Romeo Adjusts Defense … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs

It happened in the first quarter of the first game of the 2011 season.

Buffalo WR Stevie Johnson threw a cheap cut block downfield at Eric Berry’s knee, blowing out his ACL and ending his season before it even began.

It also ended months of preparation, work and scheming by Chiefs defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. After Berry turned in such a good performance in his rookie season, one that earned him a ticket to the Pro Bowl, Crennel used the off-season to create a defensive plan that would take full advantage of Berry’s talents.

Then, not even five minutes into the season, Berry was done and so were a whole lot of defensive ideas. Crennel went back to the drawing board, save for one problem – the season did not stop to allow him time to revamp. Five games would be in the books before he had a chance during the bye week to really look at the changes he made.

And in the last two weeks, Crennel the defensive mastermind has fielded one of the most productive defenses in the league. While the Chiefs offense continues to be a work in progress, the defense is the side of the ball that has keyed the four-game winning streak. After giving up 89 points in the first two games, they’ve allowed 81 points in the last five games and just 20 points in the last two.

That improvement has been recognized not only in the standings and statistics, but by the selection of CB Brandon Flowers and LB Derrick Flowers as the last two AFC Defensive Players of the Week.

“We are developing our identity,” said Flowers. “We are a defense that’s going to work hard on every down to stop the other guys from getting points on the scoreboard. We may give up some plays, we may allow some yards, but we are going to fight like hell to keep you from scoring.

“We are going to hold you to a field goal, instead of a touchdown. We are going to take the ball away or force a punt, instead of you getting a field goal. This is an 11-man defense; we rely so much on each other. Nobody is going to dominate. We are going to support each other and make it all work together.”

Right now the statistics for the 2011 season are not very impressive for the Chiefs defense:

  • They are giving up 373.6 yards per game; that ranks No. 22 among the league’s 32 teams.
  • Opponents have scored an average of 24.3 points per game, ranking them No. 25.
  • They are No. 22 against the run, giving up an average of 122.1 yards per game.
  • In passing yardage allowed, they are No. 20 with 251.4 yards per game.
  • They are last in the league in sacks with 9.
  • With only two recovered fumbles, they rank in a tie for No. 27.
  • Only in interceptions are the Chiefs among the league’s top defenders. They have 13 INTs, tied for second in the league.

But in the last two games, some of the key numbers have improved. They gave up 10 points per game and just one touchdown. They forced 10 turnovers and picked up 4 sacks. “We’ve got our packages and we are making them work,” said Johnson. “Guys are gaining confidence because we are starting to know what we are doing.”

Crennel has done what experienced and talented coaches do when so much of their plan has been blown up. First, he simplified the scheme going with the K.I.S.S. – keep it simple stupid! Without his field general in Berry on the backline overseeing everything, the coordinator knew he had to go in the opposite direction with more simple communication.

As he went back to defensive basics, Crennel started reintroducing new schemes and ideas based on the each week’s opponents. That’s allowed the defensive staff to get closer to their original plans, while not getting too far away from the basics. It was especially visible in the victory over San Diego where they played about four or five different variations of man-to-man coverage that kept Chargers QB guessing all night.

The other thing that Crennel seems to do as well as any coach in the league is identify the strengths and weaknesses of individual players and units. He does not try to put players into roles they can’t handle. That’s why he’s relied so heavily on his secondary, because that’s the best group of players in his defense.

Even though the Chiefs defense needs more of a pass rush and increased sack figures, Crennel has not resorted to heavy doses of blitzing to pump up those stats. Sending a blitz means exposing the coverage; the old NFL adage is live by the blitz, die by the blitz. As he’s pieced together a new plan, Crennel did not want to add to the pressure by using extra pass rushers.

There is a lot of bend but don’t break features to the Chiefs defensive personality. “Hey, the other guys get paid too,” said CB Brandon Carr. “We aren’t going to shut anybody down and keep them from making any plays. There are a lot of talented players out there. We got a shutout against the Raiders, but that’s not going to happen very often.

“The closer our backs get to the end zone, the more rigid we get, the less ground we are going to give up.”

14 Responses to “Romeo Adjusts Defense … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • November 2, 2011  - Milkman says:

    I wonder why there was not more outrage about the cheap cut block by Stevie Johnson. I don’t think there was a fine because the block was technically legal. I’ve always thought there was an unwritten rule that players didn’t go for other players knees. It shows Eric Berry’s character that you never heard him bitch about the block. I just wonder how many of his teammates are looking forward to the next time they play the Bills….

  • November 2, 2011  - TDKC says:

    It was a cheap shot. NFL players have a control over their bodies that most regular folks can’t imagine. That low shot may have been legal but he did not have to aim for the knee. He was one on one with a better player. Had to cheat to win.

  • November 2, 2011  - bhive01 says:

    “CB Brandon Flowers and LB Derrick Flowers”

    Did they get married?

  • November 2, 2011  - aPauled says:

    Seems to me that the “improvement” amounts to great play from DJ, Brandon Flowers and Hali. We have absolutely no pass rush opposite of Hali. The rich kids (Jackson and Dorsey) are playing pretty well against the run…but teams actually pass on 1st and 2nd down as well…and these guys haven’t developed into all-around (run/pass) defenders. Brandon Carr got beat by Malcolm Floyd (107 yards) too often in the SD game. He is a yo-yo player opposite Flowers.

    This bunch still has to improve. Beating Curtis Painter, Donavan McNabb, Kyle Boller/rusty Carson Palmer, and an off Phillip Rivers is one thing. We have Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlesberger looming…and the results can’t be the same as Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matthew Stafford who lit us up.

  • November 2, 2011  - el cid says:

    Looking at the next draft, even if a top notch QB was available, the Chiefs are desparate for help on the DL. Jackson, who is playing better, is just a guy, Gregg, aging badly, is more of a speed bump, and Dorsey, wrong guy for this defense, is there every once in a while. All three need replacements, and doubt the Chiefs can draft three starters. What happened to Powe, been inactive every week?

    If Crennel can pull out a stout defense with these guys, well he will be something else.

    Did like the all red socks in pic.

  • November 2, 2011  - jim says:

    el cid, you’re dead nuts on. Having said that, our offense now with three legitimate receivers, plus McCluster being marginally used to throw to out of the back field and McClain as a receiving FB threat,then add in the running game…………our “O” is going to be tough to game plan. All this is predicated, of course, on proper play calling. THEN, the play of our ST is again a strength. Pretty happy goin forward, but el cid’s comments were spot on.

  • November 2, 2011  - el cid says:

    Not sure about the reason behind the problem with play calling and player substitution on offense. Can only figure Muir calls the play, Haley reviews and advises on the play, and QB coach sends it to Cassel and sends in appropriate players. Anyone complains and they get an earful of “F” bombs from Haley. Notice with Crennel on defense, one boss and it gets dones more easily. Remember the kids game, whisper a message in ones ear and pass over several kids and see how the messages changes? Not the best way to handle playcalling in the NFL.

  • November 2, 2011  - Chuck says:

    Bob; With a 3-4 defense aren’t you going to have less sacks that what a 4-3 would probably have??? And on a side note, I watched a replay 8 or 9 times of the Stevie Johnson hit and YES it was absolutely a cheap shot. He specifically aimed his helmet at Eric Berrys knee. NO DOUBT ABOUT IT.

  • November 2, 2011  - Blake says:

    I think KC needs a NT or DT that can pass rush and force the QB back words so that when Hali comes around the outside the QB cant just step up like he almost always does. Shaun Rogers would have been perfect for this because he was a good pass rusher but he opted out for New Orleans instead…

  • November 2, 2011  - Carl says:

    Defensive line:

    OK, lets get realistic here. Think of all the problems we have had over the years drafting defensive lineman, many in the first or second round. Despite their high pre-draft ratings, a number have failed and others have taken several years to develop into reasonable but not all star players. There is no way we can replace all three of our current down lineman and be competitive.

    We need to draft or trade for a top quality replacement at nose tackle due to age and a top quality pass rusher at outside linebacker.

    We also need to add talent to our offensive line to replace average and/or aging linemen.

    Plus we need to balance out the needs at other positions as well – complementary football.

    You just can’t do everything at once.

  • November 2, 2011  - David says:

    Have to agree with Carl. On the O-line, this is probably Wiegmann’s last year. Lilja, maybe one more year. On the D-line, same story with Gregg. Must replenish.

    Once Berry, Charles, and Moeaki return, there is talent at most other positions, although more depth would be helpful.

    For those who are nervous about d-back performance in the Chargers game, don’t be. Remember that the Chiefs (successfully) double-covered Gates on almost every play, leaving man-coverage on the SD wide-outs. A very tough task, generally handled pretty well.

  • November 2, 2011  - rufus says:

    There are subtle adjustments to the way they are playing up front. Packages are different with different personnel than during the three loss stretch. The DB’s are playing better and to me, that is a big difference compared to the first games.

    I think Phillip Rivers is just not that thrilled to play the game right now. He just looks like he’s going through the motions. I don’t see the same passion in him this season and maybe even last year too.

    I don’t know why, but I do think that’s what’s wrong with Rivers’ play.

    I think this will get Norv fired. Maybe that’s all Rivers needs, is a new HC.

  • November 2, 2011  - ED J says:

    El cid man dude get dictionary of 3-4 defense. jackson and dorsey are probably this season two of top 3 def ends in 3-4 defense this yr. yeah Gregg is stop gap but you fail to realize the reason Tamba is getting sacks is because Jackson and Dorsey are smuthering double teams and he’s getting single coverage. Futhermore screw the sacks we’re getting pressure which is creating turnovers. Every pick I see the Qb is taking a shot forcing a throw and we’re getting turnovers this team is 2nd in the league in picks thanks to pressure Tamba and others are getting on QB. Is the sacks their NO but the pressure we’re creating are causing more turnover this yr. Last yr we had about 22 picks we have around 15 this season so that speaks volumes to how improved the front 7 is in creating pressure and how secondary is capitilziing.

  • November 3, 2011  - el cid says:

    EDJ bless your heart. When was the last time Jackson and Dorsey were doubled team? Gregg a stop gap? Seems to me so many said he could replace BOTH last years DTs, now you say he is a stop gap. Revisionist.

    As for pressures, sure glad you are so knowledgeable, because most everyone else says the Chiefs DL does not get pressure.

    What a load.

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