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NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - INSIDE SLANT
After the first offensive play for the Kansas City Chiefs in their game last Thursday at Philadelphia it promised to be a long night for quarterback Alex Smith and the team's offense.
At right tackle, the NFL's No. 1 draft choice Eric Fisher set himself to pass protect for Smith. Eagles' outside linebacker Connor Barwin took a jab step to his left, and then busted past the left shoulder of Fisher, exploding through the "B" gap and getting right into Smith's face, forcing him to throw the ball early. Barwin landed in Smith's chest and took him to the ground.
Before the game was over Smith was sacked five times, and Fisher had a part in three of those plays. After a decent performance in the season opener against Jacksonville and mediocre play against Dallas, Fisher followed up with his worst NFL performance against the Eagles.
The fact he was the first selection in the entire 2013 NFL Draft has increased the scrutiny on the young man from suburban Detroit and Central Michigan. If he had been the 32nd choice in the first round, the arm-chair evaluators might be less judgmental after only three games.
Fisher, along with fellow top of the first-round blockers like Luke Joeckel (Jacksonville), Lane Johnson (Philadelphia) and D.J. Fluker (San Diego) have all struggled in the first September of their NFL careers. In fact, among the nine blockers selected in the first round back in April, only Chicago guard Kyle Long has performed at a winning level over all three games.
As the Chiefs get ready to work on pushing their record to 4-0 with a home game against the New York Giants, Fisher is working on learning from his poor decisions.
"Everybody makes mistakes in this game," Fisher said. "I look at the film. I look at my assignments and I learn from those mistakes and do my best to not make them again. Every day I'm going to be a stronger player."
Publicly, nobody around the Chiefs organization is questioning the selection of Fisher with the No. 1 pick. That's largely because there hasn't been anything out of the ordinary with the struggles that Fisher has had. Plus, the Chiefs are 3-0 after a season when they went 2-14.
"There's no worries here with Fish," veteran guard Geoff Schwartz said of Fisher. "We're 3-0. He's a rookie and he's learning the game. When you watch the tape there are a lot of good things happening out there with him. His issues have been on pass blocking and that's something that comes with time. It takes time to know the spacing, the angles and stuff like that."
It turns out that Fisher's worst critic is Fisher.
"It's tough mentally, physically and emotionally," Fisher said. "There's a lot that comes with this game and you have to learn to roll with the punches."
What hasn't been affected by his struggles is Fisher's work-ethic and willingness to spend extra time watching tape and working on fundamentals.
"I appreciate his effort," said head coach Andy Reid. "He's just trying to do everything the right way and he battles. Sometimes he gets himself in awkward positions, but he has the athletic ability and he fights his way out of it. It's not the prettiest picture, but it ends up being a play. That's something you can work with as a coach."
SERIES HISTORY: 13th regular-season meeting. Giants lead series, 10-2, and have beaten the Chiefs four straight times. The last game in the series was 2009 when New York won in Kansas City 27-16. The last Chiefs victory over the Giants came in 1995 when they won 20-17 in overtime, also in Kansas City.
NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - NOTES, QUOTES
-- Sunday's game will be the 22nd meeting between teams coached by Andy Reid against teams coached by Tom Coughlin. Reid holds a 12-9 edge against Coughlin, and is 2-0 in postseason games winning in the 2006 and 2008 NFC playoffs. In the 2011-12 seasons, Reid's Eagles and Coughlin's Giants split their yearly two-game set. "I respect him as a man and I respect him as a future Hall of Fame coach," Reid said of Coughlin. "He's a tough-minded guy. You don't survive that long in New York City without being able to do that."
-- With his 4.5 sacks against Philadelphia outside linebacker Justin Houston earned his second AFC Defensive Player of the Week honor. Houston previously won in week No. 1 against Jacksonville. He leads the NFL after three weeks with 7.5 sacks. The last Chiefs defensive player to win the player of the week award twice in a season was Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Thomas, who was named twice in 1991. "I consider it a team honor because it takes a team effort," said Houston. "When you've got guys covering their guys the whole time and the big guys in the middle pushing the pocket and Tamba (Hali) rushing from the other side, it's very easy to make plays."
-- The Chiefs 3-0 start has been a surprise, but quarterback Alex Smith says it has not led to a lot of celebration in the Chiefs locker room. "I think we all know its three weeks into the season; it's not time to get carried away with anything," Smith said. "There's so much season left. For us the goal is to continue to take steps every single week and improve."
BY THE NUMBERS: Plus-9 - That's the Chiefs turnover ratio on the season. They lead the NFL in giveaways with no fumbles lost or interceptions. They are fourth in the NFL in takeaways with 5 fumbles recovered and 4 interceptions.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They work hard and they're going to compete. They're tough guys. We're still early in the season; we're talking about the third week so you're not even a quarter done with the season. It's important that we continue to work and get ourselves better. These guys are wired to do that." -- Chiefs head coach Andy Reid on his 3-0 team.
NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
-- CB Brandon Flowers took part in position drills at the start of the Chiefs practice on Thursday, but he was not a full participant in the session. Flowers is dealing with a knee injury that he suffered on September 15th when playing against Dallas. He did not practice at all on Wednesday.
-- FS Kendrick Lewis took part in position drill at the start of the Chiefs practice on Thursday, but he was not a full participant in the session. Lewis is dealing with an ankle injury that he suffered during a practice earlier this week. He did not practice at all on Wednesday.
--TE Anthony Fasano did not practice on Wednesday with the Chiefs as he continues to rehab a sprained ankle that he suffered on September 15. Fasano was inactive for last week's game in Philadelphia, and while head coach Andy Reid indicated there was improvement, there was no indication Fasano would be ready by Sunday's game against the New York Giants.
--LG Jeff Allen missed Wednesday's practice with the Chiefs because of the groin injury that he suffered last week in the Philadelphia game. There appears to be no chance that Allen will be ready to play by Sunday against the New York Giants.
--FB Anthony Sherman came out of the Chiefs victory over Philadelphia with fluid on his knee, but the rest after the Thursday night game in Philadelphia allowed him to heal and he practiced on Wednesday.
--TE Travis Kelce did not practice on Wednesday with the Chiefs as he continues to try to come back from a bruised knee that he suffered on August 24. Kelce was inactive for the last game in Philadelphia.
--QB Alex Smith has started three games over his career against the New York Giants, including an NFC Divisional round game in the 2011 NFC Playoffs. In that game, the 49ers fell 20-17, as Smith threw for just 196 yards, completing 12 of 26 throws for two touchdowns and no interceptions. In the 2010 season while he was with San Francisco, Smith threw three interceptions in a 23-3 loss to the Giants.
--RB Jamaal Charles leads the Chiefs in offensive yardage with 224 rushing yards and 151 receiving yards. That 375-yard total sets a pace for Charles to put up exactly 2,000 all-purpose yards on the season.
--WR Dwayne Bowe after three games is averaging just 3 catches for 30 yards per game, one of the slowest Septembers of his NFL career. In the previous six seasons, Bowe averaged 15.3 catches for 218 yards and 2.3 touchdowns in September. This season has been the slowest start of his career.
--WR Donnie Avery is averaging 17.3 yards per catch on the season, with almost all of that total coming from his seven catches for 141 yards against Philadelphia. Avery has a 51-yard gain, and a 31-yarder, the two longest pass plays of the Chiefs season. He's found the end zone only once.
--RB Knile Davis got a taste of offensive action against Philadelphia with six carries for 25 yards. His success in that limited fourth-quarter role will likely mean more opportunities as the Chiefs coaching staff tries to find ways to not over-expose leading offensive threat RB Jamaal Charles.
GAME PLAN: The Chiefs have won their first three games and there several common denominators: ball security and controlling the line of scrimmage. Without a giveaway this season, the Chiefs are plus-9 in the turnover margin. The Giants are No. 32 in the league, with a minus-9. One of the factors in not turning the ball over has been the Chiefs ability to control the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense. They've had their moments on offense, allowing 10 sacks including five by Philadelphia. But in the fourth quarter the last two games the offensive front was able to clear room for the K.C. running game. Defensively, they have 15 sacks to lead the league at this time. They'll need to make sure they take down Giants QB Eli Manning.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Chiefs OLB Justin Houston vs. Giants ORT Justin Pugh -- Houston leads the NFL after three weeks with 7.5 sacks, a remarkable pace that would give him 40 sacks on the season. That's not going to happen, but if Houston got to play against rookie right tackles all season, he might challenge the number. He abused Philadelphia's right tackle Lane Johnson last week, racking up 4.5 sacks. In this game, he faces another first-round draft choice, rookie Justin Pugh. As would be expected Pugh has had a rough road in his transition from Syracuse to the NFL and if he's not on his game against Houston, his NFL debut figures to become much rougher.
Chiefs LG Geoff Schwartz vs. Giants DRT Cullen Jenkins -- The groin injury suffered by K.C. starter Jeff Allen have Schwartz in the starting lineup for the second time in four games (he started the season opener against Jacksonville at right guard for an injured Jon Asamoah). Schwartz brings an element of experience to what is a very young group overall. He's been through the NFL battles for five seasons and has dealt with experienced defenders like 10-year veteran Jenkins. The Chiefs have allowed too much leakage in the middle of the pocket and they've been a marginal rushing offense until the fourth quarter. The inside trio of Schwartz, center Rodney Hudson and right guard Jon Asamoah need to lift their game.