Dontari Poe was the best player on the field for the Chiefs defense for most of Sunday.
No, seriously, it's true. I know you're gonna take a look at the stats sheet (and see a grand total of two tackles and nothing else) and say, "yo, MN, you're out of your mind. Again." And I'm OK with that. But give me 10 minutes and I'll talk you into it (incidentally, that's the same way I proposed to my wife).
First of all, let's be clear about something; I'm no Poe homer. I've actually been accused of being something of a "hater" in that I've said (on more than one occasion) that he's a "good, but not great" player. I've said there are multiple interior defensive linemen I'd take over Poe (and I stand by that). And I haven't made it much of a secret this season that Poe has taken a little while to round back into playing shape.
But for real, guys, he was went OFF Sunday. You know what, let's get you warmed up with a GIF to get our foot in the door.
Dontari Poe will literally grab your offensive lineman and use him to knock you to the ground. pic.twitter.com/5r3pW7lfnE— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) December 16, 2015
"Not much. Just chucking this 300 pound dude backward so fast that he falls into the guy he's supposed to protect and knocks him over."
Like, what do you DO about that as the center? Not even as a football player, but as a man? How do you handle the idea that someone treated you like his kid brother in front of thousands of people? If I were that guy I would have really quietly snuck off the field while everyone was huddling up after the play. Poe should have gotten to cut off one of his fingers as a trophy or something.
But hey, that's just one play. Just a taste to get us going. Since I'm never satisfied with just a taste, I re-watched 58 snaps by Poe against the Chargers. As best I could tell, this was every snap he took in the game. I charted the following:
Wins- When Poe clearly beats the lineman or linemen (yes, he beat double teams more than once) in front of him. If you flip it around, it's a play I would grade as a "loss" for an offensive lineman.
Losses- Basically the opposite of what I just typed. When Poe gets completely stonewalled or washed out of a play.
Stalemates- Snaps where neither Poe nor the OL he's up against really win. These are generally better snaps for an OL than a DL, but in some cases Poe was able to force RB's to take a wide path or move the QB around the pocket a little.
QB Pressures- Plays where Poe gets right up in Rivers's face and forces him to either get rid of the ball early or pull the ball down and move to evade the gigantic human trying to eat him. A wildly underrated stat considering how often pressures lead to sacks for teammates, incomplete passes, or interceptions.
Stuffs- Plays where Poe stuffed a running back for little to no gain.
Functional Double Teams- Plays in which Poe was double teamed long enough (and stayed active enough against it) to the point that it freed up a teammate. This is different from incidental "double teams," which happen every snap in the NFL that an OL is left without a guy in front of him to block. It's not enough that a center ambles over to halfheartedly help a guard who is already stonewalling someone. It has to be, as the name implies, FUNCTIONAL (forced and a benefit to the defense).
That last one is a tough stat to track or really describe well (as you can tell by my meandering description that confused more than it helped). So here's an example from late in the game.
On this play, the Chargers double teamed Poe right at the snap. He fought like crazy against it and actually managed to move the two OL back a little bit to help squeeze the pocket (not much, but enough to force both OL to stay completely committed to him).
In the meantime, the double team left Allen Bailey, Dee Ford, and Tamba Hali alone against individual blockers. You can see as you go from the first screenshot to the second how that went.
First, Allen Bailey (who is back and is still a monstrously strong human being) just shoved his OL back many yards right into Rivers's lap. In the meantime, Hali's RT starts off decently, only to be chucked aside by the old man like a magic trick (seriously, how Hali got from that first pic to the second is still a mystery to me. I think he's using a taser when no one is looking). Ford is initially pushed way around the pocket by his LT, but is able to loop back around and leave the OL grasping at air.
Rivers feels the heat from Bailey and Hali from his right and in his face. He can't simply step forward to his left because Poe hasn't allowed himself to be pushed back far enough to make a comfortable pocket. So he does the only thing he can do... start moving directly to his left. This gives Ford enough time to recover and chase him down, collecting the sack.
Dee Ford gets the stat and the glory for that play, but it was largely a byproduct of Bailey's fantastic push in the pocket and Hali beating the RT one-on-one. Both of them were able to do so because of Poe handling two blockers and holding his own.
THAT is a "functional" double team. And Poe was doing that all day Sunday. Let's go to the numbers
(Please note that Poe could have a "functional double team" and a "win" on the same play, or a "pressure" and a "win" on the same play. Therefore, the snaps will not be the same number as all the other columns combined. Just thought I'd clear up the confusion)
|Snaps||Wins||Losses||Stalemates||Pressures/Hits||Stuffs||Functional Double Teams|
The number of positive snaps Poe had against the Chargers is absolutely staggering. The majority of plays in which he was on the field he affected the play in some way or another.
I've quite often said that the number of double teams Poe eats to help the rest of the defense function is often overstated here on AP. That wasn't the case at all Sunday. If anything, not nearly enough people were talking about how often Poe freed up other players to make plays. And that's not including the number of plays he made things happen by beating the OL in front of him.
Poe looked all the way back to his old self against the Chargers. His unique combination of athleticism, size, and strength is back in business. You saw in the first GIF how he just overpowered the OL. That remains a threat every single down. He might just bull rush you and shove you backward. So you HAVE to be ready for a straight up shoving match. Of course, what makes Poe unique (and different from, say, Bailey, who has become a wonderful bull rusher) is the fact that he can do this as well...
What do you do about a DL Poe's size who can move like this? pic.twitter.com/Eks7lbxEhs— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) December 17, 2015
And therein lies the problem with blocking Dontari Poe. He has at his disposal a highly unusual number of methods to beat you. His bull rush is quite powerful, as his his club (remember when Alex Boone said he'd never seen anything like it?). But he also possesses a swim move that is something like what you'd see from an undersized interior rusher like Aaron Donald. It's otherworldly.
And that versatility is how Poe was killing the Chargers all day. He used the swim, and the club, and the bull rush, and a few spin moves (always a favorite of mine, even if he's not as refined at it as he is with other moves), and some rips... it just doesn't end.
Additionally, Poe held up nicely against the run, eating up blockers and allowing the linebackers to make plays around him. A couple of times he swallowed up the run on his own, preventing what would have been nice gains.
But alas for Poe, his contributions this game aren't going to be reflected on a stats sheet. Take a look at this screenshot.
This is play ended in a Ron Parker sack. Phillip Rivers, for as poor an athlete as he is, is quite skilled at moving around the pocket and evading rushers. Here, he manages to move right and escape from a stampeding Poe... only to be run down by a blitzing Ron Parker, who initially ran himself out of the play. Parker had time to reset, relocate, and run down Rivers because of the pressure Poe provided.
That sound familiar? It should. It's similar to the role Poe played in Ford's third sack. There really ought to be an "assisted sack" stat somewhere to track plays like this. Poe had much, much more to do with the success of this play than Parker, yet the stats sheet and all the accolades that go with it will never reflect that.
That was Poe all day. He was constantly the guy behind the guy who got the stat. You know Derrick Johnson's interception on a tipped pass? It was Poe's pressure that delayed Rivers's release and allowed Marcus Peters to get into position to tip the ball. Jaye Howard's sack on the Chargers' last drive? Poe had a functional double team that left Howard one-on-one.
Oh, and hey, remember that horrific deep overthrow Rivers had to a very open Malcolm Floyd (who absolutely would have scored a TD with a good throw) with 51 seconds left in the game? Guess who made that happen.
Poe was huge during SD's last drive. Here, his pressure forced errant deep ball. Floyd was open. pic.twitter.com/RiezyF7i4S— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) December 16, 2015
Again, Poe might not get much recognition for it, but he absolutely dominated the trenches against the Chargers and was a major reason that game ended in a win. What a performance.
Something worth noting ... Poe only played 84 percent of the snaps against the Chargers. While that's a very high number for a normal defensive lineman, it's been well known for years that Poe plays nearly every snap for the Chiefs. This has been a subject of a great debate among Chiefs fans, many of whom (me included) think Poe would be better served by playing fewer snaps so as to remain fresh.
Now, we'll see if it continues, but for at least a week Bob Sutton was willing to let Poe sit down on at least a small number of snaps. There were two noticeable stretches where Poe sat out a few plays in a row. The majority of snaps Poe wasn't on the field we saw Howard and Bailey in two DL formations. A couple of times Nick Williams was out there instead of Poe (lined up as a DE).
I love the idea of Poe getting more rest during games, and Mike DeVito being available this week makes that even more possible. The Chiefs have the depth across the DL to make sure everyone stays fresh all game long, which is a huge deal for the big men up front on defense.
So that's something to keep an eye on. For today, though, just know that Poe is ALL the way back from injury, and is back to quietly taking over games down the stretch.