Last weekend when Croyle spent his evening either dumping the ball short, throwing it out of bounds or overthrowing receivers, Chiefs fans everywhere took it as a sign that it was time to find a new quarterback. Some even insinuated that we’ll see Damon Huard starting by the end of the season.
I won’t address such absurd claims within this space, but I will attempt to inject some modicum of reasonability when it comes to reactions over Croyle and the Chiefs offense. What struck me was not the reaction of fans in general last weekend, but rather the fans inside Arrowhead Stadium.
Unlike last preseason, when Croyle was booed heartily off the field numerous times, Saturday against the Cardinals the Arrowhead crowd was fairly quiet with their criticism. That’s because, hopefully, most of them recognized the difference between this preseason and last.
Compare Croyle’s first two preseason games of 2007 to the first two this year, and it’s not even close. Yes, the numbers are eerily similar, as Croyle had thrown for 131 yards on 11 completions this time last year, compared to 120 yards on 13 completions presently. But there is a difference.
In his first six preseason drives of 2007, Croyle had more interceptions (two) than scores (one). Only one drive lasted longer than five plays, and though it ended in a touchdown, that came against Miami’s backup defenders. Hardly impressive.
This preseason, as the unquestioned starter, Croyle has faced mainly the opposition’s front-line players through six drives. Half of those marches have covered at least 12 plays, three have resulted in scores, and most importantly, none have culminated in interceptions.
The lesson here is simple – if Brodie Croyle continues to lead long drives and protects the football, the Chiefs will be successful on offense. Maybe not prolific, maybe not the class of the league, but good enough to win football games, provided the defense holds up.
Forget the statistics Croyle is putting up and instead focus on the results. I know Chiefs Head Coach Herm Edwards was after the Cardinals left Arrowhead.
“I thought offensively, we were moving the ball,” he said. “We had an opportunity to score some points but didn’t get any on the board early. We had to kick field goals. I thought we protected the ball well in the first half. We didn’t lay it on the ground, didn’t throw any interceptions.”
The key to all of this is Kansas City’s running game. If you recall, last season the Chiefs could not run the ball. They were the worst team in the league at running the ball, and we all should have seen it coming. That’s because the Chiefs also could not run the ball in the 2007 preseason.
Before Kolby Smith ripped off a 55-yard run in the last preseason game, leading to a 148-yard night against the Rams, the Chiefs best rushing performance in August last year was a whopping 90 yards. They averaged three yards per carry or less in the second and third games.
While it’s true that KC’s offense did not run the ball all that well in Chicago (only 3.3 yards per carry), last week the Chiefs pounded out 153 yards rushing and turned in a consistent rushing performance the likes of which they never even came close to seeing a year ago. Larry Johnson looked like Larry Johnson, and at one point the offense went on a 12-play march that included just one completed pass.
Edwards, of course, was a happy man after it was over.
“We went into the game with certain things we wanted to do and the big emphasis was run the ball,” he said. “If you look at that one drive I think we threw one pass. We just ran the ball. That was done on purpose; it was no accident because we didn’t do a good enough job the week before.”
“I said this after the game: we didn’t do enough running the ball. We want to be able to possess the ball; we want to be able to take time off the clock. We had it 34 minutes. If you have the ball 34 minutes and don’t turn it over and you run the ball for about 150 or 170 yards a game you have a chance to win some football games.”
And he’s right. If Edwards’ quarterback continues to play within himself and his offense runs the ball as they did last week, the Chiefs will win some games this season. Probably more than they did a year ago. Maybe then, the fans will finally give Brodie Croyle some breathing room.