I'm pleased to be joined for this week's Q&A by Ryan Jones, the man behind the Kansas City Chiefs blog KC Chiefs Blog, to help my preview this Sunday's game at LP Field between theTitans and the Chiefs.
Total Titans: The Titans, a team trying to win with a conservative passing game thanks to a strong defense and run game, played the Jets, team with a roughly similar blueprint. From the outside, it looks like the Chiefs are trying to win the same way. Is this an accurate perception of the team?
KC Chiefs Blog: It's not far off. The defense has been amazing, with Justin Houston and Dontari Poe getting the attention. Lost by many is how solid Eric Berry, Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali have been playing through four games. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has also pulled the best out of lesser known guys like Allen Bailey and Marcus Cooper.
On the other side of the ball, Andy Reid actually throws more than he runs, but it's conservative across the board. It's almost shocking when Alex Smith tries to throw the ball down field, instead opting for quick crossing routes and dump offs to his tight ends or Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs have leaned heaviest on the running game (almost exclusively Charles) late in games and it hasn't let them down yet.
Total Titans: Maybe along the same lines as the previous question, how much is the apparent improvement from the 2012 Chiefs to the 2013 Chiefs a matter of the same players playing better under Andy Reid and a new coaching staff, and how much is it adding new talent in the offseason?
Chiefs Blog: Some have tried, but it's impossible to stress how important this coaching staff has been to the turnaround. Reid knows how to run a team instead of getting lost in just one side of the ball, something both Romeo Crennel and Todd Haley had trouble with during their time in Kansas City.
Reid does, however, have the benefit of a legitimate NFL starting QB. Again, something Crennel and Haley had to work around due to previous GM Scott Pioli's unwillingness to put anyone under center other than Matt Cassel. Smith runs the Chiefs offense perfectly to the point of the only thing more shocking than a deep pass is a bad decision.
Total Titans: As an opposing fan, the way Alex Smith has played thus far hasn't scared me. Jamaal Charles does scare me. What's the key to limiting the damage he does?
Chiefs Blog: Smith doesn't scare defensive coordinators either, because they've given him plenty of opportunities deep as they try to contain Charles and so far they've been pretty successful. He's "only" averaged 4.1 yards per carry (5.7 career), hasn't topped 100 yards in a game and his longest play from scrimmage is 31 yards.
Despite slow starts on the ground, he's been able to exploit tired defenses late with nearly six yards a carry in the fourth quarter the last three weeks.
If you are willing to leave some holes deep, you have a chance to contain Charles. But the problem is no matter how much you key on him, he will always be a threat to go the distance. Last season, playing in one of the worst offenses you will ever see, Charles had runs of 91, 80 and 86 yards.
Total Titans: Defensively, I've been impressed by the work Dontari Poe has done in the middle of the line, and Justin Houston and Tamba Hali is a scary pair of outside pass rushers. If you had to play the Chiefs, where would you attack the defense?
Chiefs Blog: If Brandon Flowers is out again, you want to try and score big plays outside. The Giants were able to burn the Flowers-less Chiefs secondary for a 69-yard touchdown, but after that couldn't get anything going. A big part of that was the non-stop pressure on Eli Manning and the other was rookie corner Marcus Cooper playing out of his mind.
With Flowers on the sidelines, the best decision would be to force the seventh-rounder to repeat his performance. The only other option is to try and run the ball, but so far only LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick have had any success there. We know Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't going to impersonate Vick, but could Chris Johnson be a poor man's Shady?
Total Titans: Is there anything I haven't asked about you'd like Titans fans to know about the Chiefs?
Chiefs Blog: – Dustin Colquitt's punts. Even playing with a bum knee, I still expect him to drop every punt inside the 20. He is a machine and a huge weapon whenever the rotating players in front of him don't blow their blocking assignments (two blocked punts in four weeks).
– The holds on Hali minus any flags. Fans wouldn't be fans if they didn't complain about the officials, but every game offensive tackles live up to their name with two or three take downs of the linebacker. Why doesn't Hali get the calls? Chiefs fans have been asking that question for years!
– Sean McGrath's beard. The third string tight end has been bumped up to starter thanks to injuries and his beard has become a cult hero in Kansas City. Not to mention he's turning into a nice safety blanket for Smith, it's hard not to chuckle every time the camera is on him.
Thanks again to Ryan for participating in this week's Q&A. Don't forget to check out KC Chiefs Blog for more on the Chiefs.