COLUMN: Defense Continues To Mature

From Arrowhead Stadium

Sometimes you wonder how Romeo Crennel does it.

Yes, the Chiefs are 5-2 and still atop the AFC West. And yes, they are winning games more often with their defense than any other part of their team.

But when you look at the individual parts of this 2010 Chiefs defense, it does not seem possible. Let’s start with a fairly pedestrian defensive line, where only Glenn Dorsey has much of a future in the league and where journeyman Shaun Smith is having the season of his career. Then there are the linebackers, an improved group from recent seasons but still lacking a pass rushing punch to go with Tamba Hali. Plus, it turns out that ILB Derrick Johnson may have the worst hands in the league, after dropping two more interception chances that were right in his mitts. And, then there are the two rookie safeties on the back line.

But once again on another Sunday afternoon, Crennel mixed and matched and pulled the right strings and the defense was the key to the 13-10 overtime victory against Buffalo.

“Thank goodness for our defense,” said Chiefs QB Matt Cassel. “They really played well throughout the game.”


For the better part of three quarters it was a dominating performance for the Chiefs defense. They had kept the Bills out of the end zone, they had shut down their running game and they made QB Ryan Fitzpatrick look like the journeyman that he’s been throughout his career.

“Like I’ve been saying all year, we’re a defense that bends but doesn’t break,” said Smith. “Romeo is putting us in good positions and guys are making good plays. We’re getting better overall as a team.”

Crennel used three different defenses in this game. There was the base 3-4 defense that was probably on the field the least of the trio of alignments. There was the nickel, which the Chiefs started the game playing and used the most. That brought CB Javier Arenas on the field and took ILB Jovan Belcher off. The Chiefs also varied how they lined up their defensive line in the nickel, sometimes putting ends Glenn Dorsey and Wallace Gilberry next to each other, with Ron Edwards in a defensive tackle spot and OLB Tamba Hali basically playing defensive end.

And then Crennel used their dime defense, that’s essentially a 2-3-6. Vrabel leaves the field and is replaced by S Jon McGraw (in the first half) or S Donald Washington (in the second half) and OLB Andy Studebaker comes in and Edwards leaves the field.

Back and forth between the nickel and dime is what the defense did the most. Buffalo went with a lot of four wide receiver packages and at several points even went with five wide and an empty backfield.

The pass rush from Hali, Gilberry and Studebaker was steady throughout the game. Crennel called some blitzes, but generally the extra pass rushers were coming from one side of the formation. Fitzpatrick simply threw to the other side away from the blitz when he sensed it coming.

When Buffalo started its first possession of the fourth quarter they had just 133 yards in total offense on 46 plays, a putrid 2.9 yards per play. The Chiefs were some 12 minutes away from a darn near perfect defensive performance.

But the other guys get paid too, and the Bills have some players like WR Lee Evans and RB Fred Jackson. Young WR Steve Johnson is slowly building a name for himself. Fitzpatrick took this group on a 15-play, 83-yard drive that knocked in the tying score on a four-yard TD pass to Johnson.

That one failure set up a final 17 minutes where the Chiefs defense stepped up in four different situations and kept giving their team a chance at victory:

  • On the Bills last possession of regulation they reached the Chiefs 41-yard line, before SS Eric Berry picked off a Fitzpatrick pass that slipped out of the quarterback’s hands.
  • When Buffalo won the coin toss in OT and had first chance with the ball, the Chiefs gave up a 13-yard pass and then a 15-yard penalty on OLB Mike Vrabel for grabbing a facemask. The 28-yard play moved the Bills to the Chiefs 43-yard line. But they allowed only three yards on the next three plays and Buffalo punted.
  • They faced a 1st-and-10 play at the Chiefs 37-yard line and allowed just three yards on three plays. Buffalo K Rian Lindell tried a 53-yard FG, but missed.
  • On the Bills final possession of the game, they picked up a pair of first downs before the defense shut the door on three straight Fitzpatrick passes and forced a punt.

In the end the numbers were not as pretty as they could have been had the Chiefs not struggled so much in the fourth quarter. But they hung in there, they were resilient and that’s a trait that every defense needs in bunches to be successful in today’s NFL.

“Some bad things occurred and you didn’t see any kind of indication that our guys were affected by it and that’s real important for us as we go forward,” said Haley.

What will be most important is that Romeo Crennel keeps shuffling his defensive deck and moving his mirrors and blowing a little smoke now and then. It’s the defense that’s pushing this team towards what was once an improbable idea of a run to the playoffs

13 Responses to “COLUMN: Defense Continues To Mature”

  • October 31, 2010  - el cid says:

    Not sure but seemed the “smoke and mirrors” only worked for the first half. Second half Buffalo seemed to have a lot of it figured out.

    0-5 team stuck with the Chiefs, not the best coaching by any Chiefs coaches.

  • October 31, 2010  - Rick says:

    The glass is always half empty it seems.

  • October 31, 2010  - Paul says:

    Next week a good old fashion Chiefs vs Raiders game. Can’t wait to see how the Chiefs react and hopefully get a big AFC West win. Next week is for 1st place !

  • October 31, 2010  - Edward says:

    Yea defense playing lights out. El cid. Bills have a really good offense no defense was going to continue to just shut them down. Ask Baltimore who gave up 34 pts to Bills. I mean Bills have 3 really good big, fast, and good hands receivers. Along with good running game with CJ and Fred Jackson. Along with Fitzpatrick having a career season. They may have found themselves a future QB if he keeps it up. So el cid don’t get down on defense giving up few big plays late to the Bills. They’re offense isn’t the reason they are winless at least not since Fitzpatrick took over at QB.

    As for defense outstanding performance. Crennel has done a good job getting Dorsey to play like a 5pick in draft. Along with DJ playing like a 1st rd pick. Safety position is not giving up big plays deep. Still a few mental breakdowns but its becoming less and less each week.

    AS for Raiders this coming Sunday. It will be biggest game of season. We have a chance to create a little more separation from them Sunday.

  • October 31, 2010  - Thomas says:

    The Chiefs defense has been the foundation to this years team. Crennel has done a fantastic job with these young players. They will only get better the more they play together.
    Haley just needs to stop being the High-roller gambler on his fourth down decisions.

  • October 31, 2010  - napahank says:


    I don’t understand the marginalizing of a mostly young defense in their first year with a new DC. I was only frustrated by the zone “bend but don’t break” defense but hey-it works more than it doesn’t!

    Finally, DJ INT attempt on one pass was on his back shoulder. Isn’t this the same DJ that we have been marveling at his catching ability (3 INT for 3 TDs) going back to Denver game?

    Receivers who know the ball is coming to them drop more than DJ.

    Show some love Bob…show some love (to your 5-2 Chiefs!)

  • October 31, 2010  - Michael says:

    No doubt Crennel, along with the entire Chiefs coaching staff, is doing remarkable work. But, I wouldn’t call it smoke and mirrors. The Chiefs have a lot of young talent that just keeps getting better. I’d say most of them have a future in the league. DJ continues to play at a pro-bowl level. His overall game against the Bills was excellent. Many linebackers wouldn’t even have been in position to get their hands on the ball like Johnson did in those two plays. If he continues get good position, he will have plenty more passes that he will intercept.

  • November 1, 2010  - No Trick, Just Treat As Chiefs Get 13-10 OT Victory | Chiefs Football at says:

    [...] COLUMN: Romeo Crennel is pushing the right buttons. [...]

  • November 1, 2010  - Tracy says:

    At this point, Romeo Crennel seems to be the single most important addition to the team. He is molding a lot of young talent and mixing up his schemes with a maestro’s wizardry.

    But we should not forget the presence of Emmitt Thomas. We don’t know just what it is that he does during the game, or at practice in the week leading up to the game but it is sure to have a positive impact. He, after all, was an undrafted player who ended up in the NFL HOF so he has a lot of hard earned wisdom to impart to young talents like Eric Berry, Javier Arenas, Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr,

    Next Sunday’s game in Oakland promises to be something of a revival of a languishing rivalry. Go Chiefs!

  • November 1, 2010  - Dan says:

    Don’t forget Emmett Thomas. He has good talent, yes but he has improved the fundamentals of the secondary tremendously

  • November 1, 2010  - RW says:

    I think RAC’s schemes have been marvelous, especially the D against the run. It sure would be nice to have another edge rusher to complement Hali. Speaking of that I heard an announcer on the Vikings/Patties game say that Jared Allen has put in extra film work with his DC to try and figure out why his (Allen’s) pass rush hasn’t gotten many sacks of late.

    Allen could be advised to talk with his old sack partner, Hali, to get some advice? Hali’s motor is amazing.

  • November 1, 2010  - el cid says:

    I agree with everyone. NFL Channel mentioned Crennel normally plays a bend don’t break defense. It work as long as the other team makes a mistake somewhere along the line. Try it on our offense and Cassel and RBs would have a field day, why?, because, in general, they do not make mistakes. Guess what that is what we face next sunday. I predict the Raider game will the the judge for the season. It is on the road, they run the ball, and have a good front 7 on defense. We win and the sky is the limit.

  • November 1, 2010  - jim says:

    Some like trying to build the Raider game as “THE” game to define our young, improving team, but by doing that you emphasize a win too much and you give a loss more importance than is necessary. One team, and one win does not a season or personality of a team make.

    It’s just another game out of 16 to prepare for, and next week will be ‘just’ another game to prepare for. The fun thing about this week is that it’s the RAIDERS – that’s why the emotion is high for the fans, but I’m sure (hope) there is plenty of saneness and stability in the coaches and players preparation for this game.

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