Kansas City Chiefs front 7 evaluation: Week 5

John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

The Chiefs defense held a top five offense to nine points last Sunday. Here's how they did it.

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Nine points. The Chiefs defense gave up NINE points to a top five offense this week, missing three players that get a lot of snaps. That's hard to do, and it's unfortunate that they couldn't get a little help on the other side of the field. Baltimore came out with a game plan to attack the Chiefs front seven with star running back Ray Rice, and to throw short passes across the middle of the field. Both aspects of this game plan put the onus on the Chiefs front seven. We know they did well on the scoreboard, but how did they do in my book? Let's find out.


Kalo's front seven evaluations: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4


  • 57.14% of the time, the Chiefs lined up in the traditional base 3-4 defense.
  • 28.57% of the time, the Chiefs ran a 3-3-5 or a 2-4-5 nickel defense.
  • 14.29% of the time, the Chiefs ran a 2-3-6 dime defense.
  • Allen Bailey got the start at right defensive end, in place of Glenn Dorsey. Dontari Poe got the lion's share of snaps at nose tackle, being occasionally spelled by Jerrell Powe. Anthony Toribio saw the majority of his limited snaps at right defensive end, usually for a Tyson Jackson-Dontari Poe-Anthony Toribio front three. That's a very LARGE front three.
  • In the first drive, the defense did well to limit yardage, allowing a couple of short passes and runs. Forcing a punt in the first drive of the game isn't something to really write home about, but the way the Chiefs as a team have started slowly, that's an improvement.
  • The second drive was even better, with a 4 yard run, incomplete pass, and a Tamba Hali sack with the TAMBAHAWK celebration. Defense came out firing on all cylinders.
  • And on the third drive, the first big play of the day for the Ravens offense. Ray Rice got the handoff and ran off tackle to the left hand side (right hand side of the defense). Tamba Hali gets up the field to set the outside contain, but Allen Bailey gets shoved off the line and allows a free man to get to the second level, where Jovan Belcher was quickly coming to fill the gap. The fullback comes through and makes sure Tamba can't lay a hand on Rice, and this play is blown wide open. Bailey's lack of anchor and lack of double team costs the Chiefs defense 37 yards on the edge.
  • I've been calling for the nickel defense instead of the Chiefs automatic dime looks throughout last season and early this season. With the Ravens attacking short, Romeo opted for 3-3-5 defenses (Jovan Belcher out) and 2-4-5 defenses (nickel linemen Poe and Bailey, standard linebackers). This helped tremendously against the run, and the passing defense didn't suffer too badly. Hopefully we see more of this.
  • Obvious point of the week: Justin Houston and Tamba Hali are the most feared pass rush combo in the league.
  • Strong first half showing by the Chiefs sees the score tied, 3-3. One big run play given up leads to a field goal. That's the kind of defense you can ride to victories.
  • In the second half, the Chiefs give up back-to-back big plays after the fumble on the 1 yard line. First, Anquan Boldin gets too much space and evades a couple tackles in the secondary for a 43 yard gain. 8 yard cushion through the middle by Flowers and Berry, and both of them miss tackles after the catch.
  • The second big play comes on a confusion out of the front seven. Starting in the second half, Justin Houston was matched up with the left tackle, swapping sides with Tamba. This helped the run defense on that side, while allowing Tamba to play off of Tyson Jackson. Unfortunately on this play, there's confusion, and both Tamba and Houston are on the right tackle. Houston recognizes it and tries to get back to the left tackle, but doesn't get there in time. With nobody on the edge, the Ravens capitalize for a 26 yard run out of Ray Rice. This sets up another field goal for the Ravens.
  • The next drive, the Ravens get a big pass play on poor coverage by Jovan Belcher (18 yards) and another big pass play on poor coverage by Brandon Flowers. Even though the drive was capped off by a Justin Houston sack, the Ravens get another field goal.
  • Good pressure by Dontari Poe early in the 4th quarter with the Ravens backed up in their own half. He got there late (and may have roughed the passer), but forced a bad throw and a punt out of their own endzone.
  • DJ with back-to-back run stuffs in consecutive drives late in the 4th quarter. On the first, he rode the double team of Poe, shot the gap, BLEW UP THE FULLBACK, and made a tackle for a 1 yard gain. That's highlight reel material there. On the next drive, the Belcher/DJ combo does a great job. The Ravens try to run in the right A gap, but Belcher stacks the fullback in the gap, leaving Ray Rice with only one place to run, and that's the gap DJ is shooting. He blows up the play for no gain.
  • Boy, I want that whistle back on Tamba's second sack. Great job by Tyson Jackson and Allen Bailey to immediately swarm on the quarterback and yank the ball out of his hands (Bailey actually gets the ball, but Tyson's ripping the arms away). Too bad the play is blown dead as the ball is recovered in the endzone.
  • To finish the game, Tyson Jackson and Dontari Poe give up crucial free men trying to get into the backfield and make a play. The linebackers get stuffed, and the Ravens convert to run out the clock.

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Photo Credit: Denny Medley - US PRESSWIRE

The Numbers


92 - Dontari Poe / 94 - Tyson Jackson / 95 - Jerrell Powe / 97 - Allen Bailey / 98 - Anthony Toribio / 50 - Justin Houston / 56 - Derrick Johnson / 59 - Jovan Belcher / 91 - Tamba Hali


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Those are some ugly numbers, fellow Chiefs fans. DJ leads all with an even 2 YPPT, and Allen Bailey puts up an embarassing 21.67 YPPT, although one run wasn't entirely his fault. Tamba and Belcher get burnt by Rice's big run, too. That's how it goes though, when somebody gets down, you need to step up and make plays. Good showings by Tyson (2.18 YPPT) and an okay one by Houston (3.25 YPPT). After that, eveyone is over 4.5 YPPT.

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For the first time all year long, it's actually been healthier for an offense if they ran AT Jovan's side of the field, rather than away from it. Granted, Jovan ended up behind Bailey an awful lot this game (DJ and Jovan switch at will, so it just depends where the tight end is lined up), and that did hurt his numbers. Once again, running away from the strongside (Tyson Jackson) and away from the middle (Dontari Poe) proves to be the most fruitful way to gain yardage against the defense.

Other Items of Note

The linebackers weren't thrown at much last week, with DJ seeing 2 targets for 11 yards and Belcher seeing one target for 18 yards.

The big boys came up strong this week in the Effective Double Team department. Dontari Poe led all comes with 6 of them, followed closely by Tyson Jackson with 5. Toribio had one.

Destructive Free Men were more than usual, and it shows in the graphs above. Poe led this category as well, totaling 4, with Bailey right behind at 3. Jackson and Toribio each had one.

Houston and Hali each had 2 sacks.

Houston led the team in pressures with 6, followed by Hali with 3 and Poe with 1.

The Final Word

It's a little bittersweet looking at the numbers and knowing how well the defense played. In previous weeks, the secondary got torched for big plays, leaving the front seven with average looking numbers. This week, the front seven was targeted, seeing more run plays, and it made their numbers look worse. Obviously, the weakness in the front seven was Allen Bailey, giving up a couple big plays, and getting run over a lot more than Ro'Po or Dorsey have this year. That will get better with those players returning.

I liked Romeo's game plan on defense this week far more than any that he's tried this season. More nickel meant more men in the box, and even though the run numbers are high, they likely would have been MUCH higher. He also identified Bailey's weaknesses at the half, giving Toribio some rotational snaps, and moving a superior run defender in Justin Houston to his outside shoulder. There were a lot of 3-4 yard runs this week, and no negative rushing plays. This season, there's been at least a couple big stuffs behind the line each game. I attribute this to a more traditional power rushing offense with a fullback, as well as an elite running back in Ray Rice that was able to get those extra 1 or 2 yards after initial contact and turn short runs into manageable runs.

This is a good defense. There's no doubt about that. Let's not forget that the Ravens have pretty much imposed their will offensively all season long, and they weren't able to do that this game. The key going forward has to be eliminating those 20+ yard runs on long down/distance situations, and cleaning up the penalties that keep drives alive. The front seven plays at a really high level for 95% of the game. If they can reduce that last 5% by a couple percentage points, they're a team that can pitch consistent shutouts.

Now if they could just get that offense going....

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