AFC West: Poor Get Poorer as Chiefs, Raiders fall short
by Nate Winkler (@natewinkler)
CHFF's Pigskin Leatherneck
Sunday afternoon found the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders traveling east for early kickoff contests against NFC South opponents. The Chiefs and Raiders entered this week's action with one win apiece a
Kansas City got a glimpse of the Brady Quinn era against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium, and it wasn't pretty as the Chiefs fell to the Bucs 38-10. The only thing that fell faster than the Chiefs confidence Sunday was that Felix Baumgartner dude, who jumped out of a hot air balloon from over 426 football fields (128,000 feet) above the Earth about an hour after Sunday's early games kicked off.
Oakland became the final AFC West team to face the NFC's last unbeaten team in the Georgia Dome, taking the Atlanta Falcons to the brink but coming up just short in a 23-20 loss courtesy of a last-second 55 yard field goal. The Falcons are now 4-0 and unofficial AFC West Champions.
Here are 5 Things We Learned:
1. The Oakland Raiders defensive backs finally realized they're allowed to catch the ball, too.
After entering the game with zero interceptions on 151 pass attempts, the Raiders were able to get three in the first half against Matt Ryan, who entered the game with just one. The Raiders' defense gave it's best effort of the season limiting Ryan to just 6.34 Real Passing Yards Per Attempt. Ryan made his 67th regular season start against the Raiders on Sunday and it was only the second time he's thrown three interceptions (11/2/2009 @ New Orleans).
The Falcons abandoned the running game early, finishing with just 45 rushing yards on 15 attempts (3.0 RY/A).The much maligned Raiders' secondary never backed down and gave their offense a chance to win the game but Ryan got the last laugh, however, as he drove the Falcons to the game winning 55 yard field goal with one second left.
2. Don't everyone go placing their orders for #9 Brady Quinn Kansas City Chiefs jersey's all at once now...
As the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for. Last week the Chiefs were in the headlines for all the wrong reasons as a large contingent of fans celebrated Quinn's Kansas City debut at the expense of Matt Cassel's concussed head.
Quinn finished the day with a 48.1 Passer Rating after going 22 for 38 (57.9%) for 180 yards and a horrid 4.73 Yards Per Attempt. Eric Winston and the rest of the Chiefs offensive line didn't allow a sack against the Bucs but the Chiefs and their sixth ranked Offensive Hogs were only able to muster 80 rushing yards on 30 attempts (2.67 RY/A).
Quinn got his shot against the Bucs and he looked every bit like the guy that couldn't beat out Derek Anderson, Colt McCoy, Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow and now Matt Cassel for playing time. His two interceptions were catchable deflections, but at no point did he make anyone think "Man, we've been wrong about this guy all along."
3. "Moral Victories" don't exist in the NFL, but the Oakland Raiders made it known that they will not be an easy out for anyone going forward.
If you'd have told Dennis Allen that his Raiders would have 474 yards of total offense, force three turnovers, and possess the ball for 36:26 against the undefeated Falcons, he'd have taken it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately for Allen, his mantra of discipline and common sense hasn't trickled down to his players yet, as they committed 12 penalties for 110 yards and coughed up the rock three times of their own, including a 79 yard interception return for a touchdown by Asante Samuel.
Carson Palmer had his best game of the season as he out-dueled Ryan, throwing for 353 yards and finishing with a 102.2 Passer Rating, marking the 12th time in his career he's finished a game with 300+ yards and a 100+ Passer Rating (third as a Raider). Despite leading his team to a game-tying drive with less than a minute to play, the Raiders found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory like they've often done over the last decade.
4. The Chiefs best offensive play of the day was a blocked a punt/interception that was returned for a their only touchdown.
We're not 100% on this, but the Chiefs' touchdown in the fourth quarter may be the only play in NFL history where a punt was blocked and the punter subsequently threw an interception. Kansas City's defense was supposed to be their strength this season but they must have had brunch across the street at Mons Venus before heading to Raymond James Stadium. Josh Freeman and the Bucanneers' offense that was averaging 20.5 points and just 276 yards per game looked like the 1999 St. Louis Rams against the Chiefs, averaging 9.1 yards per offensive play.
Freeman threw for 328 yards and three touchdowns on just 15 of 26 (57.6%) for an elite 11.77 Real PY/A and a 124.7 Passer Rating. Freeman had never thrown for 300+ yards and finished with a 100.0+ Passer rating in his 45 previous starts, something that had been done 191 times entering Week 6 since the beginning of 2009, when Freeman entered the league. Despite the effort Freeman still has a lot to prove before he realizes his potential as a legitimate NFL quarterback.
5. The gap between the haves and the have-nots in the AFC West is growing by the quarter.
The San Diego Chargers host the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football and the winner will be in the driver's seat in the AFC West. At the other end of the spectrum, the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders are now a combined 2-9 with two of the worst point differentials in the league. Kansas City has been outscored by 79 points in their six games, better than only the Tennessee Titans (-90). Not far behind are the Raiders, who've allowed 61 more points than they've scored for an averaged deficit of 12.2 points per game.
When your victories come by the hair of your chinny-chin-chin and you get blown out in your losses, it indicates you're not a very good football team. Taking this one step further is our fancy Relativity Index, which illustrates how teams stack up relative to their competition. Oakland (15.42) entered Week 6 dead-last in the league in Relativity, with the Chiefs (-10.40) just ahead of them at 29th. Unless drastic changes happen quickly, both the Chiefs and the Raiders will be jockeying for draft pick position, not playoff seeding, come December.