The Chiefs had a chance to really make a statement on Sunday. They had an opportunity to prove to the many doubters that their 2010 season was not a fluke, that they had taken a huge step forward this year. Regardless of what happened after this week, a win over the Ravens would have shown that Kansas City truly belonged among the AFC's best.
Instead, they did exactly what many Chiefs teams before them had done: lost in the their playoff opener. And in falling in blowout fashion to Baltimore, all they did was validate the argument that their 10-6 season was a flash in the pan.
After keeping it close for a half, K.C. could not hang with Baltimore in the final 30 minutes, getting outscored 20-0 in losing 30-7. It was a poor effort across the board, but the passing game especially failed the Chiefs. QB Matt Cassel completed just 9-of-18 passes for 70 yards with three interceptions, and WR Dwayne Bowe did not catch a pass in the biggest game of the season.
"It really came down to the second half and it came down to turnovers," Cassel said after the game. "We all know that in playoff football you can't turn the ball over, and it starts with me. I forced a few balls in there and it did not turn out well. As leader of the team and a leader of the offense, I can't do that."
The PFW Spin
While the Chiefs showed signs this season of being an up-and-coming team, their performance on Sunday speaks volumes as to where they are in the big picture. Despite improving from four wins to 10, they still have a ways to go to become a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
A look at the Chiefs' 2010 schedule shows that, more than anything else, they beat up on inferior competition. And sometimes, they couldn't even do that. Only one of their victories came against an opponent that finished with a winning record (San Diego way back in Week One), and their lone win over a playoff team came vs. the sub-.500 Seahawks. They were also blown out by both the Broncos and Raiders. While a team can't control the schedule it's handed, this past season did little to prove K.C.'s credibility.
Plenty of changes still need to be made before the Chiefs become a perennial playoff team, and a significant one will come at offensive coordinator, as Charlie Weis is departing for Florida. The offense was a complete mess the final two games after news broke that Weis was leaving, and Kansas City has to find someone who is more than just a "yes" man for head coach Todd Haley. If not, the club's biggest weapon, RB Jamaal Charles, will continue to be underused, as he was Sunday when he had just nine carries.
The defense certainly made strides this season, but it is in desperate need of another pass rusher opposite OLB Tamba Hali. It also has to get stronger up front by making upgrades across the defensive line and at inside linebacker to slow down opposing rushing attacks. And S Eric Berry could use some help on the back end to prevent big plays in the passing game.
The Chiefs have come a long way in the two seasons since Haley and GM Scott Pioli arrived, but they have not yet reached a point where they can get complacent. With the schedule getting infinitely tougher in 2011, it will take a phenomenal effort just to make it back to the postseason, something they haven't done in consecutive years since 1995, when Marty Schottenheimer was roaming the sideline.