cam Newton threw three touchdown passes and ran for 78 yards and didn’t make any major mistakes. Newton and the offense probably could have scored a lot more points if the defense had been able to give them more time with the ball.

Worst drop of the season: Newton easily could have had a fourth touchdown pass. A wide-open Brandon LaFell dropped a sure touchdown pass in the third quarter.

Amazing stat of the day: The Panthers now have lost all 13 coin tosses (12 at the start of games and once for overtime) this season. Carolina even tried a new approach on this one, asking fans to vote on whether to call heads or tails on Facebook. It didn’t make any difference.

What’s next: The Panthers host the Atlanta Falcons next Sunday.

Halftime thoughts: Panthers-Chiefs

December, 2, 2012
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The Carolina Panthers have a decent chance at their first two-game winning streak since Weeks 15 and 16 of last season.

At halftime, they trail the Kansas City Chiefs, 17-14. Kansas City scored a touchdown on the final play of the second quarter. But the Panthers led for most of the first half. Cam Newton and the offense have put together a couple of impressive touchdown drives.

But Carolina’s defense did not have a great first half. The Panthers have had trouble stopping running back Jamaal Charles and they’re making quarterback Brady Quinn look like the model of efficiency. The Panthers also have had problems with penalties and safety Sherrod Martin and defensive lineman Frank Alexander have left the game with injuries.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the Panthers in the comments section below. I'll be back with a wrap-up soon after the game ends.
After discussions between the NFL and Kansas City officials, the Carolina Panthers reportedly will play the Chiefs as scheduled Sunday.

There had been some uncertainty about that in the immediate aftermath of Saturday morning’s tragic events in Kansas City. But the decision has been made to play the game at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.

The Panthers made the trip, as planned, to Kansas City on Saturday afternoon. Running back Jonathan Stewart, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, did not make the trip and will not play. DeAngelo Williams is expected to start in his place.

Video: Panthers at Chiefs prediction

November, 30, 2012
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The NFL Live crew makes their picks for Carolina at Kansas City.

Wrap-up: Buccaneers 38, Chiefs 10

October, 14, 2012
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Thoughts on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers38-10 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium:

What it means: I wouldn’t quite call this one the turning point for a young team with a new coaching staff, because turning points need to come against good teams, and the Chiefs don’t fit that bill. But this one was significant and a potential step toward that turning point. The Bucs played well on both sides of the ball and probably played their most complete game of the season. They also improved to 2-3, which places them in sole possession of second in the NFC South.

Best idea coming out of a bye week: The Bucs took the handcuffs off Josh Freeman, and the quarterback threw for 328 yards and three touchdowns. The Bucs let Freeman take some shots downfield, and he connected with Mike Williams, Tiquan Underwood and Vincent Jackson. Memo to the coaching staff: Remember this one and, going forward, let Freeman continue to do what he does best.

Time to stop the Doug Martin bashing: The knock on the rookie running back early this season was that he wasn’t producing big plays. Well, he changed that against the Chiefs. Martin had a 23-yard run as he finished with 76 rushing yards, and he also caught a pass that went for 42 yards.

Stellar day by the defense: There’s been a lot of talk about how improved Tampa Bay’s run defense is from last year. I wasn’t completely buying into that. But now I am. The Bucs limited Jamaal Charles to 40 yards on 12 carries.

Defying time: Defensive back Ronde Barber is 37, but the guy just keeps making big plays. Barber recorded his 45th career interception and returned it 78 yards for a touchdown.

What’s next: The Bucs are home next Sunday with the New Orleans Saints.

Live from the Georgia Dome

October, 14, 2012
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ATLANTA -- I’m settled into the Georgia Dome press box for Sunday’s game between the Falcons and Oakland Raiders.

I’ll be back with the inactives in about an hour and you know the rest of the drill. I’ll weigh in on anything of substance during the game and we’ll have a Rapid Reaction immediately after the game and a full column a bit later.

I’ll also be watching the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs and providing an update on that.

Speaking of the Bucs, we’ve got two items worth noting. First, congratulations to former offensive tackle Paul Gruber, who will be inducted into Tampa Bay’s Ring of Honor on Sunday. I had the pleasure of covering Gruber in the 1990s and can honestly say he’s one of the most genuine professionals I’ve ever dealt with.

Second, it sounds like the Bucs are switching up their offensive line in a different way than many expected. There were hints during the week that Ted Larsen, who had been starting at right guard, would be out of the lineup and be replaced by Jeremy Trueblood. Apparently, that’s only half true. Larsen isn’t expected to be in the starting lineup. But PewterReport.com reports that Jamon Meredith -- not Trueblood -- will start at right guard.

Gee, that should really throw off the Chiefs’ plans.

AccuScore video: Kansas City at Tampa Bay

October, 12, 2012
10/12/12
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Prim Siripipat goes inside the numbers for the Chiefs-Buccaneers.

Wrap-up: Chiefs 27, Saints 24 (OT)

September, 23, 2012
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Thoughts on the New Orleans Saints' 27-24 overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday:

What it means: Last week, I said it was time for the Saints to panic. My point was that they needed to do something dramatic before this season got out of control. They might be at that point now. They controlled things for most of the day in a game in their own stadium and they still ended up losing. The Saints are 0-3 and in sole possession of last place in the NFC South. The Saints have dug themselves a big hole and it’s not going to be easy to climb out of. The last time the Saints started 0-3 was 2007, when they lost their first four games and failed to make the playoffs. It probably remains a little too early to say the Saints' season is over, but look at the next opponent on the schedule (at the bottom of this item) and it's tough to imagine New Orleans suddenly turning things around.

Defensive woes continue: Kansas City wasn’t supposed to be an offensive powerhouse and, early on, it looked like a New Orleans defense that struggled in its first two games was going to be all right. But the defense collapsed, particularly the run defense. Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles carried 33 times for 233 yards, including a 91-yard touchdown run. Matt Cassel threw for 248 yards. The Saints could have survived that if their run defense had just kept Charles in check. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's been taking a lot of heat from fans. What happened Sunday isn't going to stop that.

What happened to the offensive line? I’m not going to put the blame for the collapse of the offensive line solely on the loss of guard Carl Nicks to Tampa Bay in free agency. I certainly think the loss of Nicks was a factor. But I think some other members of the offensive line are underachieving. The Chiefs aren’t a team known for generating much of a pass rush. They came up with a strong pass rush against Drew Brees and even scored a safety late in regulation by sacking Brees in the end zone. Brees has had to face too much pressure so far this season. He banged up his ankle last week and there were times on Sunday when Brees seemed to be limping a bit after taking big hits from the Chiefs. If Brees suffers any sort of injury, whatever is left of the Saints’ season is over.

What’s next: The Saints travel to Lambeau Field to play the Green Bay Packers next Sunday.

Video: Prediction -- Chiefs at Saints

September, 22, 2012
9/22/12
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The NFL Live crew makes their picks for the Kansas City Chiefs at the New Orleans Saints.

Superlatives on the Falcons

September, 10, 2012
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Let’s take a look at some statistical superlatives from the Atlanta Falcons 40-24 victory against Kansas City on Sunday, courtesy of the Falcons.
  • The Falcons scored on their first eight possessions and had 376 yards of total offense. Atlanta had four drives of 70-plus yards and three of those resulted in touchdowns.
  • The victory was the 300th in franchise history.
  • Quarterback Matt Ryan has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 16 consecutive regular-season games. He’s thrown at least one touchdown pass in 31 of his last 32 games.
  • Ryan and Julio Jones connected on two touchdown passes. But the second one was significant because it was a screen pass. As most of you know, the Falcons threw fewer screens than any team in the league last year and new coordinator Dirk Koetter has pledged to change that.
  • Jones now has put together consecutive regular-season games in which he’s had two touchdown receptions. Jones also had two touchdown catches in last season’s finale against Tampa Bay.
  • Jones, a second-year pro, now has six 100-yard games. He had six catches for 108 yards against the Chiefs.
  • Ryan had three touchdown passes. The Falcons are 25-5 in games in which Ryan has thrown two or more touchdowns.
  • Dating back to last season, Ryan has attempted 197 straight passes without an interception. That ties the franchise record set by Steve Bartkowski in 1982 and ’83.
  • Ryan had a 136.4 quarterback rating, the fifth-best total of his career. The Falcons are 24-0 when Ryan has had a passer rating over 100.
  • Jacquizz Rodgers set up a field goal with a 77-yard kickoff return. It was the first kickoff return of Rodgers’ career.
  • The Falcons forced three turnovers. All came in the second half and on consecutive possessions by the Chiefs.
  • Defensive end John Abraham recorded a sack to give him 59.5 since joining the Falcons in 2006. Abraham moved into sole possession second place on the franchise’s sack list. He had been tied for second with Chuck Smith (58.5 sacks). Abraham now has 113 career sacks, which ties him for 15th in NFL history and he has more sacks than any other active player.

Wrap-up: Falcons 40, Chiefs 24

September, 9, 2012
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Thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons' 40-24 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

What it means: This was a great way for the Falcons to start the season. It’s always nice to win on the road and it’s especially nice that the Falcons were able to do it outdoors because a lot of people think of them as a dome team. It’s also significant for the Falcons that they already are one game ahead of the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South standings.

What I liked: It’s no secret that this is a crucial season for quarterback Matt Ryan. He’s under a lot of pressure to produce big numbers in a new offensive system. That’s what Ryan did, completing 23 of 31 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns, while also running for another score.

The homecoming: Things couldn’t have played out any better for Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez. He spent the first 12 years of his career with the Chiefs and he ended up catching a touchdown pass against his former team. The ball squirted loose soon after Gonzalez caught it. But Ryan tracked it down and gave it to the tight end. Gonzalez then dunked the ball over the goal post.

Unsung hero: Sean Weatherspoon gets most of the attention at linebacker. But Stephen Nicholas put together a big game. Nicholas had a game-high 12 tackles, intercepted a pass, deflected two others and recovered a fumble.

What’s next: The Falcons get an extra day to prepare because their next game is a Sept. 17 Monday night game at home against Denver.
video

CANTON, Ohio -- Willie Roaf's father, Clifton, has just presented the former New Orleans and Kansas City tackle for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The video presentation for Willie Roaf was packed with emotion, especially when Clifton Roaf, his jaw quivering with emotion, called his son his hero.

A quick aside: Clifton Roaf, speaking over lunch Friday, recalled the time his son shut out Hugh Douglas, one of the better defensive ends in the NFL at the time. According to the elder Roaf, Douglas finished with no tackles. When the game ended, Douglas paid tribute to Roaf by crawling off the field. Now that is domination.

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