Kansas City Chiefs defense, preseason week 3: Under Pressure!

Justin K. Aller

This week, KaloPhoenix loves the blitz, hates the short coverage, and gets surprised by the statistics against the Steelers.

Anybody think Big Ben's still hearing footsteps this week?  In Week 3 of the 2013 NFL preseason against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton brought the heat, blitzing numerous times from numerous positions.  This, along with some improved offensive play, netted the Chiefs their first win of the preseason.  Once again, I've watched the game a couple of times and tabulated some statistics outside the norm for the starters.  For information on those stats, reference last week's post. While we're here, you can also check out the Week 1 post here.

Let's get to the good stuff!

  • The 2nd play of the game demonstrates the risk/reward style of the defense. Sutton blitzes DJ, who gets stuck in the A gap and is forced to take another route. Tamba gets around the edge and gets to the quarterback just after the ball has left his hand. The wide receiver got around Sean Smith and was open for the 49 yard pass. That's something we may see as fans this year: an inch away from a massive defensive play for a loss turns into a massive play the other way.
  • Once again, the defense responds after a big play, rather than letting down. Immediately, Devito is brought on the field and placed in the nose tackle position. Poe is moved to the spot vacated by Allen Bailey. Let's take a second and think about the offensive line blocking Bailey, then having to switch gears to a behemoth in Poe. Devito drives Pouncey way upfield, and Poe fills the gap for a short gain.
  • So, uh, this is a hold. The back was able to get around the edge on Justin Houston, and all the gaps were filled, but the edge wasn't set due to the hold. Which means the Steelers have figured out how to run on that side of the line: by cheating.

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  • 2nd and 4 from the KC 9, and the Steelers try to run up the gut.  Instead, Tyson Jackson drives David DeCastro about 3 1/2 yards deep into the backfield, which turns the running back into the pursuit of a free Tamba Hali and Mike Devito (great hand work to slip the blocks on that side). Loss of one, and utter domination of the offensive line there.
  • Offense gives up a short field, Chiefs line up in the dime defense...you'll have to excuse me, I'm clearly having flashbacks.  Oh...wait, it's 2013. Abdullah takes Demps' spot in the dime. Bailey and Poe are the down linemen.
  • I liked how Sean Smith didn't whine about the potential OPI call on the endzone fade. He was more frustrated that he didn't haul the pass in, rather than yelling at the referee. Head down, go to work.
  • Yet another close call. The Chiefs blitzed Abdullah, and Tamba almost gets to the quarterback again!  This time, it's a dump off to a receiver covered by DJ for a first down. DJ probably would have had his fingers on the pass, but when the receiver came across the field, he used Justin Houston to pick DJ and give himself some space. Pretty smart play by Jerricho Cotchery there.
  • One of a couple Tyson Jackson line manipulations on the very next play. Let's walk through this one, step by step. TJax is lined up over the right guard (Decastro), with Poe at nose tackle and Devito on the other side. Right off the snap, you see Jackson get leverage on Decastro. Look at the stance by the offensive lineman: it's off balance. The other thing to note is that Jackson's head turns to find the running back after getting the leverage he wants. (Also of note:  there's that Devito first step that has been discussed. Guy gets off the line quick.)

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The Steelers offensive line starts to gain some ground again, particularly on the left side of the offense.  The running back sees some daylight on the right side, though...specifically around Tyson Jackson.  Jackson, at this point, has still not allowed the offensive lineman to get a good grasp on him, and continues to keep his eyes in the backfield.

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The running back gets to the hole, and TJax throws Decastro aside, making the tackle and preventing a TD.  That's damn fine execution by #94 there.

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  • And here I was worried we wouldn't get to see a "DJ Special" in the preseason. Perfect gap shoot on the blitz by Derrick (right in between Poe and Bailey) for what might have been the easiest sack of his career. Well done.
  • Yet another play where Tamba got his hands on the quarterback with nothing to show for it. This time, the Chiefs only rush three, with Justin Houston as the quarterback spy (I like this.  It'll help against mobile QB's). Big Ben finds his way out of the initial rush, like he always seems to do, and moves through the pocket to find space. In the meantime, the running back has moved into the flat, but no Chiefs player seems to want to pick him up. Ben identifies this, and it's an easy pass for a TD. I can tell that Houston is the spy on the play, but I've no clue who's supposed to be on the flat there. Concerning.
  • Check this out: a Poe-Devito-Jackson front line. In that order. Bob Sutton is going to try a lot of stuff this year, Chiefs fans. Oh, and the next play, Devito and Poe switch. That means that in the first three drives of the game, Mike Devito and Dontari Poe played every position on the defensive line.  Wow.

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  • End around gobbled up by Dontari Poe. From the nose tackle position. Speed kills, especially when it's on a 330+ pound defensive lineman.
  • DJ, once again, sticking his nose in the gap and making a play. He looks much more active this week than he was. Nothing to worry about here.
  • You want to talk about a great pass break up, look no further than Flowers' PBU to stop a TD. That ball was caught by the receiver and ripped away with one hand by Flowers before hitting the ground. That's a great job sticking with the play all the way through the whistle.
  • DJ, once again, showing up big on 3rd down. He sat in a short middle zone and was able to get his hand on the pass as it came across the middle of the field. It's a good thing, too, as the receiver was very open about 6 yards deeper than DJ. Would have been a first down and more.
  • Yet another play where the running back came out into the flat to catch a pass and there's nobody within 7 yards of him. This has to be a miscommunication or something, because there appears to be nobody assigned to that player in coverage.
  • Allen Bailey proved to be a great distraction on 2nd and 5 with 1:33 left in the half. He started the play lined up in between the right guard and right tackle, then shot the A gap. The right tackle followed him all the way inside, and both Berry and Tysyn Hartman poured through the empty space left for a sack.  Dialed up perfectly from Sutton.

The Numbers

94 - Tyson Jackson / 92 - Dontari Poe / 70 - Mike Devito / 97 - Allen Bailey / 50 - Justin Houston / 55 - Akeem Jordan / 56 - Derrick Johnson / 91 - Tamba Hali / 24 - Brandon Flowers / 23 - Kendrick Lewis/ 27- Sean Smith / 21 - Dunta Robinson / 29 - Eric Berry / 31 - Tysyn Hartman / 39 - Husain Abdullah

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Believe it or not, Arrowhead Pride faithful, Justin Houston was the worst this week!  He was run at 5 times, once for 13 yards (the hold that wasn't called), and a 7 yarder in the dime defense. His YPPT total was an uncharacteristic 5.2 yards. Tyson also felt his number go up, but that too, included the 13 yard run. Akeem Jordan led all this week, followed closely by Devito. Both saw 3 runs their way, and neither allowed the play to go for longer than 3 yards. Good show by those two, and Jordan continues to impress in the run game with a 1.33 YPPT for the week.

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Sean Smith is feeling a little crispy this week. He was targeted four times for 73 yards, a total of 18.25 YPPT. The bulk of that came on the early 49-yard toss, but he also gave up a too-easy 24 yard play later in the game. Surprising:  Tamba was thrown at twice, for a YPPT of 3.5 yard. That tied Abdullah for the best performance of the week.  Berry continued to be strong, with 5 YPPT over two targets.

Other Items of Note

Tamba had 3 quarterback pressures.  Houston and Jackson each had one.

Mike Devito recorded the only tackle for loss.

DJ, Flowers, and Smith each recorded a pass break up.

Final Thoughts

The Chiefs brought the heat last Saturday.  In a "vanilla" preseason game, Bob Sutton dialed up blitzes on 28.13% of the first team snaps.  Couple that with players lining up all over the place, and you've got a bit of a nightmare for the offense's protection scheme.  There's still plenty of work to be done in coverage, it seems.  The secondary got beat deep a couple of times, and the short dump-off passes to the running back in the flats shouldn't result in 10-15 yard gains.

In a "vanilla" preseason game, Bob Sutton dialed up blitzes on 28.13% of the first team snaps.

Some players flashed well, which is about all you can take from these preseason games. Tyson Jackson looks like he's in mid-season form, shedding blocks well and making stops. Allen Bailey looked the part in his time on the field, but I'm always wary of his run defense. I need to see more with the first team before I'd have a change of heart there. Derrick Johnson looked himself on the field, shooting gaps more aggressively, and playing pretty well in coverage. Tamba also looked good, repeatedly abusing the Steelers' left tackle. Of course, Jordan was the surprise of the day.

With this likely being the last true look at the defense before the regular season starts, I'm readjusting my expectations.  It's going to be aggressive, and it's going to beat the hell out of a lot of offenses this year with the constant blitzing and the aggressive gap attacks. That said, there will be big plays given up. If the defense continues to buckle down and respond to those big plays by coming up with stops for field goals, it's going to be a fun year.

Oh, and I'll just leave this here:




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