While the Kansas City Chiefs' 2017 season didn't finish the way anyone wanted, there were still plenty of moments throughout the year that we're always going to remember.
And over the next few weeks, we're going to take a look at those moments—from fantastic individual performances to dominant stands from one side of the ball.
In this edition, we're looking back at the most memorable performances from the Chiefs' defense.
In fact, it was the Chiefs' defense that's largely what carried them through the most difficult and important stretch of last season.
After dropping six of their previous seven games, the Chiefs were set to face all three divisional opponents in the final four games of the season, and it started with a matchup against the Oakland Raiders without one of their best players.
But before we get to that, let's start with a couple of key defensive stands during the Week 1 matchup against the New England Patriots.
- Two crucial fourth-down stops prove to be key
All eyes were on the Chiefs and Patriots that Thursday night. It was the NFL's opening game of the 2017 season.
The Chiefs' defense held Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady, whose career record at home fell to 101-18 after that game, to just 16 of 36 for 267 yards.
For the defense, the two biggest plays on the night came in the form of fourth-down stops.
On two separate occasions and when they were within field goal distance, the Patriots decided to go for it on fourth-and-short with runs up the middle, and on both occasions, the Chiefs' defense stepped up and shut it down.
Already trailing 7-0 and with the Patriots getting the ball at the Chiefs' 32-yard line after running back Kareem Hunt fumbled on the first offensive snap of the season, the defense had to step up to keep this game close early in the first quarter.
After a key open-field tackle from veteran safety Ron Parker on third down, the Patriots decided to go for it on fourth-and-short, and it was Allen Bailey, Bennie Logan, Eric Berry, and company who helped stuff the run up the middle—a momentum-changing play.
After the defense's stand, the offense settled down and responded by driving 90 yards on 12 plays in just over six minutes—culminating with an Alex Smith 7-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal to tight end Demetrius Harris.
Then, in the fourth quarter and just on the edge of field goal range and with the Chiefs holding a 28-27 lead, the Patriots once again went for it on fourth-and-short, and they were once again shut down—this time by a combination of Frank Zombo, Justin Houston, and company.
It was one of the biggest wins of the season for the Chief, and will forever be remembered, at least defensively, by those two fourth-down stops.
- Chris Jones' performance against the Philadelphia Eagles
There's no denying that Jones had a fantastic rookie season in 2016, finishing as a Pro Football Focus darling and routinely causing havoc up front as he worked his way into the defensive rotation.
But he never had a day like he did in Week 2 against the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.
Jones finished with three sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception—displaying an inability to be contained in a game in which he needed to step up, as did everyone, with All-Pro safety Eric Berry being placed on Injured Reserve with a torn Achilles suffered at the end of the Patriots' game.
Jones, who had just two sacks during a great rookie season, has already surpassed that in just two games in 2017. He finished with 6.5 sacks on the year.
- The performance against the Raiders at home
The Chiefs began the season with a 5-0 record but found themselves sitting at 6-6 when they hosted the Oakland Raiders in Week 14.
The Raiders had already beaten the Chiefs by a score of 31-30 back in Oakland in Week 7 in dramatic fashion—a Derek Carr touchdown to Michael Crabtree as time expired after several penalties kept the game going.
So, it was a game that already meant everything, but even more was added to the atmosphere because of the team-issued one-game suspension to All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters.
There was pressure, and the tone of the game was set early by the Chiefs' defense, which held Carr and company to just 68 yards of total offense in the first half. Carr was just 5 of 12 for 31 yards and an interception in the first 30 minutes of play.
The Raiders first nine offensive possessions consisted of seven punts and two turnovers, which came via an interception and a fumble.
One of the individual marquee plays in the game came via veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson.
Johnson leveled Raiders' running back Marshawn Lynch on a pass to the flat in the fourth quarter. The balls' placement didn't do Lynch any favors, but the optics of the play made the Arrowhead Stadium faithful go crazy.
It wasn't the first time we've seen Johnson come up with a huge hit on a Raiders' running back—he did something similar to Jalen Richard last year, but this one may be a little more memorable simply because of the recipient.
Johnson read the play the whole way and came flying downhill like a missile before sticking his facemask in Lynch's chest, knocking the ball loose for an incompletion and seemingly making a statement in the process.
Then, trailing 13-0 with six minutes left in the first half, the Raiders were sitting with a first-and-10 from the Chiefs' 24-yard line.
On the snap, Chris Jones fought through a double-team and got to Carr, who flung the ball straight up into the air as Jones hit him, causing the ball to resemble a game of "500" that you play as a kid, and cornerback Terrance Mitchell was the proud winner as he made a fantastic diving interception.
The momentum, which was already on the Chiefs' side, picked up even more after the Raiders squandered a scoring opportunity when the Chiefs were starting to pull away.
In addition to Mitchell's interception, the Chiefs also forced two other turnovers on the day.
Cornerback Steven Nelson, who had a fantastic game, ripped the ball out of the hands of Raiders' receiver Johnny Holton on a first-down play midway through the third quarter.
The ball was kicked around a bit and eventually recovered by linebacker Frank Zombo.
Then, late in the game, Chiefs' safety Steven Terrell sealed the deal with his interception of Carr in the end zone as the Raiders were trying to make a late comeback.
It marked the third game this season in which the Chiefs had multiple interceptions. The other two games were also divisional ones—the game on the road against the Chargers, and then at home against the Broncos.
The Chiefs' defense finished the game with three sacks, which marked the first time they'd had as many since the game against the Denver Broncos, which had also happened to be their last win.
A lot of credit that day should also be spread among cornerbacks Nelson, Mitchell and Darrelle Revis—each of whom had nice pass breakups on 50-50 balls that went the Chiefs' way. They were the center of attention all week with Peters being out, and they answered the call.
- Marcus Peters' individual performance against the Los Angeles Chargers
In Week 15 against the Chargers, Peters finished with two interceptions, a forced fumble, and had a phenomenal open-field tackle on Chargers' receiver Travis Benjamin on a key third down late in the game.
It was a game that helped the Chiefs secure their second-straight division title—a feat that had never happened in franchise history.
It was also the game following his team-issued suspension, and Peters returned to the field and had one of the best games of his young career.
He was targeted six times and didn't allow a reception.
The two interceptions gave Peters 19 for his career, which is still tops in the league since 2015, when he was the Chiefs' first-round pick (No. 18 overall) out of Washington.
Furthermore, four of Peters' 19 career interceptions have come against the Chargers, including three this year. Peters also had an interception of Rivers in their first meeting back in Los Angeles in Week 3.
After sitting out against the Raiders, Peters stepped up in one of the biggest of games and moments for the Chiefs in 2017.
- The defense's performance overall against the Chargers
In addition to Peters leading the way, the entire defense followed suit that day and stepped up against the Chargers—particularly in crunch time.
Following a key drive by the Chiefs' offense late in the third quarter that gave the Chiefs the lead back at 17-13, the Chargers' next four offensive possessions each ended up resulting in a turnover.
After the Chiefs punched back, the Chargers went interception, fumble, interception, and interception.
It marked the third time the Chiefs had three interceptions in a game this season, with one of the other games being the Week 3 matchup against the Chargers in Los Angeles.
Chargers' quarterback Philip Rivers ended up having a fantastic season—throwing 28 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions, but six of those interceptions came against the Chiefs.
It only further illustrates the Chiefs' dominance over division opponents under Andy Reid—having won 18 of their last 20 games.