From Arrowhead Stadium
It has been slow in coming together, this 2010 Chiefs defense. New coordinator Romeo Crennel is still learning about the talents of his players and he and the defensive staff are still fitting the pieces together.
What we saw Friday night against the Philadelphia Eagles is a lot closer to what Crennel and head coach Todd Haley have in mind for this defense that has been so bad in recent seasons.
“We’ve been in pads 31 days (of the pre-season),” Haley said after the game. “The reason you’re in pads for 31 days is to be a physical football team. I think that tonight you saw that coming out and I think that’s a good sign for our team and a good sign of the direction we’re going.”
The Chiefs went out on defense and did two things they had not done in two previous pre-season games. They got a sack, five of them in fact, and they forced a turnover, as rookie safety Kendrick Lewis picked off a Philadelphia pass. The Chiefs offense was able to use that takeaway to get a touchdown.
In the final accounting, the Chiefs defense allowed 271 yards, with 106 in the running game. But 80 of those 271 yards came on the final drive of the game, against the No. 3 defense. They chased Eagles QB Kevin Kolb out of the game with four sacks and an interception, as he was just 11 of 25 for 103 yards.
There was pressure on Kolb for the entire game and it was coming from expected sources at linebacker, guys like Tamba Hali and Mike Vrabel spent a lot of time forcing Kolb to adjust. But it was Andy Studebaker and Demorrio Williams that got the Philly QB on the ground, as they each had two sacks.
Several times, including on at least one of their two sacks, Studebaker and Williams ran untouched through the Eagles protection to take down Kolb.
“We had some success, no doubt about it,” said Studebaker. “When opportunities arrive and coach puts us in those positions, it is up to us to make the plays. I think we did a good job tonight as far as that goes.”
Kolb does not have the mobility of former Eagles QB Donovan McNabb, so several times he could not get out of the way of a collapsing pocket. OTs Winston Justice and Jason Peters struggled all night, especially in trying to handle Hali. At least twice, it seemed Hali had his hands on Kolb but could not get him to the ground.
“We have the players who can do that,” Williams said. “Getting five sacks is really important for us. When you put the pressure on the quarterback, it gives all of us a chance to make plays and get things done.”
As he has throughout the pre-season, Crennel tinkered a bit with some of his pairings. Rookie OLB Cameron Sheffield started in the nickel defense, stepping in for Studebaker, who eventually returned to that spot. At ILB Williams and Corey Mays started, but it was the duo of Derrick Johnson and Jovan Belcher that got the most snaps. At one point in the second half, Williams and Belcher were matched up.
First-round draft choice Eric Berry showed up far more often in this game that the last two outings. Berry was all over the field in coverage and running down Eagles rushers. But it was his fellow rookie that got the only takeaway of the season so far for the Chiefs defense.
“We blitzed them a little and guys were getting free, making plays and applying pressure,” said Lewis. “We were able to do some good things with our defense.”
Only at the end of the game, with the No. 3 defense on the field did the Chiefs really falter against the Eagles. They gave up the winning touchdown and that was painful to a team that was hoping to enjoy a rare victory.
“What we did tonight was establish what we can do,” said DE Glenn Dorsey. “Now, we have to back it up and get better the next time.”