Fast Start Needed … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs

Making a list of the things that Todd Haley wants to fix around the Kansas City Chiefs would take a tablet or two of paper to write them all down. OK, maybe a gross of tablets. There is much that needs repaired.

On this Sunday as the Chiefs host the Denver Broncos, there’s one item that sits squarely at the top of Haley’s wish list – get off to a better start on offense.

We’ll get a chance to see if they can get that done against the Broncos with a noon kickoff. TV coverage is on CBS.

In 11 games, the Chiefs have produced only three points off their first offensive possession. That came against Jacksonville when Ryan Succop hit a 45-yard FG. Only one other team in the league has produced so little on the scoreboard when they first get their hands on the ball and that’s the Dallas Cowboys, who have also produced only a field goal.

The average in the NFL is 20 points of the first offensive possession and New Orleans has scored 41 points the first time they had the ball. Arizona, the team Haley left behind, has 35 points.

Other than the obvious problem that comes with inadequate talent, what’s the problem for the Chiefs when they first get the ball?

“You know, I can’t just pinpoint one thing,” said Haley. “For whatever reason we have been very slow starting ball games. We’ve talked about it, we’ve preached about it and we just have to start stringing points together. I thought we got off to a good start for a second there (in san Diego) and all of a sudden we stop ourselves or we miss a throw or we don’t hit a run and we put ourselves in third and long and we don’t get going.

“Anything we can do to get started early, I think that’s what we’re really trying to emphasize on.”

On those 11 first possessions, the Chiefs have run 43 plays that gained 93 yards. That’s an average of 2.2 yards per play. That’s why nearly half of those possessions (five) were three plays and out. The Chiefs found six first downs on first possessions, but two of those were courtesy of their opponents due to penalties.

It has not mattered whether the Chiefs were running or passing in that first possession. The running game produced 43 yards on 22 carries. The passing game produced 50 net yards in 21 plays. The league ranks so called “big plays” based on running plays being better than 10 yards and passing plays being 20 yards or more. On those 43 plays, only one qualified as a big play: a 16-yard end-around by WR Quinten Lawrence. That was in the second game of the season against the Raiders.

For various reasons, 12 of those 43 plays produced no yardage or minus yardage.

“You definitely start to see a picture of common denominators,” Haley said of the first series problems. “Generally it’s execution for us this year. I took all our stats going into last week that we had 27 fourth-and-two’s or fourth-and-ones, and I’d like to know how many of those have actually come on the first drive.

“Just coming up short has been a theme for us. We sort of got over that hurdle in the Steelers game and last week we had a quarterback scramble that came up short a yard. We’ve had a hard time converting.”

Haley will be disappointed to learn that only once did his team face a 4th-and-1 and they only had one 4th-and-2 situation. The other fourth downs required seven yards or more.

What’s especially aggravating to Haley is that each week he and the offensive staff spend a lot of time scripting the team’s first 10 plays or so. Game conditions don’t always fall so that the Chiefs offense can stay on that script, but Haley says he does it to help his team be prepared for the start of the game.

‘I think when you can give the team a little heads up the night before about what to expect it sometimes helps the process along and gives them a chance to mentally go through those first few snaps, sets your mentality as an offense,” said Haley.

That obviously hasn’t helped this group. In his 10 starts on the first possession Cassel is eight of 18 throwing the ball for 60 yards, with one interception and a sack that lost 10 yard.

“I think that’s what any offense tries to do (start fast), eliminate the second-and-long and third-and-long situations,” Cassel said. “In the NFL pass rushers, when they know that you have to throw when it’s third and long, it’s tough sledding. It’s very difficult on any team. You just have to keep moving the chains and being efficient and getting yourself in manageable third-down situations.

“When you do that, you have the leverage of the run-pass game – you can run the ball or you can throw the ball and you keep the defense on their toes.”

Here are the numbers for the Chiefs first possessions in their 11 games so far:

 Opponent     Start      Rush      Att/Comp/Int   Sacks    Net Pass
@ Baltimore 












@ Philadelphia 








NY Giants 












@ Washington 





San Diego 






@ Jacksonville 







@ Oakland 













@ San Diego 















      *-first down by opponent penalty


The National Weather Service forecast for Sunday (as of midnight) was mostly cloudy with a high near 37 degrees. There’s a slight chance of drizzle in the afternoon. Winds will be from the south/southeast at 7 to 11 miles per hour.

That would be a wind chill factor of 28 or 29 degrees.

QB Matt Cassel doesn’t think there should be a problem, as long as it doesn’t become a drenching rain.

“When it comes down to snow and it’s that cold, snow doesn’t affect the ball as much as the wind and I’d say even the rain does,” Cassel said. “When it’s wet and slippery you have some serious problems handling the ball a lot of times. When it snows, it really doesn’t mess up your grip too much. The wind, you really have to play the wind sometimes and based on how hard it’s blowing, that can dictate your throw a little bit.

“You can be very productive. I’ve had games in the past when we’ve had 300-yard-plus throwing games in those types of conditions, even worse with snowing and wind and everything like that. It’s just part of execution and some guys making big plays.”


Sadly, Kolby Smith’s 2009 season ended on Saturday when the Chiefs moved him to the injured-reserve list because of a continuing ankle problem. Smith had fought so hard to rehab from a patella tendon injury in his right knee. He began the season on the Physically Unable To Perform List and was not active until November 7th.

Replacing him on the active roster is rookie RB Javarris Williams. A seventh-round draft choice, Williams spent the first 12 weeks of the regular season on the practice squad.

He wears No. 40 and is listed at 5-10, 223 pounds.


Former Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer will be in the house on Sunday to be part of the ceremonies to honor Derrick Thomas.

Expected to join him are former Chiefs players and teammates of D.T.: DT Dan Saleaumua, DE Neil Smith, CB Kevin Ross, S Martin Bayless, LB Tracy Simien and possibly others.

The Chiefs will retire No. 58, making it the 10th jersey number that has been pulled out of circulation. D.T. joins: Jan Stenerud 3, Len Dawson 16, Emmitt Thomas 18, Abner Haynes 38, Stone Johnson 33, Mack Lee Hill 36, Willie Lanier 63, Bobby Bell 78 and Buck Buchanan 86. Also, no one has worn the No. 37 since Joe Delaney passed away in 1983, although it is not officially retired.

Also, officials from the Pro Football Hall of Fame will be on hand to honor Thomas and make a presentation to his family. Normally this is the time that the player would receive his Hall of Fame ring, but the Hall awards rings only to living members


It began as a bet between two brothers back in 1977. The idea was to get on national television during the Broncos run to the Super Bowl in ‘77. Scott McKernan bet his brother Tim he couldn’t’ get the network TV cameras to focus in on him.

Tim said “watch me,” and he got a large barrel, painted it to look like a can of Orange Crush and went to Mile High Stadium. He got on network TV that day and many days after as Tim McKernan became the Broncos’ Barrel Man.

The Broncos will play the Chiefs on Sunday with a heavy heart because on Friday, they lost their “Barrel Man.”

Tim McKernan died early Friday of lunch failure according to his family. The former United Airlines mechanic had been suffering from terminal lung disease for the last three years. He was 69 years old.

For more than 30 seasons beginning with that bet in 1977, McKernan appeared at Mile High wearing a bright orange barrel, a cowboy hat, cowboy boots and little else. When he retired his barrel in 2007, McKernan donated the one he wore in his last game to the Broncos’ charities. His initial barrel is at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


  • BENGALS – out of Sunday’s game are DT Domaka Peko and RB Bernard Scott.
  • BROWNS – promoted TE Evan Moore from the practice squad.
  • CHIEFS – placed RB Kolby Smith on the injured-reserve list; promoted RB Javarris Williams from the practice squad.
  • GIANTS – promoted TE Bear Pascoe from the practice squad.
  • JAGUARS – released OL Maurice Williams; promoted CB Kennard Cox from the practice squad.
  • PANTHERS – claimed DT Derek Landri on waivers; placed DT Tank Tyler on injured-reserve list.
  • PATRIOTS – out of Sunday’s game against the Dolphins are RB Fred Taylor, CB Shawn Springs, WR Julian Edelman, OT Sebastian Vollmer and DB Bret Lockett.
  • TEXANS – WR Jacoby Jones will not play against the Jaguars because he was late to a team meeting on Saturday and did not join the team on its flight to Jacksonville.


On December 6, 1964, the Chiefs lost to the Boston Patriots 31-24 in front of 13,166 fans at Municipal Stadium. The score was tied at 17-17 when these teams went to the fourth quarter on this cold, windy winter day. That’s when the Patriots scored two touchdowns and the Chiefs made it close at the end with one of their own. RBs Abner Haynes and Mack Lee Hill scored on one-yard runs, while QB Len Dawson connected with TE Fred Arbanas on a nine-yard TD. Tommy Brooker had a 42-yard FG. Boston QB Babe Parilli (left) had a big day against the KC defense, completing 20 of 34 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns. WR Frank Jackson caught seven passes for 144 yards for the Chiefs, who saw their record fall to 5-7 on the season.

On December 6, 1970, the Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos 16-0 in front of 50,454 at Municipal Stadium. RB Ed Podolak had the only touchdown in this game played under sunny skies and crisp 38 degree temperatures. Podolak ran 65 yards and finished the game with 139 yards on 12 carries K Jan Stenerud hit three of six field goal attempts in the windy conditions. The KC defense held the Broncos to 148 yards in total offense. The KC defense had six sacks and five interceptions of Broncos QB Al Pastrana, who completed just nine of 21 passes for 115 yards. FS Johnny Robinson had three interceptions, while MLB Willie Lanier had two picks. NT Curley Culp (right) had two sacks, and LB Bob Stein, DE Jerry Mays and DT Buchanan each had one sack.

On December 6, 1971, the Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers 26-17 in a Monday night game at Candlestick Park. Before a crowd of 45,306 and a national television audience, WR Otis Taylor scored both touchdowns for the Chiefs. He caught a 46-yard pass from QB Len Dawson and then he scored on a 25-yard end-around run. K Jan Stenerud kicked four FGs, including a 54-yarder. Dawson was 16 of 28 for 263 yards with a touchdown. CB Emmitt Thomas had an interception of San Francisco QB John Brodie.

On December 6, 1981, the Chiefs lost to the Denver Broncos 16-13 at Mile High Stadium. Down 16-0 in the second quarter, the Chiefs fought back and moved deep into Broncos territory late in the fourth quarter, before Denver LB Bob Swenson intercepted a pass by QB Steve Fuller and kept the Chiefs away from what could have been a tying FG or winning TD. Nick Lowery missed a 57-yard FG at the end of the game that would have tied the score. The Chiefs put a pair of FGs by Lowery on the board, along with a one-yard TD run by FB James Hadnot. Fuller was 18 of 34 for 261 yards, and TE Al Dixon caught six passes for 86 yards.

On December 6, 1987, the Chiefs lost in overtime to the Cincinnati Bengals 30-27 at Riverfront Stadium. Bengals K Jim Breech kicked a 32-yard FG with five minutes, 16 seconds left in overtime for the winning points. The Chiefs sent the game into an extra period when K Nick Lowery hit a 33-yard FG as time ran out in regulation. The Chiefs offense scored on a one-yard TD run by RB Christian Okoye and a 24-yard pass from QB Bill Kenney to WR Stephone Paige. The Chiefs also added a TD from CB Kevin Ross who picked up a blocked FG and returned it 65 yards. Cincinnati QB Boomer Esiason (left) threw for 368 yards and a pair of TD passes.

On December 6, 1992, the Chiefs lost to the Raiders 28-7 at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Raiders offense led by QB Jay Schroeder dominated this game, picking up a 13-minute edge in time of possession and scoring on three touchdown passes. Schroeder threw for six-yard to TE Ethan Horton, 11 yards to FB Steve Smith and 17 yards to WR Willie Gault. The Raiders got another score when Elvis Patterson recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown. The Chiefs touchdown came on a two-yard pass from QB Dave Krieg to TE Keith Cash. They had only 17 rushing yards on 14 carries and Krieg was sacked four times. The KC defense had interceptions from CB Dale Carter and LB Tracy Simien and three sacks from DEs Neil Smith and Leonard Griffin and DT Dan Saleaumua.

On December 6, 1998, the Chiefs lost to the Denver Broncos 35-31 at Mile High Stadium. In typical Broncos fashion when John Elway was the quarterback, Denver scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to make up a deficit and win the game. It was Elway’s 24-yard TD pass to TE Shannon Sharpe (right) that proved to be the winning points. Just before that, RB Terrell Davis scored on a one-yard run. The Chiefs had three TD passes from QB Rich Gannon, as he threw 26 yards to WR Andre Rison, 11 yards to FB Kimble Anders and 26 yards to WR Joe Horn. Elway threw for 400 yards with WRs Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey both going over 100 yards.


Born on December 6, 1959 in Forth Worth, Texas was C Mike Baab. He joined the Chiefs in 1992 after 10 seasons in the NFL with the Browns and Patriots. Baab appeared in three games, making three starts during the ‘92 season. Those were the last three games of his 149-game NFL career that began as a fifth-round draft choice in Cleveland out of the University of Texas.

5 Responses to “Fast Start Needed … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs”

  • December 6, 2009  - el cid says:

    I expect to see todays Cheifs/Broncos game to be a lot like TX/NU. Unless someone finds an explosive offense and breaks the game open, a slugfest with the last team to have the ball to win by a fieldgoal. Sort of sad really, NU had no offense and its defense played its guts out to stop TX, yet TX managed just enough to win. Should have been a tailkicking by TX but did not deliver with its superstar QB, McCoy.

    I expect the same today. Does not Haley like to keep it ugly and try to be in the game for the last score? Unfortunately, he has found some sort of offense with Cassel, Charles, and crew and w/o LJ and Bowe. I do not think he is ready for that yet. And Pendergast’s defense does not look like the black shirts yet.

    So for the first time this season, I predict the Chiefs win by 3. Maybe 3-0 or 30-27.

  • December 6, 2009  - MenInRed says:

    Bob, do you read what you write? See below:

    “Tim McKernan died early Friday of lunch failure according to his family.”

    Poor man died because he couldn’t get his Noon meal? lol

    Go Chiefs!!!

  • December 6, 2009  - JohnNdallas says:

    Gretz was hungry when he wrote that LMAO

  • December 6, 2009  - Steve says:

    El cid, you’re making less sense than normal. You talk about how bad the Chiefs are, then predict a win? I hate the donkeys, but they won seven games somehow. If we upset them, great, if not, no doom and gloom here. We have a few more winable games, draft is four months away, enjoy the ride.

  • December 6, 2009  - RickyP says:

    “Tim McKernan died early Friday of lunch failure according to his family.”

    I’ll tell you what….it sure isn’t how I want to go!

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