Greater Tests Remain for Chiefs’ Rejuvenated Defense
: There are still greater tests
In year four, the defense of the Kansas City Chiefs has been criticized a lot by Steve Spagnuolo (defensive coordinator). Things began to normalize after some big plays were made and the team appeared ahead of schedule early in the year. The unit’s shortcomings were then exposed. Spagnuolo’s team was difficult to follow for several weeks.
Santa Claus brought a competent — if not just plain-out — Santa Claus against the Seattle Seahawks on Christmas Eve. Good— defense with him and dropped it off in Arrowhead Stadium.
The visiting team did not score a first down until the second quarter. Seattle failed to gain 100 yards in the first half and struggled to move it down the field with any consistency. The game was won by the Seahawks’ GenoSmith-led offense. They went 2-for-14 on third down, averaging just 4.6 yards per play. This despite holding the ball for more than 35 minutes, compared to Kansas City’s 24.58. What were the Chiefs’ secrets to success?
There were many factors that contributed to this level of defensive dominance. Spagnuolo created a quality game plan, and his players executed it well. Spagnuolo’s decision not to allow L’Jarius Sneed, cornerback, to follow DK Metcalf, was uncharacteristic but it worked. Sneed was able to work with the team’s rookie cornerback group to make some impressive run stops in the secondary. Juan Thornhill recorded an interception, while Justin Reid had eight tackles.
Willie Gay Jr. was a great linebacker and flew around the field like an aggressive missile. He made many key plays that showed his athleticism and aggressive mindset. Although Nick Bolton was not a great coverage guy, he still managed 17 tackles and got in on the action elsewhere. This week’s Kansas City starting duo at second level lived up to the hype.
The duo of George Karlaftis on the edge and Frank Clark up front was outstanding. Karlaftis had a batted catch and his rookie-year total of sacks was 4.5. Clark’s run defense was also outstanding on many occasions. Chris Jones, a Pro Bowler, was nothing short of exceptional on the interior. The star defensive tackle recorded eight pressures, a career record.per Next Gen Stats) and will reach 12 sacks by 2022.
This improvement of one week can be at least partially attributed to players playing to their expectations. Spagnuolo has seen some improvement in his defense in recent games. Here’s Kansas City’s ranking for the year in There are several statistical defense categories. rbsdm.com:
- EPA/play: 17th (0.014)
- Success Rate: 12th (43.3%)
- Dropback EPA: 18th (0.60)
- Dropback Success Rate: 10th (44.7%)
- Rush EPA: 16th (0.075)
- Rush Success Rate: 14th (40.6%)
Let’s now take a look at these same metricsSince the bye week:
- EPA/play: 13th (-0.018)
- Success Rate: Third (40%)
- Dropback EPA: 12th (0.133)
- Dropback Success Rate: 4th (41.5%)
- Rush EPA: 18th (0.073)
- Rush Success Rate: 8th (36.7%)
This is real, tangible progress. This must be said, however, that quality of opponent must also be considered. In Week 9, the Chiefs faced the Tennessee Titans in only Malik Willis’ second career start. They faced the Matthew Stafford-less Los Angeles Rams later that month in their first career start for Bryce Perkins. They also gave up 28 points to the Denver Broncos in Week 14, and 24 to the now competitive Houston Texans in their next game. This comparison needs context.
However, there are some things that can be improved no matter who is on the opposing side of the field. The Chiefs’ defense was competent in tackling the Seahawks. They were able to improve their pursuit angles, tackle better, handle physicality, and limit mental lapses. Spagnuolo’s team is still a formidable unit after their win against the Seattle team without Tyler Lockett. However, this is not to be overlooked.
One important takeaway from Saturday’s match is that the Chiefs’ defense showed some improvement in Week 16. It is important to remember that the Chiefs’ defense did show some improvement in Week 16. However, it will not prove that things have “fixed” with their upcoming games against the Broncos or Las Vegas Raiders. In just a few weeks, this Spagnuolo-coached team will face playoff-caliber opposition. Is this a legit Chiefs defense? Those The ultimate test will be games.
Continue reading: After the Christmas Eve win, Chiefs are far from complacent
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.