Show-Me States winning streak

The Thrill and the AgonyThis week in sports by Chas Walker

‘Show-Me’ State’s winning streak

The “Show-Me” State has certainly shown us some excellent pro football so far this season. The St. Louis Rams are 6 and 3 and tied for first with the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West Division. But the bigger story is Kansas City, a team that has the best record in the NFL, undefeated after nine games, and that is fresh off a big 41-20 win over the Cleveland Browns.

KC special teams kick returner Dante Hall began the season by returning kickoffs for touchdowns in four consecutive games – an NFL record that turned heads as well as broke ankles. He came awfully close again in the Nov. 9 match-up against the Browns. If it hadn’t been for a botched block and an ankle-grabbing diving tackle from the final Cleveland defenseman, Hall would have recorded his fifth total this season. (As it was, he returned the kick 77 yards, setting up a Kansas City field goal.)

Another standout is running back Priest Holmes, who has accumulated 862 yards on 182 carries and 14 total touchdowns so far this season. The threat of Holmes in the backfield – and the fact that the offense relies on him so much – works to their advantage when they decide to pass, since pass coverage thins out on simple play-action fakes. In this week’s game, for example, the KC quarterback Trent Green threw 29 for 42 for 350 yards and 3 touchdowns; the team only gained 88 yards total on the ground.

Kansas City’s defense deserves some of the credit for this year’s success as well. In this past week’s game, they forced two turnovers, sacked the Browns’ QB Kelly Holcomb three times, and allowed no single-play offensive gains greater than 20 yards.

The interesting thing about Kansas City’s undefeated streak is that their offense, on average, gains only slightly more yards per game (359.9) than their defense allows (331.6), and yet their average point total is nearly double that of their opponents – 31.9 to 16.7. By way of comparison, the Dallas Cowboys are on top in the NFC East with a 7-2 record and they average nearly 100 yards more than their opponents per game. Their points per game average is only slightly higher than their opponents’ – 20.1 to 15.1.

What does this mean? It means that Kansas City can convert when it counts, under pressure, in the red zone. They do not waste their scoring opportunities on the field, they rarely turn the ball over, and they force their opponents into making mistakes. Kansas City is now seeking to become just the ninth team since the league merger in 1970 to begin a season with 10 wins and no losses.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org