There was plenty of talk about the Kansas City Chiefs’ high-powered offense going up against the Jacksonville Jaguars’ top-ranked defense on Sunday, but on this rainy afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium, the defense that tallied five sacks, five takeaways and 12 quarterback hits was wearing red.
It was just one of those days for the Chiefs’ defensive unit, which seemed to be creating havoc in the backfield on nearly every play throughout the contest.
“Everybody came together and we had depth. The main thing that we talked about was pushing the pocket and making [Jaguars’ quarterback] Blake Bortles step up without any room to throw,” said defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins. “We knew our outside linebackers were going to come around the edge, and it was up to us to create turnovers. I think we did that with the pressure.”
They sure did – starting with a strip sack when the momentum of the game was hanging in the balance.
Protecting a 10-point lead at midfield following quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ first interception of the year, the Jaguars were presented with an ideal opportunity to fight their way back into the game.
Linebacker Dee Ford, however, had other plans.
The fifth-year linebacker sacked Bortles on Jacksonville’s first offensive play of the drive, jarring the ball free for fellow linebacker Breeland Speaks to pounce on. It turned the ball right back over to Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense, who extended Kansas City’s lead six plays later.
“It shows what kind of team we are in every phase of the game,” Mahomes said of Ford’s timely forced fumble. “We can win games with everyone on this team. It’s not just the offense, it’s not just the defense and it’s not just special teams. We’re a unit and we believe that. I’m excited to just come out with a win like that where the defense just stepped up and made a ton of plays and gave us chance to make plays, too.”
And that was just the beginning.
In the closing minutes of the half, with Jacksonville trying to avoid being shut out heading into the break, defensive end Chris Jones picked off Bortles and brought it back 20 yards for the first touchdown of his career.
Arrowhead, to put it lightly, erupted.
“It felt great. It’s all about preparation and being ready for the moment – and the moment came,” Jones said. “I picked it off, did a little juke and took it to the end zone.”
“I knew the pick was fine because the thing about Chris is he’s tall and has big hands, but when he juked [Bortles], that’s really what topped it off,” Jenkins added with a smile. “He juked him and went 20 yards.”
The score was Kansas City’s first defensive touchdown of the season, evoking a seemingly insurmountable sense of energy from a raucous crowd in the final seconds of the half.
“Anytime you can score on defense, it’s great,” said cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who later tallied an interception of his own. “You put points on the board and then you’re right back on defense. You don’t give their defense a chance to make a stop.”
The Chiefs then took advantage yet again on their very next series, as cornerback Steve Nelson picked off Bortles in the end zone as the half came to an end. It was the first interception of Nelson’s career.
“It was a breath of fresh air – I wasn’t sure when it was going to happen. I could have had one earlier in the game, but it came back to me,” Nelson said. “I just finished the play. It looked like the ball was tipped in the air, I just reacted to it and made sure I caught it.”
And Nelson wasn’t the only one that took the ball away for the very first time.
With injuries to safeties Eric Murray and Armani Watts thrusting him into action, third-year safety Jordan Lucas made the most of his opportunity by hauling in yet another Kansas City interception and, more impressively, weaving across the field for a 49-yard return.
“I just felt like a kid again. It’s like I was in the backyard or in the park – just running around like when I was growing up,” Lucas said of his long return. “It feels great because as a player, all you ever want is a chance, and when you get it, you don’t want to blow it. You want to make the most of each opportunity, and I hope I did that today.”
The defense as a whole made a point of doing just that on Sunday – tallying its most takeaways since Week 8 of last season - and when paired with Kansas City’s high-octane offense, it certainly makes for a team that’s tough to beat.
“It’s a team. We don’t point fingers or do any of that – we’re all in this,” Head Coach Andy Reid said. “We know that every week, we expect every phase to pick up one of the other phases if it’s down. We’ve been able to do that so far, and we’ll keep that going.”