One can't help but wonder how long a punishing defense, good
coaching and a terrific turnover ratio will mask the fact that
the Chiefs' offense is very short on playmakers. In Sunday's
35-17 loss at Cleveland, Kansas City went the first 17 minutes
without a first down. With the game on the line in the first
three quarters, Kansas City gained only 170 yards. And in the
fourth quarter Steve Bono, The Man Who Follows Joe Montana,
handed the Browns two touchdowns on interceptions that were
returned for scores.
The only proven offensive playmaker on this team, Marcus Allen,
got poked in the eye on the Chiefs' first series and did not
return. After the game his left eye was partially closed, the
white of his eye was so solidly red that you could barely see
the eyeball, and there was a nasty cut underneath the eyebrow.
"I won't miss any time," he said. "I'll be fine."
The other Chiefs were talking bravely as well, but they knew
they were outclassed in this game. After starting 3-0 they had
hoped for a more consistent offensive effort, but the Browns,
who led the league in fewest points allowed last year and will
be contenders for that distinction again this season, never let
Bono get anything going. "We just never got into a rhythm," Bono
said. "We just didn't get anything done on third down." Or
second. Or first. The day's truest words were spoken by Kansas
City coach Marty Schottenheimer. "We were ultimately a victim of
our own limitations," he said.
Those limitations include the inconsistency of Bono, who has
looked alternately very good and mediocre through the first four
weeks; a receiving corps averaging a below-average 9.4 yards per
completion; and a backfield left short when Allen is not
available. The key for the Chiefs, if they're going to be
playing into January, has to be mistake-free football, which
they're very good at. In the '90s they lead the NFL in turnover
ratio with a +80 margin, 41 ahead of the runner-up Giants. There
will be days like Sunday because they don't have the playmakers
to prevent the occasional avalanche. They just have to make sure
there aren't too many.
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID LIAM KYLE Even with the addition of Webster Slaughter (85), the Chiefs have dropped in offensive production.