Instead of playing like a team rounding into form as it enters the playoffs, the Chiefs looked more like a bunch of guys hung over from spending the entire week celebrating an AFC West championship.
With a chance to lock up the AFC's No. 3 seed — and avoid the Patriots until the conference title game — the Chiefs completely laid an egg on Sunday against a Raiders club missing possibly its two best players, RB Darren McFadden and DT Richard Seymour. As a result, K.C. fell 31-10 in its first home defeat of the season.
Kansas City put up one of its worst efforts of the campaign, giving up a season-high 209 rushing yards. Things were even worse offensively, as QB Matt Cassel completed 11-of-33 passes for 115 yards and tossed two interceptions. Although head coach Todd Haley insists that the news of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis departing for the University of Florida as soon as the Chiefs' season is over was not a distraction, it was clear that something was awry with the offense.
"Absolutely not. I would not put anything to do with this performance on Charlie or anything that was going on," Haley said after the game.
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Whether it was the team being unable to get up for the Oakland contest after clinching the division in Week 16, the offense being out of sorts following the Weis news or Weis himself calling a poor game, the Chiefs in Week 17 did not have the look of a club ready to make a deep postseason run. There's still time to right the ship, however, before the Ravens come to Arrowhead Stadium for a wild-card game on Sunday.
It all starts with Haley, who has gotten his players to respond to adversity throughout their unexpected run to the playoffs. He first must make sure they put the Raiders loss out of their heads, writing it off as an aberration. He then needs to force them to ignore the Weis situation and worry only about this week's game, as it could be their last of the season. Finally, he should play the underdog card as K.C. goes up against favored Baltimore, as his guys likely will rally around the fact that nobody is giving them a chance to win.
Even though he's making his first career playoff start, Cassel must be an extension of Haley on the field. Outside of his Week 17 debacle, the QB had a tremendous season, finishing with a 27-7 TD-INT ratio and a 93.0 passer rating. If he can keep the offense on task, limit his mistakes and make some timely throws against the Ravens, the Chiefs have a realistic shot at springing the upset.
Obviously, being able to run the ball and stop the Baltimore rushing attack are also keys to the game, but if the Chiefs don't regain their focus this week, nothing else will matter.