When: Sunday, Nov. 16
Time: Noon, CT
Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
TV Broadcast: FOX – Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa (Field reporter), NFL Red Zone; DirecTV – 708.
Radio Broadcast: Over 60 radio stations on the Chiefs Radio Network; Mitch Holthus, Len Dawson, Kendall Gammon, commentators; Chiefs Spanish Radio: La Gran D (1340 AM);
SIRIUS: 139 (Sea.), 127 (KC). XM: 229 (KC).
The Kansas City Chiefs unmovable object of not giving up a rushing touchdown on defense this season runs smack into the face of the World Champion Seattle Seahawks’ irresistible force of a running game Sunday at Arrowhead.
Considering it is Week 11 of the regular season, the fact that the Chiefs defense has yet to yield a rushing touchdown to an opponent is nothing short of amazing, even in a pass-happy NFL. The Chiefs opponent rushes for a blistering average of 170 yards per game, helped no doubt by their performance last week when they ran for a team-record 350 yards against the New York Giants. Starting running back Marshawn Lynch ran for four scores just on his own and quarterback Russell Wilson added another 107 yards rushing of his own.
Both of the quarterbacks tomorrow have eerily similar playing styles and statistics and often break their opponent’s backs with their legs rather than their arms. The Chiefs’ Alex Smith may not run for the yardage that Wilson does, but he runs for a first down on almost 33% of his rushes and resembled Jamaal Charles on is 8-yard game-winning TD run in the win against the Buffalo Bills.
On the other side, Wilson is running on opponents like no one has since the pre-dog-fighting days of Michael Vick. Wilson and Vick are the only two quarterbacks in the Super Bowl Era (1966 to now) that have at least three 100-yard rushing days on the season. By contrast, Jamaal Charles has zero 100-yard rushing games this year.
Obviously both teams will have their hands full when they kick off at noon, local time. So what do the Men in Red have to do to beat the NFL champions and keep pace with Denver in the AFC West? Here are three things fans should watch for:
Remember that these are the 2014 Seahawks and not the 2013 playoff Seahawks: There is little doubt that the Seahawks might be the most formidable team in the NFL when they are playing at home. Their run to the 2013 Championship was largely on the back of a devastating defense playing like their hair was on fire. But this year’s team has only shown occasional flashes of that style. And, on the road? Not so much. In fact, they are slightly below average on the road during the Pete Carroll era (17-22 overall with only one winning record in 2013) and when they take on playoff-caliber opponents on the road, they tend to lose.
So while this is a quality team that must be respected, it should not be feared. The Chiefs should use the energy from their crowd – the LOUDEST outdoor stadium in the world, Seattle fans – jump on the Seahawks early and hope they start to dial this game in and look ahead to the rest of their brutal schedule. After finishing up the AFC portion of the season schedule, the Seahawks have five of their last six games against their division foes, including the division-leading Arizona Cardinals at home next week and their arch-rival San Francisco 49ers twice. The sixth game is a road game against Philadelphia, a team they may be in a battle with for a playoff spot. The game against the Chiefs – a non-conference game – is the only one left on their schedule that a loss wouldn’t kill them in the playoff chase.
Gang-tackle Marshawn Lynch: Lynch is undoubtedly one of the two or three best running backs in the league no matter what criteria you use. At age 28, he is in his prime and as last week showed, can dominate games like few other backs can. Having said that, this has not been a banner year for him and he has been a little inconsistent. He has only two 100-yard rushing games this year (Week 1 vs. Green Bay and last week) and just two weeks ago, was held to 67 yards rushing on 21 attempts by the hapless Oakland Raiders.
Lynch missed practice most of the week with leg and rib injuries, but practiced Friday. He is expected to play Sunday, but any running back that has touched the ball as much as Lynch has the last three years could start breaking down at any time. Sore ribs and ice-cold weather are not a good mix. Sore ribs, an injured calf and 300-lb men trying to separate you from the ball is definitely not a good mix.
Lynch, nicknamed Beast Mode, is probably the best back in the league at breaking tackles so the Chiefs will have to gang-tackle him when he has the ball. They need to hold him to the three- to four-yard per carry average he’s had all year and not let him get on a roll. The Seattle passing game is about as bad as the Chiefs have been so taking Lynch out of the game is Kansas City’s #1 priority.
Travis Kelce’s coming out party: To put it mildly, the Seahawks have been TERRIBLE against tight ends this year. Going back to their Week Two loss to San Diego, quality tight ends have owned them. The Chargers’ future Hall of Famer, Antonio Gates, blistered Seattle for seven catches for 96 yards and three touchdowns. On the season, the Seahawks have given up 40 receptions for 336 yards and 10 touchdowns to tight ends.
Last week, the Bills did a terrific job at taking Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce completely out of the game (2 catches for 19 yards) and if the Chiefs allow Seattle to do the same, they will lose. It falls on head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Doug Pederson to go to Kelce early and often. With Anthony Fasano ailing and possibly not playing at full speed – or not at all – if Kelce doesn’t receive double-digit targets in the passing game, it plays right into Seattle’s hands.
Prediction: Before he season began, a lot of people circled this game as a loss for the Chiefs because the lasting image of Seattle was the utter beatdown they put on the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. But now there is no reason to think that Seattle is a far superior team. A good team without a doubt, but a flawed team nonetheless. Given the injuries the defending champs are dealing with (most notably, defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, possibly their best defensive player this year who went on the IR this week with a torn hamstring) and the creative game plan Reid seems to come up with every week, I see the Chiefs winning a close one.
Score: Chiefs 23, Seahawks 20.