AFC West: Thigpen Gives Chiefs Hope

(Sports Network) - The bad news for the Kansas City Chiefs is that they lost yet another football game, falling to 1-6 in a 28-24 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday.

The good news, for those who wish to find it, is that Tyler Thigpen is in fact a living, breathing NFL quarterback.

That fact was certainly debatable in Thigpen's first start, against the Falcons back in Week 3. The second-year-pro put up a 23.8 passer rating in that game, a 38-14 loss, following which he was politely kicked back down the depth chart where it seemed he belonged.

Then, when Brodie Croyle (knee) and Damon Huard (hand) were lost for the season in a Week 7 loss to the Titans, Thigpen was cast back in the spotlight basically by default, though it seemed to some that he was just temporarily filling a void until someone more dependable could be signed and acquainted with Chan Gailey's offensive system.

The oddsmakers certainly thought little of Thigpen heading into the contest. They installed the Chiefs as 13-point underdogs at the Meadowlands, and Kansas City was a popular pick to fall in "suicide" leagues from coast to coast.

Thigpen thumbed his nose at the critics in the defeat, completing 25-of-36 passes for 280 yards with two touchdowns and zero turnovers, and was another legendary Brett Favre drive from establishing his first win as an NFL starter. The Coastal Carolina product's 280 yards were the most by a Kansas City quarterback this season, and his 110.9 rating was the best by a Chiefs signal- caller on the road since last year.

What's more, Thigpen proved that he can keep Kansas City in a football game against a quality opponent, which is handy given that he's likely to start against four of them - the Buccaneers, Chargers, Saints, and Bills - in his next four games.

"Tyler played outstanding," said Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez, who caught six passes for 79 yards and a touchdown. "He played better than I thought he was going to play. I know he surprised everybody. I don't care what anybody said, if they thought he was going to go out there and play the way he did then they're lying. That's a credit to him. He just came out and said who cares what all the critics think. He had good practices all week, but the way he came out and played today, I'm so proud of him and I think you have to give credit to the coaches for putting him in a position to be successful."

Thigpen's embattled head coach was equally encouraged by the performance.

"I thought Tyler, for his second start, did a good job," said Herm Edwards, who lost to his former team for the second time in his last eight games dating back to last season. "He gave us a chance to win. He didn't turn the ball over. He didn't do everything perfectly, but he played pretty good against a good defense.

"He had some confidence. We did some things he felt comfortable doing. I thought the no-huddle helped him. He made some throws and got us going. We were able to score points, and it became a game of just playing football. That was good to see for us. We haven't played that well offensively in a while."

Indeed, the team's shift to a shotgun-oriented, fast-paced approach seemed to pay dividends for the mobile Thigpen, who had looked out of place in a scheme designed for the less athletic Huard and Croyle. Thigpen scrambled four times for 20 yards in the contest, and his mobility was a credit to a team that still possesses a paper-thin offensive line.

"We did a couple of different things in the gun today," said Thigpen. "We just wanted to get me back away a bit... We also had some runs out of the gun. It was just something to change the pace and switch things up a little bit. It's obviously what I ran in college for anyone who knows that. It's more comfortable."

After Sunday's effort, Thigpen predicted his comfort level would only increase, good news for Chiefs fans who had watched one of the weakest offenses in team history operate for the first six games.

"Yes, definitely," said Thigpen when asked if his confidence level would increase. "The job has been handed to me to go and play football. I'm going to take advantage of that.

BRONCOS: The Broncos' bye week certainly could have gone worse. In addition to having the ability to lick its many wounds following an injury-laden, 41-7 humiliation at New England last Monday night, Denver also watched as all three of its competitors in the AFC West lost in Week 8.

Denver (4-3) will head into Sunday's contest against Miami with a two-game lead over San Diego (3-5) in the loss column, and that's the kind of distance a team with mounting injuries and a 1-3 record in its last four games undoubtedly needs.

On the injury front, the Broncos will have to learn to adjust with life without Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey (groin) and his brother, starting outside linebacker Boss Bailey (knee). The former Bailey is out 4-6 weeks with a groin tear sustained against the Patriots, and the latter is done for the year.

Given that the Broncos rank near the bottom of the league in basically every meaningful defensive category, Denver had better get used to needing lots of points in order to find the win column.

To that end, Mike Shanahan's club is in improving condition. Quarterback Jay Cutler (finger) has experienced no lingering effects from the injury that hampered him in New England. Slot receiver Brandon Stokley (concussion) appears set to return after a one-game absence, and tight end Tony Scheffler (groin) could also be back following two missed contests. In addition to those players, ex-Patriot Chad Jackson was signed to bolster the receiving corps on Monday.

The running game has also received a shot in the arm, with promising rookie Ryan Torain (elbow) set to return after going down in the preseason. Michael Pittman (ribs) and Selvin Young (groin) also appear to be healing.

"Right now I think everybody is upbeat and looking forward to finishing the season off the right way," said Stokley. "We are in control of our own destiny. We just have to go out there and play good football - that is the bottom line for us."

CHARGERS: Talk all you want about the decreased production of LaDainian Tomlinson, but the Chargers are a 3-5 football team primarily because of the poor play of the defense.

Sunday's 37-32 loss to the Saints in London was yet another horror show on that side of the ball for Norv Turner's club. Drew Brees completed 30-of-41 passes for 339 yards with three touchdowns against San Diego, and was not sacked all afternoon. A Chargers team that led the NFL in takeaways last season forced nary a miscue from New Orleans, and has just one in its last three games.

And this was no isolated incident, as San Diego's numbers seem to grow uglier by the week. The Chargers head into the bye week ranked last in the NFL against the pass (265.1 yards per game), tied for last in touchdown passes allowed (14), 28th in total defense (371.6 yards per game) and 23rd in scoring defense (24.9 points per game).

San Diego ranks middle-of-the-pack in sacks with 17, but it is clear that the lack of a bona fide pass rushing difference-maker like Shawne Merriman has had a trickle-down effect for a secondary that continues to struggle in coverage and is rarely in position to make big plays.

After the defeat, Turner vowed to get things fixed.

"We do have a bye," said Turner. "We have some time and we need to come up with some things in terms of helping our guys physically rush the passer and schematically find a way to put pressure on the quarterback."

RAIDERS: Raiders interim head coach Tom Cable was asked a seemingly odd question in his Monday press conference, strange in that it came just a day after Oakland dropped to 2-5 with a thorough 29-10 beating at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.

The question dealt with the AFC West race, something Oakland hasn't been a meaningful part of since their last Super Bowl year of 2002, and something that, based on the two blowout losses they've suffered in the past three games, the Silver and Black don't seem intent on joining.

Then again, is such a question all that crazy?

The Broncos (4-3) are about as flawed a football team as you'll find atop a division at this point in a season, and the Chargers (3-5) aren't playing any defense and look to be a shell of their former selves. The Chiefs (1-6) played well at the Jets this past week but their schedule is about to get much tougher.

Then there are the Raiders, who get their next two games (Atlanta, Carolina) at home. Beyond that is what could be a manageable road date at Miami and a trip to Denver, where Oakland lost in overtime last season. A navigable five- game stretch finishes on Nov. 30 with a home date against the Chiefs.

Yes, this is the most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL (all of sports?), but can you rule out a surprising run from an Oakland team that does possess some talent? Clearly, Cable isn't.

"We don't put it out of our minds," said Cable of the division race. "We talked about it [Monday]. Why wouldn't we talk about it? It's anybody's deal right now. Both Kansas City and San Diego got beat [Sunday], we got beat [Sunday], nothing really changed. Denver had a bye so here we are kind of set where we went into this weekend. I don't think you really can put that out of your mind, because if you don't ultimately have that as your prize then what are you doing this for?

"I believe in this football team, I believe in the men on this football team. I think part of the motivation thing is because I do care so much about them. I see what they put into it. I see how much they like each other. How much they have fun at practice and in the weight room and when we travel. I know the pieces are there for success. I think it's up to the coaches and players together, to put it together."

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