Chiefs bring newfound defensive swagger into primetime matchup

Posted Oct 28, 2011

Kansas City's defense is on a run of forcing turnovers and making key stops

It’s now six straight scoreless quarters and counting for the Chiefs defense.

Embarrassed in the first half against Indianapolis, Kansas City’s defense has seen an amazing shift in fortunes over the last 90 minutes of play.

Chiefs opponents aren’t just being held out of the end zone.  They’re rarely even approaching it.

In 17 offensive possessions over the last six quarters of play, Chiefs opponents have reached the Red Zone only twice. On those two drives, Kansas City took away the football each time.

“That wasn’t us in the first half of the Colts game,” said CB Brandon Flowers, who was beat in coverage on Pierre Garcon’s 67-yard touchdown reception that helped Indianapolis take an early 17-0 lead.

“We were pressing and trying to make too many plays to get the offense the football back. We went into Oakland saying, ‘just be in position. We’re a talented group, but just be in position,’ and that’s what we did.”

“These guys have become one and are playing as a team,” head coach Todd Haley added. “They’re talking the talk and walking the walk. We have a lot of unselfish guys that really just want to do their job, do their part and we have guys that are deactivated on Sundays that are up there and are as animated and into the game as the guys that are in pads.”

Haley isn’t kidding when he says that the Chiefs inactive players are just as animated as their teammates on the field.

Video evidence supports Coach’s claim. Check out this footage of Kelly Gregg’s sack in Oakland and focus on the upper right hand corner of your screen. That’s Gregg’s understudy, inactive rookie Jerrell Powe, celebrating with more enthusiasm than the veteran.

The defensive line has contributed in their own way with key third and fourth down stops, fueled by sturdy two-gap technique that’s allowed linebackers to thrive. Derrick Johnson’s 16-tackle performance in Oakland was one of his best as a Chief.

Effective d-line play has also allowed the defensive backfield to flourish.

Beginning in the second half at Indianapolis, the Chiefs have limited opposing quarterbacks to just 18-of-45 passing for 217 yards with 0 TDs and 6 INTs. That amounts to a combined quarterback rating of 15.93.

“You look at last week and the whole secondary getting six interceptions, two of them going back for touchdowns, they’re solid on the corners,” said Chargers QB Philip Rivers, who was picked off twice in his last meeting against the Chiefs.

“They’re complete players. They press, the play off and they can play the ball. There are certain corners that you don’t worry about catching it or doing things, but these guys do it all and I think those two corners and the rest of the secondary are a big reason they’ve gotten three (wins) in a row and are rolling pretty good.”

Flowers was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his two-INT performance in Oakland and leads the team with four interceptions. Lately, he and fellow CB Brandon Carr have been spending extra time in the film room and feel their extra work together is paying off.

“It’s been really helpful,” Carr said. “I can kind of pick his brain and see how he thinks out there on the field and kind of fuse that into my game. We see things differently, but together we can make it into a game plan for each other out there on the field.”

Overall, the Chiefs defensive numbers aren’t going to jump out as an elite unit.

Kansas City ranks 25th against the run, 17th against the pass and 18th in total defense. The Chiefs poor start to the season certainly doesn’t help those numbers, but yardage totals don’t necessarily reflect the Chiefs style of play either.

A perfect example is Oakland’s 155-yard rushing performance last week. On paper, the Raiders ran the football at will averaging 5.7 yards per carry, but when it came down to crunch time they couldn’t get a push against Kansas City’s front seven.

Leading 14-0 in the second quarter, the Chiefs defense stuffed four consecutive run plays inside the five-yard line. The goal line stand deflated a rowdy Oakland crowd and looked to be the final nail in the coffin for the Raiders’ offense.

“It’s a turnover,” Haley said of the four-down stop. “We were able to have six interceptions, and then in our minds we count that as a turnover because the possession stopped with no points down there a yard from the goal line.

“On a couple of those runs, it looked bleak for a couple steps and then Derrick Johnson was able to make a huge play on the one and Demorrio Williams on the other where he came around and kept them from jumping over the pile.”

From top to bottom, the Chiefs defense is playing with a lot of confidence.

Paired with an electric crowd and the thrill of a Monday Night Football broadcast, Kansas City’s newfound defensive swagger could be its biggest asset heading into the biggest game of the season.

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