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Secondary rises to occasion for Chiefs

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Recent posts by Eli Kaberon

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Posted Oct. 24, 2011 @ 5:55 p.m. ET
By Eli Kaberon

At the 3-3, the Chiefs are the definition of an average team. They aren't really great in any area of the game, shown by the fact that they don't rank among the top five in the league in any noteworthy offensive or defensive categories. Then again, they aren't awful anywhere either, with the exception of passing yards per game. As October comes to an end, Kansas City is right in the middle of the pack pretty much across the board.

Yet it's hard to think that about the team, based on the way its season has gone. The Chiefs have won three in a row after starting out 0-3, but the losses are still being weighed more heavily than the wins, and rightfully so. In their first three games, K.C. was defeated badly by the Bills and Lions, as well as a close loss to the Chargers; all three opponents are playoff contenders. That was followed by ugly wins — though wins nonetheless — against the hapless Vikings and Colts. On Sunday, following a bye week, the Chiefs earned their first dominant victory against a legitimate team, topping the Raiders 28-0. Yet, because of Oakland's revolving quarterback door, the win also could be viewed as underwhelming.  

The perception that the Chiefs are subpar can change next week. A home game against the 4-2 Chargers on "Monday Night Football" provides not only a national audience to see if the Chiefs are for real, but also the chance to do it against one of the better teams in the league. With a win, the Chiefs will be 4-3 and in a tie for first place in the AFC West.

The PFW Spin

It would be easy to dismiss the Raiders game for what it was: A win over a team in transition, that was without not only a reliable quarterback, but also its best offensive weapon after Darren McFadden left in the first quarter with a foot injury. But the Chiefs also deserve an incredible amount of credit and praise for not only winning in convincing fashion, but also turning their season around after many had given up on them.

In no part of the win against Oakland was that turnaround more apparent than in the secondary. Kansas City's defensive backs were as effective as a vowel-less keyboard early in the season, giving up deep throws and big plays to every opponent they faced. Even against struggling squads like the Colts, the Chiefs' corners and safeties were getting torched on a regular basis, allowing more than 200 passing yards in four of their first five games. With SS Eric Berry out for the season because of a torn ACL and CBs Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr playing below their usual standard, opponents found throwing against the Chiefs to be a welcome sight.

That was all reversed on Sunday against a Raiders squad that is built to burn opponents with a speedy vertical passing game. The Chiefs intercepted six passes — they had five picks for the entire season coming into the game — and brought back two of them for touchdowns. Oakland threw for just 167 yards and the secondary made both Raiders QBs look foolish. Even reserve CB Javier Areans, who did little defensively, got into the action by scoring a TD on a seven-yard run out of the "Wildcat" formation.

With the Chargers next on the schedule, the Chiefs' secondary will need to pick its game up once again. San Diego has struggled throwing the ball recently, and QB Philip Rivers looks out of sorts, but they still pose a dangerous threat. TE Antonio Gates is back in the lineup, WR Vincent Jackson is never easy to cover and RB Ryan Mathews has found an increased role in the passing game this season, making the offense one of the toughest in the league to prepare for. Slowing down Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer is one thing, halting Rivers will be another.

Perception might not be reality when it comes to the Chiefs' season, but if the defense can help lead Kansas City to a second consecutive big win to move it atop the division, the team will care less what others think of them.

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