Secondary Fights Back

From the O.co Coliseum, Oakland, California

Life in the NFL secondary can be quite a roller coaster. One minute a defensive back can be hero, the next goat. When he makes a mistake on the field, usually it sticks out like a flashing light bulb.

Two weeks ago, the Chiefs secondary had one of those games where they went from goat to hero in a victory over the Indianapolis Colts. They allowed QB Curtis Painter to look like a young Peyton Manning in the first half, including a touchdown to WR Pierre Garcon who was wide open by 15 yards. CB Brandon Flowers had blown the coverage, suckered away from his assignment by a Painter pump fake. It was just the most obvious of numerous mental mistakes by the defensive backs.

That made for a long bye week for those guys and they arrived back for preparations leading up to Sunday’s game against the Raiders with a goal in mind.

“None of us wanted to have that tape in our heads any longer,” said FS Kendrick Lewis. “We knew we were better than what we showed there. We wanted to make sure we never showed that type of effort again.”

They made good on that goal against the Raiders with six interceptions, including a 59-yard return for a score by Lewis and a 58-yard return for a touchdown by Flowers. By the end of the game, they had swiped three passes each from Oakland QBs Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer. All six INTs were from the secondary with Flowers getting a pair, along with CBs Brandon Carr and Travis Daniels, with safeties Lewis and Jon McGraw. All four starters had an interception.

“They are a prideful group and they felt like they gave up too many plays two weeks ago against Indy and you could tell all week they were getting ready to go,” said head coach Todd Haley. “They stepped up and made huge plays that sparked the entire team, right out of the gate. A terrific, terrific job by them; they were catching the ball and the pressure upfront was creating some of those plays.”

The Chiefs defense finished the game with just one sack in 36 passing plays. But at least four of the six interceptions came when pass rusher pressure forced Boller or Palmer to throw off-balance, too early or inaccurately.

“Give the guys upfront credit because they got after them and forced a couple of throws early,” said Lewis.

Here were the six interceptions, in order:

No. 1 – Lewis grabbed a pass intended for WR Jacoby Ford and returned it 58 yards for the score, tiptoeing down the sidelines for the last 10 yards after Boller tried to push him out of bounds. Lewis read the QB’s eyes and moved to his right, where CB Javier Arenas was matched up with Ford. “It was two-man coverage and I knew that to beat that coverage, they like to run outs and I anticipated it,” Lewis said. “I was able to great a break on it and make a play.”

No. 2 – Flowers’ first interception came on a Boller throw down the middle intended for WR Denarius Moore. OLB Tamba Hali hit Boller as he threw the ball and that affected the flight of the ball. “I was just in great position to get that one,” Flowers said.

No. 3 – Carr’s interception came on a pass to WR Darrius Heyward-Bey deep down the left side of the field. “He hung it a little bit and I was able to keep him (Heyward-Bey) from getting to the ball,” Carr said.

No. 4 – Palmer came into the game in the third quarter, and at the start of the fourth, he threw wide right to Moore. But Flowers jumped the route and ran untouched to the end zone, 58 yards for the score. “The safety on my side did a great job of disguising his coverage,” Flowers said. “I got a great break on the ball and I just made a play.”

Said Palmer: “That’s Football 101. I can’t do that and I knew it just as the ball was coming out of my hand. I’ve seen that look a million times and pulled the ball down throughout the eight years I’ve played in the NFL and the four years I played in college. I just didn’t react fast enough and that’s something I can’t do.”

No. 5 – A Palmer pass for Moore was deflected and was grabbed by McGraw.

No. 6 – On a deep pass by Palmer intended for WR Louis Murphy, the ball sailed over his head and Daniels made the catch.


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