Shaky Defense A Concern … Tuesday Cup O’Chiefs

I don’t really want to be “that” guy, but I must say something as the autumn wind begins to blow, pulling the leaves from the trees and leaving us all with hours of raking and bagging ahead.

If you are a Chiefs fan excited about your favorite team’s recent two-game winning streak then it’s time for a reality check.

Yes, the Chiefs are now 2-3, after starting 0-3. That those victories came against teams that had not won games yet this season is really not that big a matter, as long as the outcome goes under the win column. A win, is a win, is a win. It’s the flip side of the there being no “moral victories” in the league. As a very famous father-in-law and coaching mentor once said, your record is what you are.

With two victories over teams with a combined record of 1-9, and three defeats to opponents with a combined record of 13-2 it tells us the Chiefs are not among the worst teams in the league, but they can’t roll with the league’s best clubs. They have risen from their miserable start to mediocrity.

And the reality is this – they may not be able to rise any higher because of their defense.

They are simply not very good. Even given consideration for how many bad field positions they were left with thanks to offensive turnovers in early games, this group has struggled and it shows up in the numbers:

  • The Chiefs have allowed 150 points, an average of 30 points per game, the most points allowed in the league.
  • They have only five sacks in five games, tied with Buffalo for the fewest sacks in the league and they stand at less than half of the league average, 10.8 sacks per team.
  • In the all important takeaway category, the Chiefs have only five, which ranks at the bottom of the league ahead of only Miami and Pittsburgh (2 each) and New Orleans (4). They have not recovered a fumble, one of four teams that have yet to fall on a loose ball.
  • On third-down defense, they are among the bottom 25 percent of the league, allowing a 43.5 conversion percentage (30 of 69).
  • They have only two players with sacks – OLB Tamba Hali with 4 and DE Wallace Gilberry with one.
  • Combine their big defensive plays – sacks, takeaways and defensive scoring – and they have 10 out of the 322 plays they’ve faced. Only the Miami defense is worse, with just 8 big plays out of 258 in four games.
  • ILB Derrick Johnson is the team’s leading tackler with 43, but he does not have a sack, an interception, a forced fumble or a fumble recovery.
  • They have given up 12 touchdown passes, the highest total in the league, where the average is 7.4 scores through the air.

The numbers paint an ugly picture through five games. That was never more evident than in the first half against the Colts when untested QB Curtis Painter had Indy up by 17 points.

That performance was enough to set off the normally placid Romeo Crennel. His players said he let them have a verbal blast with both barrels.

“Coach came in and got on us,” FS Kendrick Lewis said. “He let it all out and said some things I don’t want to say, but he showed the fight that he wanted us to come out and play with. We built on that and came out with fire.”

The defense did play better in the second half, but they still were not able to provide the big plays necessary for this team to win most weekends. They were unable to sack the inexperienced Painter with an offensive line in front of him that was scrambled by injury and had three different starters in three of the five positions. Essentially, they went after him with four people, seldom coming with anything more in the way of a blitz or playing any games up front against several blockers with limited playing time under their belts.

The defense’s No. 1 goal each week is to stop the run, but they’ve had mediocre results there, giving up an average of 119.6 yards per game; that ranks them No. 20 in the league.

Todd Haley has acknowledged that the loss of SS Eric Berry for the season has forced some major adjustments in what the coaches’ plan and how the team plays defense. But it all can’t be traced to Berry’s knee. In the secondary, there has been inconsistent play, especially from CB Brandon Flowers. At LB, only Hali is creating the necessary big plays. On the defensive line, production is average at best; six DL get playing time and the only big play is a sack by DE Wallace Gilberry where he also forced a fumble.

From last year’s defense, the Chiefs lost DT Ron Edwards, DL Shaun Smith, OLB Mike Vrabel and Berry. They added DL Amon Gordon, DT Kelly Gregg, OLB Justin Houston and S Sabby Piscitelli. Combined that group has 41 tackles, no sacks and no takeaways.

In their next two games after the bye weekend, the Chiefs have division battles against Oakland and San Diego. The Raiders are No. 9 in offensive yards, with the second best running game in the league that’s averaging 161.8 yards per game. The Chargers are No. 7 in offensive yards and hold the same position in most passing yards.

There will be 11 games left in the season when the bye week is over. What those 11 weeks bring to the Chiefs is going to depend a great deal on their defense. Based on what they’ve done in the first five games, it’s going to take a major turnaround from Crennel and his crew to give the Chiefs any chance for success.

10 Responses to “Shaky Defense A Concern … Tuesday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • October 11, 2011  - bhive01 says:

    I’d like to see Houston blitzing in more. He seems to be pretty good at getting pressure around the ends.

  • October 11, 2011  - Josh says:

    The numbers don’t lie, but the second half defense was an entirely different animal last Sunday. I agree that we cannot run with the big dogs, and I still believe my 5 and 11 prediction is spot on given our schedule, but I think the talent is there, it just needs to be expressed for all four quarters. If we get a substantial lead at any point during this season, I feel the sacks and positive turnovers will skyrocket. But if we’re continuing to climb out of holes every Sunday, we’ll be lucky to be doing the same uncomfortable thing, bending, and only occasionally breaking.

  • October 11, 2011  - Chuck says:

    I agree with Josh above that we will finish either 5-11 or 4-12. But what really frustrates me about that finish is we will be picking about 5th,6th or 7th in the first round. Completely out of the Luck Derby and thats why Iam frustrated. Just good enough to insure us of not getting the super stud QB.

  • October 11, 2011  - Tim says:

    Best article of the year thus far Bob. Thanks for calling bs on the Berry loss. Essentially, we traded Shaun Smith for Amon Gordon for money. Not a good move when you’re $30MM under the cap. The Edwards for Gregg move is not a big deal, but not getting Powe on the field is, I believe. The loss of Berry isn’t the reason our front 7 isn’t getting to the QB. The reason is really pretty clear. The LBs (other than Hali) all rush to contact w/ NO moves at all. They just stay locked up w/ a blocker. Secondly, their timing is so poor when blitzing & coordinating each others moves. Its also poorly disguised in “walk up” attempts/situations. As for Flowers, et al, the windows other teams WRs have against our short CBs with short arms is a no brainer for an O coord. to exploit. That’s why Arenas is best left to Special Teams. Yes, he’ll make some plays, but not consistently enough. Opponents will game plan to get the matchups w/ him & Flowers in size. When both of them are on the field at the same time, its easier for teams to play “over the top” on us or crossing routes to make us chase therefore putting short-armed defenders at even more of a disadvantage.

  • October 11, 2011  - johnfromfairfax says:

    It’s hard to draw conclusions based on the dreadful start we had. The first two games were such blowouts that it skews our defensive stats. I agree the defense isn’t an elite unit and that it’s not as strong as last year’s version and will be an issue all year. But if the offense continues to progress as it has it can help with the defensive deficiencies considerably. As for the suck for Luck crowd, Cassell played a basically flawless game and threw 4 touchdowns. I’m not sure what more can be done to quiet that crowd for at least a week or two. Incidentally, I agree with others who point out that we probably wouldn’t use the first pick and all the money it entails on Luck anyway. Why would we? The organization obviously doesn’t hold the same opinion of Cassell as the SFL crowd and in all probability would utilize the choice to leverage additional picks and players.

  • October 11, 2011  - Niblick says:

    Luck will not get the huge money that Bradford got. He will get about what Newton got. Somewhere in the area of 20MM guaranteed. Money is no longer a big issue with first round picks now that we have the rookie cap. The salaries are all set by the new CBA. I don’t hink we will be able to draft him, but money won’t be an issue.

  • October 11, 2011  - leonard says:

    First : The Chiefs numbers are awful due to 2 terrible starts. The San Diego game was almost ours, but Cassel threw an Int. Remember that whiners. They have improved steadily. Are they the Lions, no, but they are starting to get better. They best defense is a good offense. I think that is finally coming together. I am sick of all this doom, and gloom. This idea of getting Luck is rediculous. We will see where we will be at the end of the season. So what if Oakland is 9 in yards, and offense. It is a divisional game , which for some reason, we have been better there than at home. I will be laughing at you whiners when we finish somewhere around 8-8, 0r 10-6. Remember what Marty always said. It is not who you play, it is when you play them. We have the bye, Baldwin should be ready to play, and the offense looks fairly good. 2 weeks for the D to get it’s act together. Could be 5-3 at the mid term.

  • October 11, 2011  - Tenand6 says:

    Bob, we pay you to be “that guy”! Love the analysis.

    The failure to bring pressure to the opposing QB is the one thing that has shocked me. I thought the Chiefs upgraded that part of the defense in the off season. Color me wrong.

    Houston needs to be used in passing downs. Sheffield is always a step late. Sheffield is a special teams guy, IMHO. I haven’t checked to see how often DJ is used on blitzes, but he is a play-maker. I hope the Chiefs can solve this during the bye week. We will be crushed by mediocre teams if we can’t get to the QB.

    Not that Powe is part of the answer, but he did look to be quicker/faster than Gregg and Gordon. It would be interesting to see how he has progressed since the pre-season.

  • October 11, 2011  - John says:

    Blame the offense. When, long ago, I played and the ball changed hands players didn’ rush off the field or onto it; you just changed positions. On offense I was and end and on defense I was a linebacker. Defense takes more energy than offense. When the offense goes three and out, three and out, three and out you are going to wear out the defense. The defense played better in the second half because the offense kept the ball longer. It’s that simple.

  • October 12, 2011  - rufus says:

    Ya, I agree the offense is not doing it’s part for this team. That has been at least half the problem. Defense has zero time to discuss what’s happening during the game.

    I would also point to a league that has figured out what this team has been doing, hence guys like Flowers and the safeties are getting exploited. I like Flowers a lot, would like to see him stay here his whole career and I expect this. But, you got to have safeties that can cover the back end for Flowers and his aggressive style plus lacking top end. He’s an animal at the LOS. But teams are aware now, they don’t run the ball his way and they get those downfield shots on him for big plays.

    This league is a biannual kind of ordeal, where teams typically enjoy success and then fall a bit the next season, followed with success two season later. This year was expected to some degree, at least by me.

    My expectations are based in seeing a better front seven and passing offense come out of this season. They had the run game and the back end defense that was the strength of this ’10 team. They need these other units of the team to develop this year. To me, that would be success. They would go into next season with these improvements and perhaps put it all together then.

    I see some improvement in this front seven and obviously the offense has been beyond poor, but I see improvement there too. Amazing what happens when your WR’s catch the pass. Not that those passes are good or consistent in any way, but my rule has always been “if the ball arrives in the general area of the receiver, it needs to be a completion” and the rest will work itself out, whether it’s just a bad QB that needs to get better or replaced. Just catch those passes. The rest will be obvious.

    However, that DL has got to become better, no doubt and the LB’s need to get smarter. This is happening now, to some degree. But, there is much room for improvement. That RDE position has got to become a producer in the pressure and sacks game. Good to see Gilberry playing there this season. Dorsey is improving too.

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