In part 1 of this series, we looked at the big plays the defense gave up in the early part of the season. Part 2 will focus on the plays of 25 yards or more that the Chiefs defense gave up after week 9, including the playoff loss to the Colts.
The second half of the season starts with the same scheme that cost the Chiefs so dearly in the first half. They're playing cover 1 again, and this time they've put everyone except for the deep safety within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, with 9 of those 10 players on the line. All of those players in the box above leave too much room between the attempted jam by Marcus Cooper at the line and the deep coverage of Quentin Demps. Frankly, the Chiefs are lucky this play didn't end in a TD -- instead, they gave up 70 yards and a first down.
This is a cover 3 look from the Chiefs, which isn't immediately clear because the defenders are still scrambling around when the ball is snapped. Marcus Cooper does almost everything you could ask of a CB on this play -- except for staying on his feet. When he he tries to change his momentum to stay with the receiver, he finds himself moving towards teammate Kendrick Lewis, and falls when he tries to correct his course. The ball is caught a little more than 10 yards down field, and by the time everybody in white is on their feet and pursuing, the Broncos are well on their way to a 29 yard gain and a first down.
There is a mismatch created by Peyton Manning's hurry up offense, as he gets Kendrick Lewis against Julius Thomas one-on-one. Sean Smith sees this and hesitates for while, seeming to contemplate going over to help Lewis, not thinking about Quentin Demps already being deep to provide help. As soon as this happens, Eric Decker gets separation in the middle of the field and Manning hits him in stride for a 33 yard gain and a first down.
This is cover 1 with Kendrick Lewis as the deep man, and nobody bothers to cover Kennan Allen. This means that when Kendrick Lewis first moves to his right, and then, only after the completion, to his left, he has a lot of ground to cover. Thankfully, Allen runs straight at his potential tacklers, and the result is "only" a 29 yard gain and first down.
This is a simple case of poor execution in cover 3. Somehow, none of the deep defenders see Eddie Royal uncovered, and Philip Rivers literally splits the deep coverage right down the middle (between the two underneath zones, and underneath the deep zone) and the result is 54 yards and a first down.
Quentin Demps is the deep man in this cover 1, and when Ladarius Green crosses underneath another receiver, he loses his coverage man. Demps doesn't react until Green is already past him, and the Chargers get 60 yards and 6 points.
This is the heartbreaking play that completed the first true defensive collapse for the Chiefs this year. They're in cover 2 man-under defense, and Quentin Demps is the deep man on the side of the field nearest the throw. He casually floats towards the open Seyi Ajirotutu, and Philip Rivers makes him pay to the tune of 26 yards and a game-winning TD.
The Chiefs did one thing very well on this play -- they disguised their coverage and made it look like a simple cover 2 at the snap. After that, things went downhill quickly. Not only did the Broncos have a screen pass called -- a play that would be on the cover of any "How to beat the Chiefs defense" guide for idiots -- but the Chiefs also reacted very poorly. The result was an average HB looking like Jamaal Charles for a few seconds. After getting some great blocks, including a lead block from the LT down field, Knowshon Moreno easily gains 34 yards and a first down.
This a cover 2 and for some reason, Eric Berry nearly crosses in front of Kendrick Lewis to guard a zone. Because of that, once Eric Decker gets inside and past his coverage (Brandon Flowers), Peyton Manning has an easy pass for 41 yards and a TD.
Again, the Chiefs disguise their intentions very well, but that's all they do well on the play. It's cover 1, but Marcus Cooper simply gets beat, and Eric Berry can't get there in time to help because he has too much ground to cover. The result is 42 yards and a first down for the Broncos.
This is cover 2, and the Chiefs just get beat -- nothing more, nothing less. Eric Decker beats Brandon Flowers, and Peyton Manning floats the ball in between Flowers and and Quentin Demps for a rather easy 37 yard TD.
Marcus Cooper gets burned by Demaryius Thomas, and Kendrick Lewis, who was playing the deep right part of the cover 2, is too slow to help him. If Thomas hadn't run out of gas 77 yards later, he'd probably still be running. Either way, the Chiefs give up a huge first down.
This is cover 2 again, and it quickly turns into a painful play to watch if you enjoy quality defense. After Montee Ball finds his way through the defensive line, 3 different Chiefs, the last of whom is Kendrick Lewis, miss tackles. Nobody catches him until he has 45 yards and first down.
This is cover 1, and with Kendrick Lewis as the deep man, we all know at this point how this is likely to end. It doesn't help at all that the Chiefs get beat with pick that was obviously illegal, and thus lose two potential defenders. Knowshon Moreno, who was lined up out wide, runs underneath the pick and turns up field for a 31 yard gain and a first down.
With the Chiefs in cover 1 and down to their last hope of winning the game, the Broncos are obviously going to try to run out the clock. The Chiefs just can't get the job done, and when the defensive line leaves a hole, Knowshon Moreno hits it for 28 yards, a first down, and the win.
This was just a case of RG3 being RG3. With the Chiefs in cover 1, and everyone in the box blitzing, he scrambles around the other direction and hits a wide open receiver between the box and Kendrick Lewis' deep zone. The result is 25 yards and a first down.
The Redskins set this up perfectly, and run a 15 yard comeback route against the cover 2 defense from the Chiefs. They find enough room to both complete the throw and gain some yards after the catch, and the play goes for 30 yards and a first down.
The Chiefs simply get outplayed once again one this play in a cover 1 defense. Eric Berry gets too far behind his assignment, and Kendrick Lewis is too slow to help him in time. The play goes for 27 yards and a first down.
The Chiefs are in cover 2, and they cover all of the receivers on the line very well. The problem is that Marcel Reece comes out of the backfield and Derrick Johnson, who was covering him on the play, has to go around another inside route before he can reach Reece. Further compounding the problem is that Kendrick Lewis had shifted a few steps inside on his deep zone to guard against the inside route. Reece has too much room to run, and gained 45 yards and a first down.
This is a simple slant pattern against the cover 2 look from the Chiefs, and it turns ugly quickly. Sean Smith inexplicably takes 5 steps backwards before he moves to the inside at all, and it leaves all kinds of room for the Raiders to complete the pass. Once the pass is completed, Smith runs right past the receiver, as does Kendrick Lewis 5 yards later. The play results in 26 yards a first down.
The Chiefs try to trick rookie Matt McGloin here by showing cover 2 when they were actually in cover 1, and maybe it did trick him -- but it didn't trick him enough. He was looking for the deep route the whole way, and when Kendrick Lewis abandons that deep side of the field to cover the HB, there is no chance of Quentin Demps getting there in time to help Marcus Cooper. The play goes for 34 yards and a first down.
Lets start with the obvious -- this is a cover 1 look from the Chiefs, and it's going to end poorly. The reason it ends poorly is simple. Numbers 1 and 2 above are Frank Zombo and Kendrick Lewis, respectively -- and they run a 4.71 and a 4.77, respectively. They are tasked with covering Taiwan Jones, who runs a 4.33. Am I the only one who is shocked that this play goes for only 52 yards and first down?
This play was infuriating. The Chiefs defended it well, and if the officials had opened their eyes on the play, there would have been a holding call -- instead, it went for a 33 yard TD. Tamba Hali gets held -- inarguably, and literally right in front of a watching official -- and it goes uncalled. A few seconds later, Andrew Luck finds a wide open Donald Brown for a 33 yard TD. The blitz that left this play open should have rightly resulted in a sack or a 10 yard penalty.
After watching this play at least a dozen times, I'm still not sure what a number of the Chiefs defenders were thinking on this play. It appears to be a cover 1, but everyone is running around so haphazardly, it's almost impossible to tell. What is obvious, however, is that there was far too little communication between defenders on this play.
Sean Smith is already guarding the Split End (receiver closest to the sideline), but for some reason, both Dunta Robinson and Quentin Demps break off of their coverage of T.Y. Hilton, and join Smith in his coverage.This leaves Hilton wide open, and if Andrew Luck hadn't badly underthrown the ball, Hilton would still be running. Instead, he gets 31 yards and a first down.
This is cover 2, and besides leaving a big hole for Donald Brown to hit, the Chiefs also miss a number of tackles on the play. The result is a 51 yard TD run that pretty well summed up this game and the playoff game against the Colts.
Just like the last play of the Colts game, the Chiefs get gouged in cover 2 by a running play. The defensive line leaves a hole, the next wave of defenders misses 2 tackles (numbered above) and the play gains 44 yards for the Chargers. Hey, at least they're consistent, right?
This is a screen pass to Eddie Royal with the Chiefs in cover 1, and one of the safeties is covering Royal instead of playing a deep zone. The problem is that not only was the safety too deep to reach the play before it fully developed, but the TE and Split End both pick defenders on the play, leaving Royal with all the room he wants down the sideline. He gets 30 yards and a first down.
The Chiefs get beat on a receiver pick while in cover 1. After the pick is set, Kennan Allen has too much room to run, and Quentin Demps doesn't catch him until he's 38 yards down field.
This may go down in history as the play that started one of greatest comebacks of all time. How did it happen? To start with, with the Chiefs in cover 2, Sean Smith lets the receiver get inside on his way down field, which wouldn't be a big deal if Kendrick Lewis did anything correctly on the play, but he doesn't. The Chiefs send 5 players after Andrew Luck, but can't get to him before he throws a bomb down field. To top it all off, the catch at the end of play is at least as much luck as it is skill, and the result is 46 yards a first down.
This is just a great play by the Colts. With the Chiefs in cover 3, the TE blocks Dunta Robinson (who is covering the lower right zone) and when Donald Brown takes a swing pass from Andrew Luck, he has more than enough room to run for 25 yards and a first down.
The Chiefs are in cover 3 here, and the 2 LB in the black circle are spying the QB. Andrew Luck scrambles, which he has time to do because the Chiefs don't pressure him very much, and finds a receiver open on the sideline after both of them shake some Chiefs defenders. The play goes for 30 yards and a first down.
This play may haunt most of us forever. Fortunately, I don't need to spend too much time breaking it down, because it was rather simple, really. The Chiefs were in cover 2, and because there was no man coverage on T.Y. Hilton (aside from a bump at the line) he was the responsibility of the deep safeties. They failed to do their job, and Hilton split the deep zones for an easy 64 yard TD that completed one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history.
The Chiefs still got destroyed when the played cover 1 in the second half of the season, but they didn't try to play it as much. They switched to a lot of cover 2 and cover 3 looks, and occasionally got beat in those sets, but when they did, it was usually a mistake, rather than just being a personnel issue like they had in cover 1.
In part 1 we looked at the following problems:
1) Kendrick Lewis is simply too slow to play FS in the NFL.
2) Cover 1 combined with press coverage man-to-man is not something this defense consistently does well.
I'd like to add a third problem, and then see what the rest of you think defense needs to work on.
3) The Chiefs athleticism on defense is not adequately matched by their ability to play smart and communicate well.
So many of the plays in the second half of the year came down to the players either not knowing who was covering which offensive player, or not knowing how to play certain defensive sets without leaving huge coverage gaps. The Chiefs need a new FS, to be sure -- but they also need a team-wide crash course on playing smart football.
What do you think the Chiefs need to do in order to fix their defensive problems?
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