Kansas City Chiefs Front Seven Evaluation: Week Four

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Here we are, in week four of the season, with the Chiefs facing the Minnesota Vikings.  As per usual,  the system is located here.  Each week during the season, I will sit down and watch each play in detail and tabulate the scores.  Obviously, I will be limited to the feed that the standard fan is privy, so please, keep your complaints about "game tape" to yourself.

I will give my views on crucial plays made by the defense, both good and bad, so it will read as a sort of modified play-by-play.  Afterwards, I will pick my "Goat of the Week", "Surprise of the Week", and "MVP of the Week".  There was a positive product on the field this week, so let's get to it!

  • 79.7% of the time, the Chiefs were lined up in a 3-4 defense.
  • There were zero snaps in which the Chiefs removed a lineman for a nickel defense.
  • 20.3% of the time, the Chiefs removed a lineman and a linebacker for a dime defense.
  • 8.4% of the time, the Chiefs blitzed an extra man or more.
  • Second defensive play of the game, and the Chiefs are in the 3-4 defense.  A play action bootleg causes most of the defense to bite to the weakside of the field, but Tyson recognizes the bootleg and stays put (keeping the quarterback in the pocket) and Houston stays on the receiver in the flat.  The pass is completed for no gain under good coverage by Houston.
  • The very next play, the Chiefs are in the dime formation.  It appears to be a blown play by the offense, but Tamba still gets into the backfield and flushes the quarterback out of the pocket, where he throws an incompletion.  3-and-out on the first drive.
  • The next drive starts on the 20 yard line with a little over 7:00 left in the first quarter.  In the 3-4 defense, the Chiefs see a run up the center of the field.  Tyson has a two-blocker wall in front of him, but is stationary at the line of scrimmage.  Gregg is caught stretching to try to keep a second blocker with him as DJ shoots the gap.  The running back squeezes through the minute opening left by Gregg's second blocker for a 4 yard gain.
  • The next play sees the same personnel on the field.  The offensive left guard pull blocks to try and open a gap with a double team on Tamba.  Dorsey sniffs this out and (while engaging the left tackle) disrupts the guard and forces a double team.  The running back cuts back to the strong side of the field, where Tyson has positioned himself on the edge with a blocker.  Tyson cleans the play up for a 1 yard gain.
  • Two plays later, the Vikings run their first end around of the day.  Both Tamba and Gregg do a good job of sniffing this play out as it is developing, but Harvin is quick enough to get to the edge for a 8 yard gain.
  • I had read one of the Vikings media personalities saying that the Chiefs didn't blitz until the 3rd quarter, but Romeo sent Belcher up the middle on a pass play with 4:45 left to go in the first quarter.
  • 4:02 left in the first quarter, Tamba gets around his man and forces a holding penalty.  He had the quarterback dead to rights.
  • The resulting 1st and 20 sees the running back run over the weakside of the 3-4 defense.  Dorsey gets a little bit of push into the backfield, but can't get his hands on the running back.  Houston lines up the back, but whiffs on a tackle that would have been in the backfield.  Result:  a 14-yard gain.
  • 2nd and 6, the back goes up the middle again.  Both Tyson and Gregg allow blockers to get to the second level, but both plug the open gap for a short gain.
  • Confusing Scheme #1:  the resulting 3rd and short has the Chiefs in the dime defense.  The back runs right over the gap left by an overmatched and double teamed Bailey for an easy first down.
  • 1:53 left in the first quarter, Amon Gordon spells Kelly Gregg at the nose tackle position.  The quarterback goes deep for a 34-yard TD pass.  These are entirely unrelated circumstances.
  • 13:38 left in the second quarter, and it's 1st and 10, Vikings.  Dorsey lines up about as close as you can get without being offsides, and blows his man into the backfield.  Belcher shoots the strongside B gap, and the running back has to cut back against the flow of the play.  DJ steps into the gap and lays a wallop for a no gain play.
  • On the next play, Houston comes up to the line late (was even with DJ and Demorrio) to try and get a jam on the tight end.  He doesn't do a good job, and when backing into coverage, ends up covering Demorrio's man, leaving the tight end wide open for a 41 yard gain.
  • Demorrio with a nice gap fill the next play behind Tyson and Gordon's double teams.
  • Houston seems to be lining up initially in the second level, as mentioned before.  Tamba isn't putting his hand in the dirt so it's still a 3-4, but with Demorrio on the field, Houston is even with the inside linebackers.
  • 3rd and 1, about 11:20 left in the second quarter, and the Chiefs are in the modified 3-4 mentioned above.  Minnesota calls a play action bootleg, and Tamba doesn't bite on it.  He hits the quarterback as he throws, forcing a shorter throw that the receiver has to come back to get.  DJ reacts to the pass and blows it up in the backfield for a loss.  Great job by the two defensive playmakers.
  • 4th and 3, the Chiefs bring an all out blitz (that's two hard to miss blitzes well before the 3rd quarter) and Piscatelli almost makes it to the quarterback.  Washington doesn't quite get to the receiver, and it's a conversion.
  • The ensuing 1st and 10, both Gregg and Belcher are back on the field.  Houston lines up even with the down linemen again.  Tyson gets a double team towards Gregg's side, and Gregg gains penetration for a stop even with the line of scrimmage.
  • 2nd and 10, the quarterback drops back to pass and the pocket disintegrates.  Tyson took the outside route with Tamba taking the inside, and Tyson gained pressure (you read that correctly) forcing the quarterback up into the pocket for a waiting Tamba.  That's good teamwork for a sack.
  • Oh man, Wallace blew threw the line on Carr's interception.  It was a screen pass, but he was expecting a little resistance, lost his balance, but still got in the quarterback's face to force a throw behind the receiver.  Carr cleaned it up.  That's was a pretty darn good defensive possession.
  • 1st and 10 with 5:10 left in the second quarter, Gordon spells Dorsey, creating a BIG line.  The offensive right guard pulls to stuff the linebacker who would be shooting the gap, but Gregg gets ahold of him and DJ shoots the gap and blows up the running back well behind the line.  Good instincts by DJ, even better double by Gregg to allow it to happen.
  • Another 1st and 10 with 3:48 left, and Minnesota tries to run over the strong side of the defense.  They get two pull blockers in front, but the combination of Tyson and Houston string the play along to the sidelines where DJ and Houston clean up the play for yet another loss of yardage.
  • The next play, Gordon does a really good job of adding to the wall created by Tyson and Gregg, then releases as the running back cuts outside and makes a secure stop to turn a potentially big gain into a short one.
  • 3rd and 8, and Wallace gets through the line AGAIN for a quarterback pressure that results in the ball being thrown out of bounds.  He's making the most of some limited snaps this week.
  • At halftime, the Chiefs have run 25 defensive plays.  That's 17 less than last week and it shows.
  • The Chiefs start the defensive half on their side of the field after a personal foul penalty on the punt.  They are in the standard 3-4, with Dorsey back on the field.
  • After a three marginal plays that result in short yardage and accumulate a first down, the Vikings run a bubble screen to Harvin.  Justin Houston reads the screen and steps up to try to make the tackle and catches nothing but air.  Tough luck out of the kid, as Harvin was quick enough to pick up a 1st and 10.
  • Yikes.  The resulting 1st and 10 had an up the gut run from the Vikings.  Dorsey, Tyson, AND Gregg let men through to the linebackers.  The running back danced too much behind the line of scrimmage, though, and DJ shed his blocker for an excellent ankle tackle to stop the play for short yardage.
  • It's now 3rd and 5 with 9:21 left in the third period.  The Chiefs are in the dime defense, and Tamba gets around his man again, forcing a throw.  DJ was glued to Harvin, and the pass couldn't be threaded.  Good stand by the defense on a short field.
  • The drive after Succop's monster 54 yard field goal starts with the Chiefs in the modified 3-4 mentioned in the first half, with Gordon subbing in for Tyson and Demorrio for Belcher.
  • Demorrio is shooting the gap much better in his limited snaps than Belcher seems to be in the wealth of snaps he's getting so far.  This is very different.
  • 2nd and 11 (penalty pushed the Vikings back 5 yards) and Tamba pressures the quarterback again, forcing another throw!
  • 1st and 10, last play of the third quarter, Belcher fills the gap nicely, and the running back cuts back to the strong side of the defense.  Tyson gets free, but misses a low tackle.  Gregg and DJ clean it up, but it should have been a loss on the play.
  • 3rd and 6, 14:50 left in the game, Tamba brings pressure on the right side of the defense again, forcing the quarterback out of the pocket.  He's a monster!
  • After the Bowe touchdown, the Vikings take over with 13:30 left on the clock.  The 1st down play is an end around to Harvin, and there's not a whole lot the defense could have done to stop him.  Great blocking on a great run.
  • The resulting 1st and 10 has both Tyson and Gordon letting free men to the second level, but Tyson shrugs the single blocker and fills the gap, forcing the running back to try to cut to the outside.  Tamba gets some backside help from Dorsey for a tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
  • With 11:49 left to go in the game, the Chiefs have matched their first half defensive snap total from last week.
  • 2nd and 7, with 11:11 left to go, Gregg gets pancaked, but Tyson shoots the A gap and gets by his man.  The running back has to make a quick adjustment, but Belcher shoots right behind Tyson and the play results in no gain.
  • The resulting play, the Chiefs line up in the dime defense, and Tamba simply abuses the right tackle for his second sack of the day.  The fire he is showing this game is ridiculous!
  • And he ALMOST gets another!  4th and long, Tamba puts pressure on the quarterback from the left side of the offense this time, and gets a hit off right after the ball leaves his hand.  Poor coverage by Piscatelli and Lewis allow a first down.
  • Good backside contain by Houston on the resulting first down.
  • 2nd and Goal with 6:30 left in the game, and DJ BLOWS THROUGH THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE.  Holy crap, how did he get into the backfield so quickly?!?  DJ makes the perfect stop, doesn't even give the running back a chance to leap over the pile.
  • After a short gain on 1st down (last drive of the game), Tamba once again beats the left tackle and forces a wobbly throw out of the quarterback.  It results in a completion, but not without a big shot just after the ball was gone.
  • Romeo sticks with the 3-4 on the resulting first down, and it pays dividends.  Dorsey beats his man, gets behind the blockers, and wraps up the running back for no gain.  Big stop by the end.
  • The next play, the end around beats the defense again.  This time, DJ sniffs it out, but goes too high with the tackle, misses, and allows Harvin to get up field.  Luckily, this defense won't face this fast of a receiver that runs this well with the ball every week.
  • The resulting first down, and Romeo still has faith in the 3-4...and once again it comes through.  Kelly Gregg gets his hands in the air and bats the ball down at the line.  Great play, big man.
  • And again!  Tyson follows in line with his nose tackle and bats the 2nd down play out of the air!  Back to back huge plays by the defensive line!
  • 3rd and 10, and the Chiefs are in the dime defense...and guess who is in the quarterback's face again?  Tamba Freaking Hali.  Incomplete pass brings up a do-or-die 4th down for the offense.
  • And on that 4th down:  Piscatelli gets a solid jam on the tight end and sticks to him like glue in coverage, resulting in an incompletion.  Would not have counted anyway, because Tamba forced a holding penalty after getting by the left tackle again.  Front seven was HUGE on that crucial drive.
KPM Rankings

Defensive Line:
Tyson Jackson 12
Kelly Gregg 11
Glenn Dorsey 8
Wallace Gilberry 4
Allen Bailey 2
Amon Gordon 1

Linebackers:
Tamba Hali 28
Derrick Johnson 22
Jovan Belcher 9
Demorrio Williams 2
Justin Houston 1
Cameron Sheffield 0

KPM/Snap Rankings

Defensive Line:
Wallace Gilberry 0.33
Kelly Gregg 0.31
Tyson Jackson 0.27
Glenn Dorsey 0.19
Allen Bailey 0.17
Amon Gordon 0.06

Linebackers:
Tamba Hali 0.47
Demorrio Williams 0.40
Derrick Johnson 0.37
Jovan Belcher 0.22
Justin Houston 0.02
Cameron Sheffield 0.00

**********************
Goat of the Week
Justin Houston - I don't want to hate on the kid again, but he was the weak link.  Just like last week, he had some good moments in coverage, and was strong on a couple of run plays.  However, I can point to 2-3 times where a missed tackle or blown coverage resulted in a long 1st down conversion.  If he can clean these few plays up, this defense is even better, and he becomes a strong player.

Surprise of the Week
Amon Gordon- The "surprise" was a little tough this week.  I thought about Jovan or Tyson for a back-to-back good performance, but that's not "of the week".  Dorsey played well at times, but disappeared for large parts of the game.  Gilberry brought good pressure in the dime, but that's not really a surprise.  Finally, I settled on Gordon.  The guy came in and spelled the nose tackle position and both defensive end positions without a massive dropoff in play.  He doesn't really seem like the guy who is going to blow up a play or wreck havoc on an offensive line, but his play seems steady and solid.  It was a surprise to me to see him come in and hold those positions down while giving the starters a rest.

MVP(s) of the Week
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via static.nfl.com

Derrick Johnson - Pro.  Bowl.  Performance.  One missed tackle away from having a completely clean sheet on the KPM, and countless impact plays.  He covered well, he shot the gaps well, and most importantly:  he tackled well.  While he got a decent amount of help from the defensive line, there were many plays that he simply made happen himself.  This was a great running back that he was lining up and making tackles.  It wasn't some weak rookie that falls down at first contact:  this was Adrian Peterson.  In coverage, he was stuck on a good tight end in Shiancoe or a good wide receiver in Harvin.  There is no doubt about the quality of player that he was forced to cover/tackle.  He showed the skill and desire to will this defense to a win.  The only person in the ballpark with him...

Tamba Hali -  I couldn't give it to one of these guys without coming up with a good reason to give it to the other.  While DJ cleaned house against solid players, Tamba simply abused blockers and forced the passing game to become inconsistent.  Two sacks.  Six quarterback pressures.  Every tackle on the schedule is scared of this man, and every quarterback has his head on a swivel in preparation.  The guy just does what he does so well on both sides of the field.  Minnesota tried their damnedest  to single block him for most of the game, and he let the quarterback know he was there 13.5% of the snaps this game...and that INCLUDES RUNNING PLAYS.  The man is a beast.

*****************
Final Observations

I enjoyed watching the front seven immensely this week.  Romeo put his faith in the 3-4 to get pressure and still be able to cover the field.  The run game held one of the best backs in the league to 80 yards on 23 carries.  The end around torched the defense, but two of those four carries go for a loss if the linebacker gets a solid hit and wraps up on Harvin.  Gregg played very well this week, being stout against the run and batting a ball down on the last drive.  Tyson let far more blockers to the second level than he normally does, but seemed to make up for it by closing the gap himself.  Belcher was getting beaten to the punch by DJ on almost every play, so he was fairly invisible in the first half, but picked it up again in the second.  Dorsey was, well, Dorsey:  he makes a couple plays by getting behind the line of scrimmage, then disappears for long stretches.

This team can win with this front seven on the field.  Sure, they got help by a couple of longer drives out of the offense, but they held their own very well.  When Minnesota got the ball back on their last drive, I really wasn't worried about the outcome, because I was fairly sure that the defense would step up...and step up they did.  A Dorsey stuff, Tyson and Gregg batting balls down, and Tamba's pressures ended that game for Minnesota.

That's it for this week.  I appreciate your questions and comments below!  GOOOO CHIEFS!
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