Bye Week Review: Abdullah Stepping Up for Chiefs Defense

The Chiefs defense is ranked second in the NFL at allowing third down conversions of 10 or more yards to go at just 10 percent.

Simply put, when teams have to make a big play against the Chiefs defense on third down, they aren't consistently doing it. 

Overall on third down, the Chiefs defense is allowing just a 34.4 percent conversion rate, which ranks sixth in the NFL.

Much of this has to do with their pass defense, which had given up their fair share of big plays during the preseason. But once the games started to count, the defense has responded.

Much of this success has come without the one Pro Bowler in the defensive backfield for the Chiefs in safety Eric Berry. Berry has played in just 98 snaps this season, and 82 of those came in the Week 1 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Stepping up in Berry's place has been veteran Husain Abdullah, who is the third-leading tackler on the Chiefs defense with 25 through five games.

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Ask anyone around this team and they would tell you Abdullah was a leader even before Berry's injury, but Abdullah has taken some of the production normally seen from Berry, a three-time Pro Bowler, and has flourished this season.

"Well I think [Abdullah] has done a great job," defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. "He's done multiple roles for us in this defense. He's come down low and he's been the dime and that was kind of the plan even before Eric (Berry) got hurt. We were going to try to leave Eric in the back end more and he's come down and done a great job of that.

"Consequently, he's also been the deep safety in our base defenses and some of our subs as well. He really prepares really well. He understands not only what we're doing but what the offense is doing and he's very good on the sideline with adjustments."

Abdullah is Pro Football Focus.com's No. 10 ranked safety so far this season, and he had a breakout game on the biggest stage of the season thus far for the Chiefs: Monday Night Football against the New England Patriots.

Abdullah had eight tackles in the game and a pick-six interception return for a touchdown off Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

It was the signature play for the Chiefs defense in that 41-14 victory.

The Chiefs defense has given up just 14 plays of 20-plus yards so far this season to opposing offenses, which ties them for sixth best in the NFL.

View photos of the Chiefs defensive backs.

Sutton said the reason for it is pretty simple.

"I think a lot of it comes back to technique and I think both Emmitt Thomas (defensive backs coach) and Al Harris (assistant secondary coach) have done a great job working technique," Sutton said. "Then it's also the players' understanding when these 'shots' are more likely to happen.

"We don't have complete control of that, but you can know some by down and distance or formation or field position. I think the players have gotten better at it. I think some of the disguises have been good and that has helped us."

Another player who has played well in the defensive backfield is cornerback Sean Smith, who leads the team with seven passes defensed and has the only other interception.

"I think [Smith] has improved his technique," Sutton said. "I think he's become a much better practice player, which is the key to this whole drill. He's carried that, taken it on the practice field to the game field and that's a tribute to him and Al Harris, who works with him along with Emmitt Thomas. "Those are the things that have to be done day-to-day to make those strides so if he keeps playing like that, that's going to really help our defense."

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