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Remember when the run defense was the only weakness in the Kansas City Chiefs run defense? It wasn't that long ago that that's the thing we were most worried about.
All of a sudden, the Chiefs are one of the top run defenses in the NFL. At least that's what the stats say as the Chiefs defense is ranked eighth in rushing yards allowed and seventh in rushing touchdowns allowed. They are 16th in rushing yards per attempt.
The Chiefs defensive line took a big step forward this year with the return of Mike DeVito and the emergence of Jaye Howard. That's like adding two more-than-quality starters to a defensive line that already has two more-than-quality starters in Allen Bailey and Dontari Poe. Jaye Howard merits a special shoutout as a great run blocker so far this year. He's been a bit of a revelation in that department.
It's not just the defensive linemen either. Derrick Johnson is playing like he's a young man and showing why he's an elite linebacker. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston can set the edge and stop the run as well. The Chiefs should have been a better run stopping team on paper these past few years but they haven't gotten results, ranking 28th and 22nd in rushing yards allowed in the past two seasons.
This year, that group has emerged as one of the underrated reasons the Chiefs defense is playing as well as they are. They've given up more than 100 rushing yards once in the past five games (Le'Veon Bell - 17 attempts for 121 yards).
The Chiefs won't be facing an elite back this weekend as the Chargers are one of the league's worst rushing teams. They are ranked 30th in rushing yards and 29th in rushing yards per attempt. The Chargers leading rusher (Melvin Gordon) is averaging 3.6 yards per carry.
Andy Reid says often that when your offensive and defensive lines play well, you're usually winning. What the Chiefs defense does is make the opposing offenses one dimensional. This gives the secondary an advantage because they have a better clue of what's happening if the threat of a run is decreased. Maybe it's part of the reason the Chiefs have gone four straight games with at least two picks.
However it goes, it's working for the Chiefs defense. They're stopping the run and picking off passes. That's a good combination.