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Chiefs, Saints looking for answers

September 20, 2012

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— Numbers aren’t supposed to lie.

Passing yardage, completion percentage — points, more than anything else. They’re supposed to be a fairly reliable indicator of success in the NFL, where things are often black and white.

That’s certainly not the case in New Orleans and Kansas City.

Two of the top five offenses in the league have been mostly wasted during winless starts, and a few Pro Bowl players — Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham of the Saints, Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe of the Chiefs — have been reduced to piling up meaningless statistics late in games.

Something has to give Sunday, when the two teams meet at the Superdome.

“We have talent, they have talent. We need to eliminate turnovers and they need to do the same,” Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer said. “Something is going to bust in this game.”

Might just be the defenses of both teams.

While the Saints are third in the NFL in offense, their defense is last, allowing 461 yards per game. The Chiefs aren’t far behind with the fifth-best offense, but many of their 407 yards per game have come while they’re trying to escape a hole dug by the league’s 20th-ranked defense.

Last Sunday’s 35-17 loss at Buffalo was a perfect example.

In falling behind by three touchdowns at halftime, Kansas City managed a modest 148 yards of offense. The Bills added two more TDs in the third quarter to take a 35-3 lead, forcing the Chiefs and new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll into a go-for-broke mentality the rest of the way.

Kansas City had 274 yards and both of its touchdowns in the second half. Embattled quarterback Matt Cassel threw for 109 yards in the first half and 192 in the second, while Bowe had four catches for 60 yards and both of the scoring passes after the break.

“Before you blink your eye, you’re down by 20 points and that’s not what we can do,” Cassel said. “Last week, I just think there was inconsistency. We had an opportunity again to put some points on the board before the half and make it a two-score game, and we failed to do that.”

The Saints are no strangers to playing from behind, either.

One of the most prolific offenses spearheaded by one of the game’s best quarterbacks has found itself trailing by 15 points in the second half of losses to Washington and Carolina. That’s caused the Saints to get into a hurry-up rhythm, piling up yardage but failing to pull ahead. Brees threw for 182 yards in the second half of last Sunday’s 35-27 loss to the Panthers.

“We were kind of playing catch-up because we were down 15 points,” Brees said. “But just in general, you don’t want to feel like you’re going into this week, for example, and feel like, ‘Hey, we’re behind the eight-ball. We have to really catch up now.’ No. We only have one game this week.

Not all the blame for the blowouts should be shouldered by the defenses. One of the touchdowns that the Saints allowed against the Panthers came when Brees was picked off by Charles Godfrey, who returned it nine yards for a first-quarter touchdown. It was one of four picks that Brees has thrown in the first two games of the season.

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