2014 Kansas City Chiefs Review: Defensive Backs

According to passing yards against, it's a fair argument to say that the Chiefs secondary in 2014 was better than it was in 2013.

In 2013, the Chiefs gave up 3,962 yards through the air, a rate of 248 yards per game. That rate tied the Chiefs for 25th place in the league with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In 2014, on the other hand, the Chiefs gave up 3,252 yards through the air, a rate of 203 yards a game. That rate was the second best in the league, only behind the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks.

But having a year like 2013, one in which the Chiefs intercepted 21 passes and forced 36 turnovers, can be frustrating to look back at when that stat category doesn't translate to the next. 

"We have less turnovers and fewer big plays, that's what the data has told me," defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said as he prepared for the final game of the Chiefs' season. "I don't know if you can quantify all the things. I think we've talked about this before, turnovers are really hard to say, 'This is why turnovers are happening or this is why they aren't happening.'"

He continued.

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"Some of it is fortune. You're fortunate to be where a ball gets tipped. Tipped balls and high throws are what usually causes interceptions most of the time."

In 2014, the 36 turnovers decreased from 2013 by 22, equating to just 14 turnovers forced, second worst in the league. But while that is no doubt a large decrease, Sutton has a point.

Luck may have much to do with whether things like up-for-grab footballs land in the right hands or post-fumble scrums end up in the right team's favor.

When you look at it that way, while the Chiefs would be the first to admit they did not take advantage of some turnover opportunities, the secondary was debatably better than last season, maybe even much better.

General manager John Dorsey agreed.

"I thought it was fascinating when somebody put a stat on my desk today that the defense didn't allow, with the likes of the quarterbacks they faced this year (Brady, Manning twice, Rivers twice), none of them had 300 yard games against them," he said on the Chiefs' breakup day.

"I think the coaches deserve a huge amount of credit and I think from the creative side of the game planning I think Bob (Sutton) and his staff deserve a heck of a lot of credit on that."

Highlights from the Kansas City Chiefs defensive backs' 2014 season.

From an individual standpoint, cornerback Sean Smith, according to Pro Football Focus, graduated from very slightly above average to elite at his position, jumping to fifth in the league behind the likes of Super Bowl participants Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman.

Smith, who showed great improvement all season, talked about how important it was to him that he ended his season strong after the Chiefs' final game.

"For me it was just going out there and winning," Smith said. "Playing well and trying to end this thing on a good note."

When safety Eric Berry had to be placed on the non-football injury list in the middle of the year, Ron Parker, ever malleable, changed from cornerback to safety to fill in.

"What he did was, he's a swing guy," Dorsey said of Parker after the season. "He can go outside or inside. Me personally, I think he's better inside than outside. With that being said, I think he had a nice season."

Besides just taking care of the logistics of replacing Berry on the field, the unit rallied around the idea of playing for him, and Kurt Coleman, a safety who joined the Chiefs right before their first game, led the charge in making the "Be Berry" T-shirts that the team would don in warmups the rest of the season.

In a year when interceptions seemed hard to come by (the Chiefs only had six), Coleman had a team-leading three, the final two of which came in the Chiefs' Week 17 win over the San Diego Chargers.

Safety Husain Abdullah, only behind Smith, was graded second on the team by PFF in pass-coverage ability. Abdullah was the only player in the secondary to score a touchdown; it clinched the Monday Night Football game in which the Chiefs easily dispatched the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

Because of injuries and proving their worth to the coaching in practice and on special teams, third-round rookie Phillip Gaines and midseason pickup Jamell Fleming took advantage of their opportunities in the secondary as well, and their play likely gives the Chiefs even more options next year.

While the turnovers weren't there like a year ago, Sutton put together a defensive backfield that neutralized some of the best quarterbacks the league has to offer.

Chiefs defenders getting beat by a long ball became a rarity, and that was important. It was a year of progression, one that coach Andy Reid will look to build upon entering next season.

"I thought the defense did play well. I was proud of the guys and the way they stepped up," Reid said after the year. "I thought we maintained flexibility there and tried to work with what the player was best at. Can we get better? We can always do better."

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