Defense In Search Of Big Plays … Friday Cup O’Chiefs

Is the Chiefs 2011 defense really 89 points bad?

That’s the number of points Buffalo and Detroit scored against the Chiefs in the season’s first two games. All of those came from the Bills and Lions offenses. There are no special teams scores, no Chiefs turnovers returned for touchdowns. All 11 touchdowns were scored against the Kansas City defense.

“You are what you are,” said SS Jon McGraw. “Those are the numbers; we can’t ask for a recount.”

But football is not that simple. It’s a game where offense, defense and special teams are like interlocking fingers of two fists. It’s seldom as simple as the defense completely lost the game, or the offense was totally responsible for the game’s outcome. Problems on one side of the ball can drop a string of dominos in another facet of the game.

There’s no doubt 11 touchdowns have been scored against Todd Haley and Romeo Crennel’s defense. But consider where opposing teams began some of those scoring drives – the Chiefs 45, 34, 32, 28, 26, 23 and 18-yard lines. That’s seven scoring drives that began on the Chiefs’ side of the 50-yard line.

On the 11 touchdown drives, the average starting field position was the Chiefs 42-yard line.

“I’m not looking at it as the defense gave up this amount of points because when the ball is turned over and a lot of the things that have gone on, I don’t know that you can necessarily put your defense in some of those positions on a series-after-series situation,” said head coach Todd Haley.

Defending a short field is something that every NFL defense faces a couple of times a game. But the Chiefs defense is getting smacked with a short field nearly every quarter. As the scoreboard shows, they haven’t been very successful.

“Our job is to step up and handle whatever situation we get,” said defensive end Wallace Gilberry. “If we just take some of those short fields and hold them to field goals instead of giving up touchdowns, maybe that changes the way we feel about what’s happened. I don’t think anybody’s just driven the ball down the field against us.”

Only one of the 11 touchdowns scored had a drive of at least 10 plays and of more than 84 yards. That was a 10-play, 84-yard drive the Lions put together in the third quarter that pushed them to a 27-3 lead with just 77 seconds left in the period.

“That drive was the only time in two games where we just couldn’t get off the field,” said CB Brandon Flowers. “Most of the time it seems like they convert one first down and they are in field goal range.”

The Chiefs continue to use the 3-4 defense as their base scheme, but they’ve spent far more time in a 2-3-6 setup that’s really a 2-4-5 since McGraw plays a linebacker position. They are allowing 387.5 yards per game, broken down to 126 rushing yards and 261.5 passing yards. Those numbers are not the signs of a successful defense. Last year, they allowed 330 yards per game (110 rushing/220 passing).

What’s hurting the defensive performance is a lack of big plays from the Chiefs defenders. NFL teams with good defenses thrive on making the type of plays that can turn a game around in a single snap. Those are not happening with Haley’s defense. In two games, they have:

  • Just one sack, by OLB Tamba Hali, last in the league.
  • A total of 10 quarterback pressures, half by Hali.
  • Only two takeaways, with interceptions by McGraw and Flowers, tied for 23rd.
  • No fumbles recovered, tied for last in the league.

A lot of this is a carryover from last season, when the defense was also short on big plays. They had 23 takeaways and 38 sacks and the defense scored three touchdowns in 2010. That was the best performance by the Chiefs defense in several seasons and the sack total was K.C.’s best since 2004. But only once or twice in the last 50 years did they finish the season with as few takeaways as they did last year.

The pace they are on now would be record setting in defensive futility, not only on a franchise basis but on the league level as well in sacks and takeaways.

“Putting pressure on the quarterback is paramount in this league when teams are throwing; especially really good passing teams like we’ve seen the last few weeks and we’ll see this weekend,” Haley said.

But other than Hali, where is that pressure going to come from? The only other consistent pass rusher with pressure has been nickel back Javier Arenas, who missed a sack in Detroit when he couldn’t get Lions QB Matt Stafford on the ground. Gilberry has been on the field a lot because the sub-defense has seen so much time, but he’s credited with just one QB pressures.

“I’ll stand by what I said back in training camp, that we have more pass rush or pressure players on campus than we have [had] to date,” Haley said, referencing outside linebackers like Cameron Sheffield, Justin Houston and Andy Studebaker.

The only problem is that Studebaker nerves gets on the field anymore for defensive plays, and Houston is the starter, but he comes out when the Chiefs go to their sub-defense. That’s when Sheffield comes in and works the side opposite of Hali. None of those three has been credited with even a quarterback pressure in two games.

“In the Detroit game, in the fringe, Javier comes free and we’ve just got to make those plays,” Haley said. “That’s no different than holding on to the football or intercepting a ball or stopping somebody and holding them short of the marker when you have them tackled. We’ve got to get sacks when we have opportunities. If we miss those, those are generally momentum turners for a game.”

Right now the Chiefs need as many “momentum turners” as they can get.

“We’ve got to get that guy on the ground,” Gilberry said of the opposing quarterback. “That’s what it’s all about in the NFL, the quarterbacks. Teams are giving everything to protect their guy. It’s getting harder and harder to get your hands on them.

“But we have to find a way.”

19 Responses to “Defense In Search Of Big Plays … Friday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • September 23, 2011  - Chuck says:

    11 touchdowns given up by the defense in the first 2 games but no one has pointed any fingers whatsoever at Romeo. We are all “searching” for answers and just maybe its so many different things that you can’t put your finger on just one thing.

  • September 23, 2011  - TDKC says:

    What about the penalties. There were several drives extended by Chiefs defensive penalties. To me a flag thrown against you on a third down play is almost like a turnover. When Dorsey was called for roughing the passer I almost jumped through my TV.

    Special teams did it too. Running into the kicker. Instead of punting they got a 1st down.

    It is even more maddening when you see Tamba getting held on every other play. They never call those.

  • September 23, 2011  - Michael says:

    Thanks Bob.

  • September 23, 2011  - Dave Worthington says:

    TDKC totally agree, Hali get held so many times and some are so obvious. Guee he still doesn’t have the big name recognition where call just don’t go his way.

  • September 23, 2011  - pharmer says:

    I’m wondering what’s going on with the Houston/Sheffield/ Stude situation. I agree that the younger guys may be better athletes and have more upside, but at least Studebaker got a little pressure on the QB part of the time last year.

  • September 23, 2011  - el cid says:

    It is hard to point to one phase as to blame for the first two games. If preseason had been more about playing less about conditioning, if the offense had used more clock and scored occassionally then the defense would have been fresher, if the OC was better, the DC would have been better. On and on, football is one of the last sports were team makes the difference.

    Now we need to face SD. The Chiefs can win if, somehow, they can function as a team. I just have no idea what they could have done this last week to change things. What does Horne bring to the table, will Baldwin ever get on the field, can hide the S position better this weak? Tons of question and not a lot of answer. Based on media, the team is practicing but not even sure what that means.

  • September 23, 2011  - ED J says:

    Because of lack of ball security going on the offense side and the inability to score pts or sustain drives is killing our defense. Bottom line though fair or unfair the only way we have chance to win game Sunday is for our defense to create turnovers for touchdowns. Whether it be a pick 6 or fumble recovery for a touchdown. 1 sack is embarrassing though. Houston or Sheffield are going have to step up. I know they’re young and are rookies (I know Sheffield isn’t but he didn’t play reg. season game last yr) but we need those guys to help Tamba out.

    Unfortunately that’s the way it is. With offense averaging an embarrassing 5 pts per game we need pts from the defensive side. Especially against the teams with good to elite QB.

  • September 23, 2011  - el cid says:

    Not sure how Crennel hides the shortcoming at S and still get sacks. When a LB crashes into the offensive backfield, the S position is on a island and has to step up. Do not think Mcgraw or Sabby can do that. The dropoff from starter (Berry) to backup is well past acceptable. But that is what the Chiefs have in place for this year. To ask the defense to score may be an impossible task.

    The offense must stay on the field and score. Punting and field position may have a more important role. The defense will need to stay off the field and hang on for dear life.

  • September 23, 2011  - ED J says:

    To ask Matt Cassel to score is more impossible than to ask the defense el cid. He had 36 attempts 122 measley yards along with averaging 5pts a game. So I think defense is closer to points than the offense. Also we’re going need big play out of special teams. We’re going to be able to run the ball but we better get pts from special teams and defense to win Sun or its going to be another blowout. Maybe not 45-3 more like 35-10

  • September 23, 2011  - Jimbo says:

    Winning any game in the NFL is difficult even if the game is a 5-0 team against a 0-5 team. The outcome of that game will either be a predicted victory or a major upset. As we know, the game of football is a combination of many tangibles ie: players, players availability, coaches, play selection, talent level, luck, timing and execution.
    The NFL is the best of the best of sorts and all those tangibles need to be in some sort of harmony. You would think with all the parity of lets say 20 teams in any given season that there is a 1 in 20 chance one of those teams becomes a Superbowl Champion. The champion can be determined by the consistency of said “harmony” especially if that consistent “harmony” is sounding sweet the last 5 games of the season.
    I’m not sure if I can make a point here that is Chiefs related. I will say this though, “harmony” up to this point is a distant planet in the Chiefs universe. “How, If or When” this year we locate that distant planet depends heavily on those tangibles. I for one hope that expedition starts this Sunday.
    Go Chiefs.

  • September 23, 2011  - Blake says:

    Houston has been playing a lot but I cant remember him rushing the passer much? Instead it is Sheffield, who is good but not nearly as talented as Houston is. I think a big problem is the way Romeo runs his defense. It has never been an aggressive, turnover making defense. It is very conservative, I think we need to find a young defensive coordinator who wants a chance and is someone that is much more aggressive, to get turnovers and sacks.

  • September 23, 2011  - Steve says:

    Bob – do you expect KC to figure out a way to get Houston on the field in passing situations, perhaps along with Sheffield and Hali? Maybe remove Piscatelli, drop McGraw back and have Houston

  • September 23, 2011  - el cid says:

    ED – in the NFL, Offenses are who are supposed to score points and just do not see anyway the Chiefs can success for more than a qtr if defense is the scoring unit. A TD here or there but the offense has to do its job or we lose. If the Chiefs win the offense will need 17 points and the defense has to hold SD to 14, more or less.

    Steve, good idea but to late, that should have been done during the preseason (really before during the lockout by planning). Remove Sabby and Mcgraw and you only have one safety, fresh meat for SD. Crennel has to get Houston and/or Shefield in the spot where they can do some good. It looks like Crennel has lost some faith with the “talent” provided for his defenses.

  • September 23, 2011  - ED J says:

    el cid our i agree with you totally. But what evidence have you seen from Cassel this season or last 2 games last yr he’s capbable of leading 2 or 3 touchdown drives early in games. Its not going happen. Our best weapon for scoring touchdowns Charles is gone. We may can move the ball down the field a little bit with our run game without Charles but Cassel hasn’t proved he’s capable of putting up explosive play threw the air. No need to think that is going change Sunday. We’re going to need special teams and defense score pts. IS IT unconventional way to win games yes but that’s all we can depend on with a offense that’s averaging 5pts per game.

  • September 23, 2011  - leonard says:

    Facts. The offense is the part of a team that scores points. This offense is not. Turn the ball over on your side of the field cost points. Like 89 of them. You can blame the defense all you want, but they are not miracle workers. I would like to see the refs call holding against Hali just once. They are just about undressing him, and they are getting away with it. Why? Can anyone answer that? Cassel has to start moving this offense, or he should be benched. He has to be the biggest underachiever in the NFL so far this year. 10 points. That is pitiful. He as about as many turnovers.
    Chiefs pull out a victory Sunday. Go Chiefs

  • September 23, 2011  - ED J says:

    Fair or unfair defense and special teams are the only thing we can rely on to tip scale in this game. Know way you can rely on Cassel moving the ball consistently down the field with his arm. Most we can hope for is alot turnovers by our defense Mcluster or Arenas taking a couple returns to the house. And the offense controlling clock with another 100 yard plus rushing day. In which hopefully one of them can break one to the house. Outside of all that hoping Cassel is going to have 3-4 passing touchdown day or even that he can throw for 250 yards threw the air is like hoping to win the lottery it ain’t gone happen.

  • September 23, 2011  - ED J says:

    i’m not saying its right guys by putting this kind pressure on special teams and defense but what else are we going to do. Until Cassel have 5 or 6 more bad games he’s not going get replaced this early. ONly thing we can hope for is for other facets of our team make for his inability to play QB position at a high level

  • September 23, 2011  - el cid says:

    Everyone has to hang onto the ball.

    Special teams will have to be more about field position. Returners cannot come out of the end zone and get tackled on the 5 yard line, know your limitations. Returners do not run sideways, go north. Kicker, if you can get a chance, make the damned kick. Punter, record day, get it off quickly and deep.

  • September 24, 2011  - cychief24 says:

    As usual, ED J has nothing to add to the discussion other than hate for Cassel. Any relation to Rin/tin/tin?

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