Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sleeping With The Enemy: Week Two, Chiefs @ Bears

Welcome back for another installment of "Sleeping With the Enemy," where us HoG staffers chit-chat with a fan of our teams' opponents. This week, Old No. 7 wrestles with a lover of things silver and black as Team Al Davis marches into InVesCo for the Broncos home opener. The Chiefs, on the other hand, wait one more week to host a contest at Arrowhead; today they storm Soldier Field in hopes of notching a road win against the defending-NFC-champion Chicago Bears. Your Bears' expert is none other than Mr. Kimm, a native Iowan and lifelong lover of all things Cub and Bear. Last week's SWTEs, Chiefs @ Texans, can be found here.

Bankmeister: Week two for the Chiefs involves a trip to a stadium with new digs, a place you might've heard of before. It's called Soldier Field, and from what I understand, they've, over the years, had a few good athletes play football for that team they call the Bears. Matter of fact, they came awful close to getting their paws on the Lombardi last year. Let's talk about the job that Lovie Smith has done in his short stint in the Windy City. Who has been Lovie's biggest teacher as a coach? Biggest inspiration? What did you make of all the fuss over his contract/paycheck last year? Was the Bears ownership being stingy or was that just another case of media overhype.

Mr. Kimm: Week two will be a good test for the defending NFC Champs, but more so for the overmatched Chiefs. Tradition and history of the not-so-friendly-confines of Soldier Field will be an intimidating reality for the Chiefs and their followers. Here true defense will be on display, something Lovie Smith teams have always been known for. I think everyone knows that Tony Dungy has been one of, if not, the, most influential coaches/friends to Lovie and his career thus far. His style of play mimics that of his mentor and friend, as well as his calm demeanor on and off the field. Fortunately for Bears fans, Lovie is here to stay. I think Lovie knew it as well, before any contract discussions, that this was going to be his home and what an opportunity he had within his grasp. Media hype gets in the way of the truth most of the time, and Lovie's attitude during the whole process showed that he wasn't worried in the least about his future with the Bears. Bears ownership was also smart enough to realize they couldn't afford to lose Lovie either.

B: Agreed. All around. The Dungenator has been a mentor to the Lovemeister, for sure. As has he for Herm. I personally was largely disturbed by the way things went down during last year's playoffs in terms of the Smith/Edwards/Dungy dinner the night before the Chiefs/Colts playoff (playoff?) debacle. seemed as if there was a little too much brotherly love, if you know what i mean, going on with that whole scenario. And by "brotherly love," I mean playbook sharing.

Nevertheless, interesting that you say overmatched. Granted, you're right; I'm sure the Bears have been largely favored since the lines opened up, but there are many aspects to discuss about each of our teams. Clearly, your team has had a knockout defense for some time. Will they return in the same form? Better perhaps? A step behind last year? One thing is certain: the Chiefs D will be better. They've continued to improve season-by-season since Gunther returned, and I'm confident that this year they will be hittin' some folks in some grills, if you hear what I'm screamin'. I'm not boastin' any Urlacher-type-led D squads, but suffice it to say they'll be better.

Beyond that, we need to spend some quality time breakin' down the QB situation. There are other aspects to cover, but this is one we must get out first. As you've mentioned in previous conversations, "they" say "everything hinges on Sexy Rexy. I take the way you said that to be an outright disagreement. Am I wrong? Once and for all, let's please have a die-hard Bears fan's take on number 9. Then we'll get to the rest.

Mr. K: Hey, we both agree the Chiefs D is much better, but c'mon, lets face it, it's not hard to improve over no defense from two years prior. As I see it, the trouble is that the Chiefs offense has not made any improvements. If anything, the conservative play calling has stiffled a once-potent offense. The Chiefs receiving core is still questionable and now they're relying on a 34-year-old quarterback with literally three years of game experience. Enough about your troubles, let's talk about a solid Bears defense that is looking to be even better this year with solid acquisitions like Adam Archuleta at SS and Darwin Walker at DT. Couple that with a healthy Tommie Harris (DT) and Mike Brown (SS), and of course probably the best linebacking crew in the biz, Damon Huard and Co. are facing a full-blown, scream-like-a-little-girl nightmare come Saturday night, Septmeber 15th. While we're at it, lets talk Sexy Rexy. By the way, he's number 8, not 9. He was also 13-3 as a starting QB in the NFL last year in case everyone forgot. I admit he had some fleeting moments, but the guy posseses heart and character way beyond his years and experience, and thank God for Lovie Smith recognizing this fact. Fact: Rex is only going to continue to get better. He now has an experienced and talented receiving crew, highlighted by the insurgence of Bernard Berrian, a true Pro Bowler. Two rookie draftees that will both make immediate impacts are Greg Olsen TE and Garrett Wolfe RB. Both are talented rookies, Olsen with great hands and WR speed, and Garrett also with great hands, great speed and elusive moves that made him the leading rusher in college football last year. Long story short, Sunday September 16th, Bears home opener, will turn out to be a very long afternoon for the Chiefs.

B: Alright. I got the message. Long day for the Chiefs in Chicago. I guess I'd hoped you might've had some drunken/debaucherous tales on Rexy, but I guess we have the boys at Kissing Suzy Kolber to do that for us year round. More importantly, you're confident in your gunslinger. Good. That's good. Let's not allow those Bears-colored glasses to tint your vision too dark, though. Let's be honest: the Bears were 13-3 last year. I know. The tendency is to always assign that record to your quarterback(s); I certainly did it with Huard and Green last year. But c'mon. No way the Monsters of the Midway log that record without that defensive squad. I mean, there were games in which Grossman appeared to be single-handedly trying to lose the match. And the D would always save his rear.

That's not to say he's not a talent. That's not to say he won't be great this year. I'm just leery of giving him too much credit for last year's successes. You are right about the head coach's approach; it's a good thing Lovie maintained a level head and didn't listen to the rest of the football world in regards to his QB. You certainly don't want Brian Griese in there. That guy's terrible. And Kyle Orton? That guy's number 9, right? (Editor's Note: Orton wears #18)

Yeah. Wolfe's college numbers are impressive. It'll be interesting to see just how accurate you are with your "immediate impact" prognostication. Since we're on the subject of toting the rock, though, let's talk about the Bears' off-season personnel decisions. The last time we talked football and there were no beers involved...wait. That never happened. Nevermind. In our last football conversation over minimal amounts of beers, you proclaimed that Cedric Benson may wind up being a bust, the Bears should stick with Thomas Jones, etc. Eight months later, Benson appears to have the starting job locked up over both your boy Wolfe and Adrian Peterson. Meanwhile, Thomas Jones, on some depth charts, sits behind the rookie Marshawn Lynch over in Buffalo. What's your take on all that business?

Mr. K: I still think Thomas Jones is a better all around running back, but I guess shared time was not for him. You know running backs these days, they all think they're the best, invincible and they don't need nor want to share time with anyone. Even though it could potentially double their career time in the NFL. With that being said, Jones wanted out, so let him go. He definitely wasn't that great as to be considered unreplaceable. Heck, who is? Benson may flourish with the majority of the carries this season, but if not, the Bears will run 2-3 backs at everyone every game, and look to fill a void again next offseason. Luckily the O-Line is good enough to make numerous running backs look good, regardless of their talents. The Bears are and always have been a smashmouth football team, who definitely prefer to run the ball. Who is in the backfield is somewhat of a non-issue, because whoever it is consistently, is going to get a workout, and with the help of a strong offensive line, I'm sure will do just fine.

B: Alright. We've established that you're confident in the Bears' D, passing game and running game. How about special teams? Will Devin Hester be the same threat this year that he was in '06? And the foot of Robbie Gould? Is he as dependable as any other kicker in the league? If you're confident in those aspects, and I'll assume that you are, that leaves your Windy City football club with quite an all-around team. How long can they keep it together? Will they be subject to the rise and fall that most franchises experience in the modern-day NFL, or can they become the next "D" word, the decade's late version of the Patriots?

Finally, what do the Chiefs need to do to get to a respectable level of competitiveness, one that the Bears and Colts have obviously achieved?

Mr. K: Special teams will hopefully resume right where they left off. Devin Hester is still a threat everytime he touches the ball, and hopefully that will be extended to the offense as well. I think Robbie Gould will continue to be a very steady and accurate kicker, even in the rough weather of Chicago. Dynasty teams are hard to predict. Free agency has changed the game forever. I hope the Bears can maintain the solid core of players they have, but no one knows for sure what will happen. Injuries also play a big part of team changes and managerial moves, as well as off-field antics anymore. Your Chiefs on the other hand need to search for a leader on the field both offensively and defensively. They need some key players to step up, assume the role and help motivate the rest of the squad. Offensively they need to show a balanced attack, and demand more from their receivers in general. Huard can play in this league, but he is going to need time and support from his O-line. LJ can't do it all; the passing game has got to be able to keep teams honest. The defense has got to continue to become more aggressive and not so predictable, but I think Gunther is on the right path.

B: Nice take. I'd say you're on target in everything you said. Free agency has changed everything, but some teams, with shrewd off-season evaluation/acquisition techniques, have managed to keep their teams at a competitive level regardless of cap/free-agency issues. The Chiefs, in my estimation, are one of them. The difference with them, though, is that they've been on the bubble for an eternity. They get one aspect of the game fine-tuned while all but ignoring the other; then when they finally address the weak area(s), it's too late in that the strengths have diminished. Gunther is on the right path. This defense will play at a top-10 level, perhaps even this year. Next season for certain. And Huard does have the goods to be a full-time starter, but he does need a few extra seconds of pocket protection. As bad as week one in Houston was, I thought the receiving corps showed signs of stepping it up. They had some drops, but I think those were all mental errors. And you're right. They do need a leader. That's one area in which Trent Green is, at least for now, irreplaceable.

Offensively, they've got leadership capability in Tony Gonzalez, Larry Johnson and Eddie Kennison. The first option is a guy that's been with the franchise longer than anyone else, but can a tight end be your leader? I don't think so, and I don't think Tony would embrace the role. LJ? I doubt his ability on a number of levels. Kennison is old and that leaves Damon Huard, who is also aging and, so it seems, a mild-mannered presence. Brian Waters acts, at times, as if he's the leader of the offense, but it is a conundrum all around. Defensively, I think Donnie Edwards is the guy, but this is his first year back in red and gold. Can you ask him to step up and be a leader? I don't know. Your best point, in my opinion, is that of the passing game. Their biggest weakness right now does not come in the form of ability, but predictability. They need, more than anything, to keep defenses honest, thus the prevention of the young guys getting lit up/coughing up the ball every time they run an eight-yard route. Huard had the ability to connect with Kennison on the long ball at times last year. Eighty-seven, however, tweaked his hammy on the first offensive play of the game last week and is out for who knows how long. That, as you know, shifts the entire receiving corps up a notch, but they can't let it affect their confidence in the passing game. They've got to mix it up. And by "they," I mean Herm Edwards and Mike Solari.

This game is a major one for both clubs. Frankly, I'm shocked that the Chiefs lost by as much as they did to an up-and-coming Texans squad and I really thought the Bears would, to a degree, manhandle Philip Rivers and the Bolts. Clearly, Chicago has an amazing run defense; holding LaDainian Tomlinson to one yard per carry is beyond stellar. I'm surprised, however, that your boy, number nine, er...I mean, eight,

didn't have a bigger game through the air. The Chargers have quite a defensive squad as well, but I anticipated that Lovie's crew would find a weakness in them and expose it. It kills me that LT can be the premiere back that he is and continue to get away with throwing touchdowns. Just once -- I don't care who it is -- I want someone to pick him off and take it to the house. That would rule. What doesn't rule, however, is a Lovie Smith team, and a Herm Edwards team, coughing up the ball four times -- four times! -- on the road. That, my friend, is no way to win a football game.

Mr. K: I love your optimism for the Chiefs, although misled as it is, that's what being a true fan is all about. Let's stop with all the traditional rhetoric and get to the guts of the Chiefs problems: Carl Peterson. C'mon, this guys been blowing smoke up every KC fan’s, player’s and media member’s keister since his hire. The big joke has always been his five-year plan to get to the Super Bowl, which has now turned into a 20-year endeavor. When are the good people of KC going to recognize it's time for new leadership? A leader who isn't afraid of complete failure, who is willing to completely re-build in hopes of the ultimate prize, not mere mediocrity, with the possible outcome of maybe making the playoffs. Since when is this acceptable in Kansas City? Would this be acceptable in the eyes of the late, great Chiefs leader, Lamar Hunt? Living in KC for over 12 years made me realize that Kansas City sports are filled with lasting traditions and true fans of their teams, and although I don't share the common love for this team, I do know that this city deserves better. I hope the KC fans realize this sooner rather than later and agree to demand a change. That all being said, I wish you and your Chiefs luck this season. It's a long road ahead, and unfortunately for the Chiefs, the next stop, Chicago, certainly won't get any easier.

B: The Carl debate is one for another day, my good friend. For now, I'm eager, yet nervous, to see how this Chiefs team handles a Super Bowl-caliber squad.

Mr. Kimm: My prediction for this match: 17-7, Da' Bears.

Bankmeister: The Chiefs will finally find the end zone, and having eliminated their kicking woes, will notch two field goals as well. Close, but no cigar: Chiefs 16, Da' Bears 17.


The Lone Reader said...

Jesus guys, not bad, but Faulkner was less wordy.

What the hell does "of course probably" mean.

Keep it up,


bankmeister said...

Um, I think it means that "of course" you have to mention the Bears D as that's what they're known for and "probably" would imply that it's a tricky endeavor to tag them as the best defense in football. Any other questions, smartass?

The Lone Reader said...

I think that is very unique.

-- TLR