NFL Nation: Ryan Succop


INDIANAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the Kansas City Chiefs' 45-44 loss to the Indianapolis Colts:

What it means: The 2013 Chiefs are among history's most infamous playoff teams. The Chiefs led 38-10 early in Saturday's third quarter before an epic collapse. The blown lead of 28 points is the second-biggest in NFL playoff history, behind the 32-point margin coughed up by the Houston Oilers against the Buffalo Bills in 1993. The Chiefs lost their eighth consecutive playoff game in a streak dating back 20 years.

Stock watch: Quarterback Alex Smith set a franchise record for touchdown passes with four. The touchdowns went to four different receivers. Joe Montana held the old record of three, in Kansas City's most recent playoff victory, in January 1994 against the Oilers. But Smith lost a fumble in the third quarter with the Chiefs ahead 38-17, and it led to an Indianapolis touchdown. Wide receiver Donnie Avery left the game late in the first half with a concussion and caught only one pass, a 79-yard touchdown in the second quarter that gave the Chiefs a 17-7 lead, their first double-digit advantage of the game. They never led by fewer than 10 points until the fourth quarter. Outside linebacker Justin Houston had a sack and a fumble recovery in his first game since suffering a dislocated elbow Nov. 24 against San Diego. Nickel safety Husain Abdullah had two interceptions. After missing the potential game-winning field goal attempt in the final seconds of Sunday's game in San Diego, Ryan Succop made all three of his tries.

Concussion for Charles: The Chiefs lost running back Jamaal Charles on their first possession with a concussion; they still scored a franchise record for points in a playoff game without him. His backup, rookie Knile Davis, scored on a 4-yard run in the second quarter and a 10-yard catch in the third quarter. Davis left the game with a knee injury in the fourth quarter, leaving Cyrus Gray and Dexter McCluster to finish the game at running back. The Chiefs also lost starting cornerback Brandon Flowers to a concussion. Houston injured his leg late in the game and did not return.

What's next: The Chiefs lost five of their final seven regular-season games before collapsing against the Colts.

Steelers left to ponder what ifs

December, 29, 2013
12/29/13
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PITTSBURGH -- Add Ryan Succop's missed field goal to the plays the Steelers will look at wistfully when they reflect on the 2013 season.

Succop, who kicks for the Chiefs, missed a 41-yard field goal Sunday night that would have beaten the Chargers and sent the Steelers to the playoffs.

The Chargers got a field goal of their own in overtime and held on to beat the Chiefs, 27-24, in San Diego -- officially ending the Steelers' season.

Succop missed by mere inches with the score tied near the end of regulation, and the Steelers' playoff fate was decided by a game played on the other side of the country.

[+] EnlargeKansas City's Ryan Succop
AP Photo/Denis PoroyHad Ryan Succop's 41-yard field goal attempt gone through the uprights, the Steelers would be heading to the playoffs.
The Steelers almost did the unthinkable by sneaking into the playoffs with an 8-8 record following an 0-4 start.

They needed eight things to break their way in the final two weeks of the season, including wins against Cincinnati and at Green Bay. Seven of them happened setting the stage for the Chiefs-Chargers game, which kicked off less than half an hour after the Steelers beat the Browns, 20-7, at soggy Heinz Field.

The Chiefs rested a lot of their key starters but never trailed the Chargers until overtime.

The improbable finish in that game brought a fitting close to a Steelers season that defied convention, consistency and any sort of script.

They rallied from their worst start since 1968 to win eight of their final 12 games but they also had a handful of bad losses, including ones at Oakland and to the Vikings in London.

What will hurt most is the Steelers know they would have been a tough out in the playoffs even if their first game would have been in Cincinnati where the Bengals have yet to lose this season.

Their offense had taken off after offensive coordinator Todd Haley lifted the reins from the no-huddle attack. A defense prone to giving up big plays had shored up that part of its game in recent weeks. Everything seemed to come together at about the same time the Steelers almost overcame odds that were longer than all three of Pittsburgh's rivers combined.

The Steelers won't take that momentum into the playoffs but their finish is something that could carry over, especially with most of the key players on offense returning in 2014.

"To be able to play some good football down the stretch for everybody to get a feel for how that should feel I think could be something to build off of," veteran tight end Heath Miller said.

As for what the Steelers turnaround from a nightmarish start revealed about their locker room, Miller said, "It should show that we believe in each other and stick together and I think that's a credit to the guys in here. When things aren't going well it's easy to point the finger or try to place blame on people but I think collectively we kept working on at and eventually we started to figure things out."

The Steelers didn't figure it out in enough time to save their season, but they came awfully close to making the playoffs after getting left for dead several times before the Chargers finally outlasted the Chiefs.

"This team fighting back, 6-2 in the second half, it's pretty cool," defensive end Brett Keisel said, "and I'm proud to be a part of it."

Rapid Reaction: Kansas City Chiefs

December, 29, 2013
12/29/13
7:41
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SAN DIEGO -- A few thoughts on the Kansas City Chiefs27-24 overtime loss to the San Diego Chargers:

What it means: The Chiefs have some good backup players. They took the Chargers deep into the fourth quarter before San Diego tied the score and then outlasted the Chiefs in overtime. Because the Chiefs were locked into the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs, a victory was meaningless. So coach Andy Reid rested 20 of Kansas City’s 22 starters, including all 11 on defense. With Chase Daniel making his first NFL start, the Chiefs put in a solid effort on both sides of the ball and almost denied the Chargers the AFC’s final playoff spot. The Chiefs finished the regular season at 11-5, an improvement of nine wins over 2012.

Stock watch: Rookie running back Knile Davis, playing for Jamaal Charles, started his first NFL game and delivered 81 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Daniel played about as well as the Chiefs could expect, completing 21 of 30 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown. Daniel also ran for 59 yards. An offensive line comprised of four backups and rookie right tackle Eric Fisher kept Daniel from being under consistent pressure and opened some nice holes for Davis. Cornerback Ron Parker had an interception to set up a Kansas City touchdown. Kicker Ryan Succop was wide right on a 41-yard field-goal attempt with eight seconds left in regulation that would have won the game for the Chiefs.

What's next: Heading to Indianapolis. The Chiefs will play the Colts in the first round of the playoffs next weekend. The 11-5 Colts, winners of the AFC South, beat the Chiefs 23-7 at Arrowhead Stadium on Dec. 22 by forcing four turnovers while committing none of their own. The Colts have beaten the Chiefs all three times the teams have met in the playoffs, in the 1995, 2003 and 2006 seasons.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Chiefs needed all the points they could get in last week’s game against the high-scoring Broncos in Denver. But they made the proper decision in not having kicker Ryan Succop try a 64-yard field goal at the end of the first half.

In similar future situations, they should pass again.

Holliday
The Chiefs sent Succop and the field goal team on the field for the last play of the half while trailing 17-10. They weren’t certain where the ball would be spotted because of a Denver penalty on the previous play.

Once they saw it would be a 64-yard attempt, they bailed. The Chiefs brought Succop and the field goal team back to the sideline and sent the offense on the field in its place.

The Chiefs weren’t necessarily afraid of the long kick. It was probably out of Succop’s range, but Denver’s altitude would have given it a chance.

They weren’t necessarily afraid of having a kick blocked because of the low trajectory a long kick requires. Succop had a 57-yard attempt blocked earlier this season against the Dallas Cowboys.

What the Chiefs feared, and what made the decision to not kick the field goal the right one, was that the Broncos sent Trindon Holliday back to return a possible short field goal. Holliday has returned a pair of kicks for touchdowns this season.

The thought of having a bunch of offensive linemen on the field to block for the kick trying to chase down Holliday if Succop missed was too much for the Chiefs to bear.

“That’s not a good situation to be in,’’ Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub said.

“I’d love to have a team try those long ones (against the Chiefs). We’d throw Dexter (McCluster) back there in that kind of situation. We have a return that we would run. It puts a lot of stress on the field goal unit when you try something like that. You’ve got to know you’d make it.’’

Locker Room Buzz: Kansas City Chiefs

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Observed in the locker room after the Kansas City Chiefs' 23-17 win over the Cleveland Browns:

Reid
Momentum changer: Coach Andy Reid had no regrets about having Ryan Succop try a 52-yard field goal late in the second quarter, with the Chiefs ahead 13-0. Succop’s kick was long enough, but slightly wide to the left. It took Cleveland just two plays to use the resulting favorable field position to score its first touchdown to cut the deficit to 13-7. “He had been bombing those [kicks] before the game,’’ Reid said.

Home run hitter: Former Kansas City Royals infielder George Brett, a Hall of Famer, was in attendance. He grabbed a drumstick and beat on a big bass drum on the field shortly before kickoff to help fire up the fans at Arrowhead Stadium. “George Brett looked like he can still swing,’’ Reid said. “It was great to see him out there. I know he’s a big football fan.’’

Rookie mistake: Guard Jeff Allen had to wait for rookie tackle Eric Fisher to finish his postgame Q&A session with the media because it was conducted right in front of Allen’s locker. Asked whether Fisher’s move was worthy of a fine, Allen said, “It definitely is.’’

Rapid Reaction: Kansas City Chiefs

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
4:11
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A few thoughts after the Kansas City Chiefs' 23-17 win over the Cleveland Browns:

What it means: The Chiefs, the last of the NFL’s unbeaten teams, raised their record to 8-0 and assured themselves of retaining sole possession of first place in the AFC West regardless of how the Denver Broncos fare in their late-afternoon game against the Washington Redskins.

Stock watch: The Chiefs entered the game leading the NFL in sacks with 35 but were held without one by the Browns until the fourth quarter. Justin Houston got the sack, but even then it was the product of good coverage downfield more than great pressure by the Chiefs. Tamba Hali had been one of the league’s hottest pass-rushers, but matched up mostly against left tackle Joe Thomas, he rarely got close to Cleveland quarterback Jason Campbell. Cornerback Sean Smith had a rough game, first biting on a flea flicker to leave Josh Gordon alone for Cleveland’s first touchdown, and later getting beaten deep by tight end Jordan Cameron. Quarterback Alex Smith had one of his most productive games. He threw a pair of touchdown passes, his first in four weeks. Dexter McCluster had seven receptions, including a 28-yard touchdown.

Unproductive second-half offense: After rolling up 20 points in the first half, the Chiefs were scoreless in the second half until Ryan Succop kicked a field goal with 17 seconds left. The Browns had allowed 31 points in each of their previous two games. The Chiefs even got a break in the fourth quarter when Cleveland’s Davone Bess, who had possession at one point, fumbled a punt return without being hit. The Chiefs recovered near midfield, but couldn’t take advantage of the favorable field position. Smith was sacked five times in the second half.

What’s next: The Chiefs are back on the road for the first time in almost a month when they travel to play the Buffalo Bills next Sunday. The last time the Chiefs were undefeated so late in the season was 2003, when they beat the Browns at Arrowhead Stadium to go 9-0. They went on the road the following week and lost to Cincinnati.

Final Word: AFC West

September, 28, 2012
9/28/12
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 4:

Chargers have had trouble in new Arrowhead: Sunday will be the Chargers’ third trip to Kansas City since Arrowhead Stadium was renovated. The first two games have been disasters for San Diego. In 2010, in a Monday-night season-opener, the Chiefs beat the Chargers in a monsoon. Last year, in another Monday-night game (on Halloween), San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers dropped a snap with the Chargers primed to kick a game-winning field goal in the final seconds of a game that Chiefs would take in overtime. Yes, it’s a new season, but the Chargers have to be wondering what can go wrong this year at Arrowhead.

[+] EnlargeJamaal Charles
AP Photo/Jonathan BachmanOne can hardly blame new Chiefs coach Andy Reid for being eager to work with RB Jamaal Charles.
Charles thrives on the outside: Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles run for 233 yards in a Week 3 victory over New Orleans, and did most of his damage outside the tackles. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Charles averaged 11 yards per carry on 11 carries outside of the tackles in Week 3 -- another sign he is recovered from a torn ACL he suffered last year. Charles led the NFL in yards outside the tackles in 2010. Watch for San Diego to try to limit that this week.

Will Raiders blitz Manning? The Raiders haven’t had much of a pass rush this season. But I’m sure they were inspired by what Houston, which has a great pass rush, did to Manning on Sunday. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Manning completed just 37.5 percent of his passes when the Texans rushed five or more defenders. In the first two games, Manning was very good against the blitz, completing 65.2 percent of his passes.

Will Allen enjoy his Denver homecoming? New Oakland coach Dennis Allen returns to Denver, where he was the Broncos' defensive coordinator last year. The Raiders are trying to win in Denver for the fifth consecutive time; that would be the Raiders’ longest win streak in Denver since they took eight straight there from 1965-1972. One way Oakland can increase its chances if Carson Palmer completes a pass thrown longer than 20 yards. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Palmer is 0-for-8 on such throws this season.

Chiefs would like to find the lead: The Chiefs are 1-2. Their win over New Orleans was secured in overtime, ending when Ryan Succop's field goal went through the uprights. Thus, a strange streak continues: According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Chiefs have never had the lead during any game this season -- the only team in the league with that distinction. One of the reasons is the Chiefs’ inability to score a touchdown on their first drive. They haven’t done it this year, or at any point last season.

Wrap-up: Chiefs 27, Saints 24 (OT)

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
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A look at the huge Kansas City Chiefs' 27-24 win over the New Orleans Saints:

What it means: The Chiefs are off the snide in a big way. Kansas City fought its way back to win in overtime in a game between two desperate 0-2 teams. The Chiefs were trailing 24-6 late in the third quarter. A win like this can change things for this talented team.

Second chance: On third and 12 in overtime, Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel hit inexperienced running back Shaun Draughn for 12 yards. Instead of marching for a winning field goal, Draughn fumbled and it was picked up by Roman Harper, who ran 57 yards for a touchdown for the game winner in overtime. But the play was reserved on a challenge, giving the Chiefs new life.

Succop nails winner: Kansas City kicker Ryan Succop hit a 31-yard game winning field goal. It was Succop’s sixth field goal of the game and his fourth after the start of the fourth quarter. I smell the AFC special teams player of the week.

Charles is back: Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles had 233 yards on 33 carries. This yardage explosion was fueled by a 91-yard touchdown run. He added 55 yards on six catches. It is a sign that Charles is back from his torn ACL he suffered 53 weeks ago. It’s great to see. Charles is one of the NFL’s bright, young running backs. His explosion is special and it’s nice he still owns it.

No problem, Houston: Chiefs’ second season pass-rusher Justin Houston had a monster game. He had three sacks, including a sack for a safety. Houston is a star in the making.

Defense improved: After allowing 75 points in the first two games. The Chiefs improved, especially late in the game. There is talent on this unit and it showed Sunday.

Still starting slow: Last season the Chiefs didn’t score a touchdown on their opening possession. That trend has continued through the first three games of this season.

What’s next: The Chiefs host San Diego on Sunday in a big AFC West game.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- This isn’t a training camp for the leisurely.

Armed with the best roster this franchise has seen in years, the Kansas City Chiefs are moving quickly under new coach Romeo Crennel. For those who visited the Chiefs camp last year, this pace is foreign.

“There are no wasted moments,” said quarterback Matt Cassel.

The final training camp of the Todd Haley era will live in infamy in the Heartland. The Chiefs’ training camp last season was essentially a three-week walk-through exercise. Haley chose to go that route because he wanted to ease the players back into the program after a lost offseason due the lockout. The plan didn’t work as the Chiefs were physically and mentally behind the rest of the league. The Chiefs, who suffered several major injuries early in the season, were clubbed early in the season and it set the tone for a disappointing season.

However, speed is back in vogue as Crennel tries for head-coaching success in the NFL in his second go-around. The tempo change has paid off so far. The Chiefs have looked crisp in practices and they were dominant on both sides of the ball against Arizona in the preseason opener last week.

The idea is to keep the forward tempo moving into the season as the Chiefs try to win the AFC West for the second time in three seasons.

“It’s exciting to see what is happening here,” Cassel said. “We have a lot of work to do, but we are all on the same page and all want to have success together.”

THREE HOT ISSUES

1. The ACL Club: In addition to bringing in several free agents, the Chiefs are getting back three standouts. Safety Eric Berry, running back Jamaal Charles and tight end Tony Moeaki all blew out the ACLs in their knee last September. All of the players are back and on pace to be major contributors this season.

“All of those guys look great,” Cassel said. “They’re going to help us a lot.”

2. Dwayne Bowe’s absence: The Pro Bowl receiver did not participate in the offseason workouts and he was not present for the entire training camp in Kansas City. Bowe has not signed his franchise tender. The general consensus is Bowe will report in early September, just before the season. But there are issues. Bowe has had trouble staying in football shape in the past, so coming in late could be a problem. Plus, he has to learn a new offensive system. The Chiefs want Bowe back, but they are moving forward without him. They know he makes them better, but the team likes its roster and won’t wait for anyone.

[+] EnlargeKansas City's Romeo Crennel
Denny Medley/US PRESSWIREChiefs coach Romeo Crennel has the respect of his players.
3. Good vibrations: This team is in a good place. The players love playing for Crennel. One of the reasons why Crennel was promoted from interim coach was the players’ respect for him. It has continued now that he is the permanent coach. He is a polar opposite of former coach Todd Haley, who was known as somewhat of loose cannon. Crennel is a calm, steady hand. Players love that he’s organized and up front. There is a lot of trust going on in this club.

“They’ve worked hard and they know the possibilities this team has," Crennel said. “Every team feels good about itself this time of year, but this team’s attitude is in the right place.”

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

This is the best overall roster in the AFC West. It is one of the deepest rosters in the AFC. There is proven talent throughout the roster and the team has the right mix of veteran and young players. Still, the Chiefs are the youngest team in the NFL. They are the only team in the league not to have a player over the age of 30.

“When I was on my visit, I just looked up and down this roster and saw so much talent,” free-agent pickup, tight end Kevin Boss said. “It is just loaded with talent.”

You look at this roster, and there isn’t much not to like.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

The Chiefs will be banged for not being a playoff contender this year until Cassel proves otherwise. The big reason why many people don’t believe in the Chiefs is because they don’t believe in Cassel, even though he has already delivered a division title in Kansas City. Many scouts don’t think he can be a difference maker and because he is the least talented of the four quarterbacks in the AFC West, he will not be able to overcome the other teams in the division. I am of the belief there is enough talent on the roster to help Cassel lead the Chiefs deep into the playoffs. But he must prove it.

OBVERSATION DECK

  • The rap on No. 11 overall pick Dontari Poe is that the defensive tackle wasn’t productive at Memphis. The Chiefs didn’t feel that way. They reviewed every college snap he ever played and they were impressed that he played 60 percent of the snaps at 346 pounds. For what it’s worth, Poe’s college statistics and combine measuruables compare favorably to Green Bay’s B.J. Raji. He has become a star after being the No. 9 overall pick in 2009. Poe is two inches taller and nine pounds heavier than Raji, yet he ran a 4.9 40-yard dash at the combine compared to Raji’s 5.23. Poe had nine more tackles and four more quarterback hurries than Raji in college despite the fact Raji played 16 more college games. This is not to suggest Poe is going to be a better NFL player than Raji, but it does take away some of the steam out of the argument that Poe wasn’t a productive college player.
  • [+] EnlargeKansas City's Dontari Poe
    John Rieger/US PRESSWIREThe Chiefs like what they've seen from first-round pick Dontari Poe so far.
    With Bowe holding out, Jon Baldwin has been thriving under the professional guidance of veteran receivers Steve Breaston and Terrance Copper. Some folks in camp think Baldwin is making strides, because he is taking cues from Copper and Breaston.
  • Defensive ends Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey are plus players for the Chiefs. No, neither is spectacular and they will always get grief for not living up to their draft billing. Dorsey was the No. 5 overall pick in 2008 and Jackson went No. 3 a year later. But both players are excellent run stuffers and are at their top of the game in that area.
  • While the focus is on Poe at nose tackle, Anthony Toribio and 2011 draft choice Jerrell Powe are also in the mix.
  • Inside linebacker Brandon Siler looks good after missing all of last season with an Achilles injury. He could push Jovan Belcher for playing time.
  • While Haley was known for his ranting and raving on the field, new offensive boss Brian Daboll is also fiery. He scoots around the field, barking instruction.
  • His new teammates love running back Peyton Hillis. His toughness and competitiveness have been a talk of camp.
  • Very quietly, left tackle Branden Albert is becoming the player the former Kansas City regime thought they were getting when they took him No. 15 overall in 2008. I expect the Chiefs to try to extend the pending free-agent at some point. He’s been stellar.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised if the Brady Quinn-Ricky Stanzi battle to be Cassel’s backup continues all season, but with Quinn winning the job initially. The Chiefs like where they stand with both players.
  • The Chiefs are excited about the potential of tight ends Moeaki and Boss. Expect both to have high profiles in the offense.
  • Second-year pass-rusher Justin Houston has been terrific and the Chiefs are bubbling over at what kind of pass-rush combination Tamba Hali and Houston can become.
  • The team appreciates the flexibility of third-year player Dexter McCluster , who has bounced from receiver to running back to receiver again. McCluster may never have a classically defined role, but he will have a role in this offense.
  • Undrafted rookie receiver Josh Bellamy still has a chance to make the 53-man roster, but in a numbers game, he could be practice-squad bound.
  • So far, so good for new center Rodney Hudson. The second-year player looks comfortable playing with Cassel and vice versa.
  • Camp observers believe kicker Ryan Succop has gotten bigger and stronger, which will help with his field-goal range.
  • The team's fourth-round pick, receiver/returner Devon Wylie, is explosive. He will be given a chance to contribute.
  • Keep an eye on defensive end Ropati Pitoitua. He has outplayed 2011 third-round pick Allen Bailey and he may be a keeper.
  • Brandon Flowers’ foot injury has allowed second-year cornerback Jalil Brown to blossom. I expect Brown to be on the field often in the regular season.

AFC West Stock Watch

December, 27, 2011
12/27/11
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Norv Turner’s revival: After the first three games of December, there was talk that Turner may be saving his job. The San Diego Chargers were 3-0 for the month and were dominating opponents. Well, the domination is over and so is Turner’s new-found job security. The Chargers were eliminated from the playoff picture with a 38-10 loss to the Detroit Lions Saturday. The Turner-is-going-to-be-fired watch is on full alert again.

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
Luc Leclerc/US PresswireDespite the loss to Buffalo, Tim Tebow and the Broncos will make the playoffs with a win over Kansas City Sunday.
2. Tim Tebow's ball security: Tebow’s best attribute was his ability not to turn the ball over. His glaring deficiencies had been excused for much of this season because Tebow wasn’t throwing interceptions. That is no longer the case. Tebow was picked off four times in a 40-14 loss at the Buffalo Bills. Two of the interceptions were brought back for touchdowns in a 19-second span. His vision appeared to be bad and he was rushing passes. If this continues, Tebow’s long-term sustainability as Denver's starter will be re-examined.

3. Kyle Orton in the red zone: One of the reasons why Denver moved away from Orton in favor of Tebow was Orton’s inability to make plays when it counted. That was a problem for Orton Saturday in the Kansas City Chiefs' 16-13 overtime loss to the Oakland Raiders. He threw two interceptions in Oakland territory, including one in the end zone. The Chiefs are 2-for-9 in the red zone in Orton’s two starts. If Orton has any chance of being the Chiefs’ quarterback in 2012, the free-agent-to-be must perform well in the red zone Sunday when he tries to knock his former team out of the playoffs.

RISING

1. Denver-Oakland tension: One of these two old rivals will snap a long playoff drought. Oakland hasn’t been to the playoffs in nine years and it’s been six years since Denver has made it. Denver will make the playoffs with a home win over the Chiefs. Oakland -- which also has wild-card hopes -- will win the division with a Denver loss and a home win over San Diego. Both of these games will be played at the same time Sunday and it will be a tremendous ending to an unpredictable season in the division.

2. Richard Seymour's impact: Oakland’s defensive lineman has been dealing with injuries and he hadn’t made much of an impact in the past several weeks. That changed in a big way at Kansas City. Seymour blocked two 49-yard field goal attempts by Kansas City kicker Ryan Succop, including one at the end of regulation.

3. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders, receiver: In his third season, the No. 7 overall pick in 2009 is putting together a strong statistical line. Heyward-Bey has 55 catches for 845 yards. He had 35 catches for 490 yards in his first 26 games. Finally, Heyward-Bey looks like a legitimate NFL receiver.

Wrap-up: Raiders 16, Chiefs 13 (OT)

December, 24, 2011
12/24/11
5:47
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A look at a thrilling 16-13 Oakland win:

What it means: The Raiders are still alive. The Chiefs are not. When Sebastian Janikowski’s 36-yard field goal went through the uprights, the Raiders became 8-7 and tied with Denver for first place in the AFC West. Denver owns the tiebreaker and can win the division title with a home win against the Chiefs next Sunday. Oakland will win the division with a home win against San Diego and a Kansas City win at Denver. If the Chargers lose at Detroit on Saturday, and if Denver and Oakland both lose in Week 17, Denver will win the division. Oakland is a game out in the wild-card race. It will need to win next week and hope for some help to make it as a wild card. Kansas City fell to 6-9 and was eliminated from playoff contention. It won the AFC West last year. It was Oakland’s fifth straight win at Kansas City, which is a team record. The Chiefs have gone eight straight games in which it has scored 19 points or less.

Big arm at the right time: After winning the coin flip to open overtime, Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer hit Darrius Heyward-Bey for a 53-yard reception deep in Kansas City territory to set up the game-winning field goal. Palmer was decent on Saturday, but he came up big when he was most needed.

Seymour is a chip off the old block: Oakland defensive lineman Richard Seymour blocked two Ryan Succop 49-yard field goal attempts, including one at the end of regulation. Succop had tied a team record of 22 straight field goals made before the first block.

No shame for Romeo: I wouldn’t think this loss severely damaged Romeo Crennel’s hope to become the permanent head coach. Kansas City beat Green Bay last week to help Crennel’s chances. The Chiefs played hard on Saturday under Crennel and that will go a long way in helping his cause when the Chiefs evaluate the situation after the season.

Orton not great: In his second start as the Chiefs’ quarterback, Kyle Orton was just OK as he compiled 21 of 36 passes for 300 yards. Orton, though, threw two interceptions with the Chiefs driving that ending up killing Kansas City. The Chiefs are 2-for-9 in the red zone with Orton.

Penalties pile up: There were 26 penalties for 180 yards. Oakland was penalized 15 times for 92 yards. The Raiders are on pace to set an NFL record for penalties and penalties yardage in a season.

Wasting a fake: A penalty wiped out an Oakland touchdown on a fake field goal. That’s terrible. Sooner or later, opponents are going to catch onto Hue Jackson’s penchant for fakes. To waste a touchdown on a penalty is horrible.

Good defense: Both defenses failed late, but they both hung in for the most part. Oakland came into the game allowing 13 touchdowns in the past three games.

Bowe comes up big when it counts: Kansas City receiver Dwayne Bowe was great at the end of the game and he tied the game with a short touchdown reception; it was his first score in 53 catches.

What’s next: Oakland hosts San Diego and Kansas City plays at Denver.

Wrap-up: Chiefs 22, Vikings 17

October, 2, 2011
10/02/11
4:36
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A look at the Chiefs’ first win of the season:

What it means: The Chiefs are alive. I don’t care if the Vikings are winless. This was a nice and well-deserved win for the Chiefs. No team has dealt with more adversity in the early season that Kansas City has dealt with. The Chiefs made plays on both sides of the ball Sunday and they played hard. After a terrible first 10 quarters of the season, the Chiefs have been competitive for six straight quarters.

Tomorrow’s talker: The Chiefs, for now, aren’t a leader for the No. 1 pick in the draft next spring and for the right to take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. This win doesn’t mean the Chiefs are out of the Luck sweepstakes. But now, the Chiefs have a one game lead on the Vikings and they own the tiebreaker over Minnesota.

Trending: After a slow start to the season, Kansas City kicker Ryan Succop had a terrific game Sunday. He kicked five field goals Sunday, including 54 and 51-yard boomers.

Cassel shows life: Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel played well Sunday after playing well in the second half at San Diego last week. Cassel threw for 260 yards and he didn’t throw any interceptions. He and Dwayne Bowe connected a 52-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter that was the difference in the game. If Cassel can continue to show improvements, the Chiefs will stay in games.

What’s next: Kansas City plays at Indianapolis in Week 5. The Colts are 0-3 going into Monday night’s game at Tampa Bay.

Slop isn't hurting Chargers yet

September, 25, 2011
9/25/11
4:57
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SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Chargers have continued to play sloppy on offense.

But, it has yet to hurt them Sunday against Kansas City. The Chargers lead the Chiefs, 7-0, midway through the second quarter.

San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers (who committed three of San Diego’s four turnovers last week) has been intercepted and has fumbled. The Chargers recovered the fumble. San Diego receiver Patrick Crayton also fumbled, but he recovered it.

In fairness to Rivers, the Chiefs probably should have been called for pass interference on the ball that was intercepted. Kansas City safety Kendrick Lewis returned it deep into San Diego territory. But the Chiefs’ Ryan Succop missed a 38-yard field goal attempt to nullify the big defensive play.

So far, Kansas City has been turnover free. It committed a whopping nine turnovers in the first two games.

UPDATE: Rivers was just intercepted by Kansas City cornerback Brandon Flowers on a bomb attempt near the end zone. He returned it 41 yards to the Chargers’ 43. Rivers has never thrown three interceptions in one game.

Evening AFC West notes

August, 10, 2011
8/10/11
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The Chiefs made two minor additions. They signed veteran receiver Keary Colbert. He has 49 career starts since 2004, but he hasn’t played since 2008. Colbert played at USC with Chiefs’ quarterback Matt Cassel. They also added kicker Todd Carter. He was claimed off waivers from Carolina. He played in one game with Carolina last year. He has virtually no chance of beating out Ryan Succop.
  • Denver tight end Richard Quinn has a knee injury that could potentially keep him out for some time. The Broncos are crowded at tight end, so the role of Quinn, a former second-round pick, may not be major, anyway.
  • Oakland coach Hue Jackson isn’t giving the media much information on how he plans to approach Thursday night’s preseason opener against Arizona. Don’t expect to see too many starters, which is common for the first preseason games.
Jamaal CharlesAP Photo/Ed ZurgaThe Chiefs have built a division champion featuring young, talented players like Jamaal Charles.
Brian Waters had nothing to do but ride and watch.

Nursing an injury for much of training camp, the Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl guard was relegated to jockeying an exercise bike instead of practicing with his teammates. With a perfect sideline view, Waters noticed something develop in the summer heat as he pedaled for countless hours.

The Chiefs had some extremely talented young players.

“Sitting there on the bike, our young guys really stood out to me,” Waters said this week. “I noticed the 2008 class was really developing out there, and then there was the rookie class. They were really something. The combination of those two classes really gave me hope that we might be on to something. Those two classes are a big reason why we’re where we are.”

There are several reasons why the 10-6 Chiefs – who won a total of 10 games in the previous three seasons – went from worst to first in the AFC West and will play host to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday in the AFC wild-card round. The Chiefs are well coached, quarterback Matt Cassel has developed, the running game was tops in the NFL, the offensive line was strong, they didn’t make many mistakes, and the defense was aggressive and improved its pass rush. A lot of those reasons can be attributed to the development of Kansas City’s third-year players and rookie class.

“The Chiefs have some very good young players,” Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said. “I think a big reason why this team improved so much is because of those two classes. There’s a ton of guys who are giving the Chiefs big-time contributions from 2008 and 2010.”

The 2008 draft -- buoyed by the Jared Allen trade to Minnesota – was the final contribution of the 20-year Carl Peterson era in Kansas City. Many league observers thought that draft class had a chance to be special. But it looked anything but special for the first two seasons, although second-round pick Brandon Flowers (cornerback) and third-round pick Jamaal Charles (running back) showed signs of being excellent players early on.

The two first-round picks, defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey (No. 5 overall) and left tackle Branden Albert (No. 15), were nothing special in their first two years. However, Dorsey and Albert have both made big progress this season.

Dorsey has flourished in defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel’s 3-4 defense after struggling in the 3-4 under Clancy Pendergast last season. Dorsey has been the anchor of the defense, and he plays with a high motor. Many scouts thought the LSU star was the best player available in the 2008 draft, and he is now showing how good he is. Albert has melded well with the veterans on Kansas City’s line, and also has made major strides in 2010. There had been talk before the 2010 draft that the Chiefs would take Russell Okung with the No. 5 pick (who went one pick later to Seattle) and move Albert to right tackle.

The Chiefs have to be thrilled they didn’t make that move. Kansas City has its left tackle for the next several years, and it seems to have scored big with safety Eric Berry, the team’s top pick in 2010.

“Dorsey and Albert are showing why they were such high picks,” Williamson said. “Dorsey has been much better in the 3-4 than I thought he would be. He’s playing with a great purpose, and Albert is the best player on a good line.”

The showcase player of the Chiefs’ 2008 class, of course, is Charles. Kansas City drafted Charles out of Texas because of his blazing speed. The Chiefs hoped he’d be a nice change-of-pace player. In his third NFL season, Charles -- who along with Albert was a prize from the Allen trade -- has developed into the NFL’s premier game-breaker.

Charles was second in the NFL in rushing this season with 1,467 yards. His 6.38 per-carry average was the second highest single-season average behind the legendary Jim Brown, who averaged 6.4 yards a carry in 1963. If the Chiefs have a chance to beat the Ravens, it will start with Charles’ big-play threat.

The class, which also features right tackle Barry Richardson, also netted Kansas City’s two cornerbacks, who have a chance to be with the team for several years. While Flowers showed strong signs of being a good player (Williamson says he thinks Flowers can be a top-five cornerback), right cornerback Brandon Carr has come on strong this season. The fifth-round pick led the Chiefs with 19 passes defended, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

While Peterson and coach Herm Edwards’ swan song presented Kansas City with a terrific parting gift, the second draft class of the Scott Pioli-Todd Haley era has been a jackpot. Their first class was small and so far uninspiring besides kicker Ryan Succop, the final pick of the entire 2009 draft. But their second class has been one of the best rookie classes in the NFL, along with those of Oakland, New England and Tampa Bay.

In June, Haley said he didn’t think the task was too big for his draft class, and that was before he had seen the players in training camp. Through the regular season, Haley had to feel the same way. This class has been extremely productive.

It starts with Berry. While he is still learning, he has been a complete player and has the look of being a fierce player for a long time. Gary Horton of Scouts Inc. notes that Berry, who was named the NFL's defensive rookie of the month for December, is an excellent blitzer, strong in run support and continues to improve in coverage. Berry had four interceptions as a rookie. It’s noteworthy that Berry will be on the same field as the Ravens’ Ed Reed in his first postseason game. Berry has a chance to a have a Reed-like impact on the Chiefs in the coming years.

Second-round picks Javier Arenas and Dexter McCluster are both fine returners. Arenas has been decent as a nickel cornerback, and McCluster, when healthy, is a downfield target.

Next to Berry, perhaps the next most productive rookie has been third-round pick Tony Moeaki. Cassel looks to have complete trust in Moeaki, a tight end who can split the field and has soft hands. How good has Moeaki been? His rookie season has been much better than former Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez, the NFL record holder for all relevant tight end receiving marks.

Moeaki had 47 catches for 556 yards this season. His reception total was a team rookie record by 14 catches, and his yardage total was three yards off the team’s rookie mark. Safety Kendrick Lewis also has been a contributor this season.

“You have to give a lot of credit to the young kids,” veteran receiver Chris Chambers said. “They’ve come in here and acted like pros. They are a big reason why we’ve been so successful this season, no doubt about it.”

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