The combination of Marcus Peters’ talent and Marcus Peters’ juice and Phil Rivers’ fading arm strength and Phil Rivers’ stubborn confidence meant that a Marcus Peters interception was the fourth-easiest thing to predict about this game:
1. People yelling CHIEFS at the end of the anthem.
2. People complaining about Alex Smith.
3. People complaining about Peters.
Peters also being involved in another turnover (helping force Austin Keeler’s fumble in the fourth quarter) is probably also in the top 10 somewhere.
The Chiefs, not coincidentally, beat the Chargers 30-13 at Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday night, and now another AFC West title is as predictable as coach Andy Reid saying “time’s yours” at his next news conference.
This was Peters’ first game back after a team-issued suspension — the first of Reid’s five seasons in Kansas City — for losing his mind at the end of the Jets loss.
That the defense played well last week against the Raiders inspired some to lose their minds and believe the Chiefs are better off without Peters.
Here’s hoping Peters’ return, in what was unquestionably the Chiefs’ biggest game in Reid’s most important season here, helps them gather their heads.
Peters did not stand for the national anthem, again. If that angers you, that’s your right. He’s expressed support for the military but hasn’t clarified his thoughts on this as much as some other players. And if you can’t get past that and will dislike him no matter what, then that is your right, too.
But the man can play ball.
He is by far the Chiefs’ best cornerback, he is their best playmaker, and depending on Justin Houston’s health, their best defender.
Peters is an emotional player, which is sort of like saying a Ferrari is a fast car, but I’ve spend much of the last week or so wondering if the suspension would sort of calibrate Peters back to what he was his first two years in the NFL and less like what he was the first 12 games of this season.
Because he wasn’t as good. Clearly. Wasn’t covering quite as well, wasn’t as dangerous making plays and by all appearances decided he never wanted to make another tackle.
I have a few theories on this. The one that makes the most sense to me might be Eric Berry’s injury. Peters reveres that man. Berry is one of the few teammates who can truly influence Peters, change his view, focus his mind, and maybe the injury let Peters drift a little.
I don’t know. That’s just a guess.
But this isn’t: Peters is prideful, self-aware, and owns his mistakes. He’s among the most self-critical players in that locker room, and the suspension must’ve shook him, must’ve made him think.
His first game back, he played (by far) his best since last year, and perhaps ever. It wasn’t just the turnovers. He was terrific in coverage, against a good group of receivers, and an offense that had been rolling for the last month.
You don’t have to like the anthem stuff, that’s fine.
But if you let that seep into your opinion of him as a football player, you’re missing one of the Chiefs’ most valuable pieces, and a guy they’ll need at his best to do much of anything in the playoffs.
▪ This is on the way to becoming something I say constantly, like, “I wish we all did a better job listening to each other,” and “the Royals need to decide whether they want to win or build because they can’t do both,” and, “I’m hungry,” but here goes anyway:
When Tyreek Hill is against man coverage, with no help over the top, that should be an automatic throw his way. And when that man coverage is press, that should be an automatic go route his way.
I understand football is not quite this simple. Defenses disguise coverage, and in the chaos you can think you’re throwing into single coverage and then have to worry about tackling the guy who just picked you off.
But, with few exceptions, this should be the new rule.
The Chargers trusted Casey Hayward with man coverage on Hill in the second quarter. Hayward is one of the league’s best cornerbacks, higher regarded at his position than Hill is at his.
But, again, this is a mismatch. Hill has truly freakish speed, and is becoming really good at using his hands, understanding leverages, and doesn’t slow at all when the ball is in the air. He’s good enough tracking the ball that the quarterback should trust the worst possible outcome is an incomplete pass, and not an interception.
Course, on that throw, the outcome was a 64-yard touchdown and a NASCAR pit crew celebration.
(He was against press coverage with no help over the top on the snap before, too.)
▪ Weekly and initial Alex Smith take: he was good!
May’ve missed a throw or two, and definitely broke some pockets too quickly, but overall he was efficient and smart and effective.
The rollout touchdown to Kareem Hunt was a nice play, that required a split-second decision based on what the defender between them did. Tyreek Hill did most of the work on the long touchdown, but someone still had to throw it, and Hill didn’t break stride. There were some nice third down conversions, a scramble or two, overall a really nice night.
And, yeah, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a quarterback flip the option and then take out the safety like that, either.
▪ Daniel Sorensen was awful. This isn’t entirely new — he’s been rather consistently exposed this season without Eric Berry — but that may’ve been his worst game of the year.
Consistently whiffing on tackles, including a few that gave up first downs, and then obviously drifting too deep on the punt return, and letting the ball bounce off his back.
I don’t know that there’s a real answer here. Might be something the Chiefs just have to scheme around, but Sorensen is a problem.
▪ Derrick Johnson continues to look old, and it continues to make me sad.
▪ Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton had a nice game. A lot of us have been wondering why the Chiefs hadn’t used more exotic* blitzes to manufacture pressure and we saw it against the Chargers.
* That’s the jargon for what amounts to stunts, or defensive back blitzes.
Like with everything, I want to watch this game again to be surer, but I’m wondering if he felt freer to do this since the Chargers’ line is pretty good and Rivers is essentially a stationary target. Makes sense, then, to try to cheat a little, push the numbers in your advantage, and go for it.
We’d been talking all week about how it was imperative to move Rivers off his spot.
▪ Chris Jones was terrific, again. He had his best game in quite some time last week against the Raiders, and backed it up by being a consistent problem for the Chargers, disruptive even in some three-man rushes.
There is such a difference between pressure up the middle and pressure from the edges. When Jones can sidestep his man and get into the pocket, the pressure comes faster than from around the edge. It’s also more difficult for the quarterback to move, and easier for the other defenders to gang tackle.
▪ The Chiefs need just one win in their last two, or for the Chargers to lose one of their last two, for a division title and playoff spot. If this was baseball, we’d say their magic number is one.
They deserve credit for getting out of that spiral, and there is still enough talent here to be dangerous, but at the moment it’s still hard to imagine them fulfilling the standard of the season — to get past the division round.