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Why the Kansas City Chiefs can remain king of the turnover

Will the Chiefs be among the league’s best at creating turnovers again? Signs point to yes.

The Chiefs defense led the league in turnover percentage last year at 16.5 percent, which is the percentage of drives that ended in a turnover. It was nearly two percentage points higher than the next team in line (the Bucs). The Chiefs also finished in a three-way tie for first in the league with 18 picks.

Are the Chiefs just that good at turning the ball over? Is that even possible to rely on year-to-year? Can we expect the same in 2017?

To answer in short, and this isn’t a cop out, I swear—I don’t know, but signs point to yes.

And here are three reasons why:

1. Very simply, Marcus Peters

When I used to write for that other website you may have heard of, I cited how quarterbacks threw at Peters 137 times as a rookie in 2015, followed up by just 87 in 2016.

That 50-target drop equates to Peters producing a clear shift in opposing-quarterback thought process. Collectively, quarterbacks threw less to their right side, which, in most cases, is where their No. 1 wide receiver lined up.

We know what happens when a quarterback is pressured or affected in any manner—their completion percentage goes down and his turnovers go up. The last time the Chiefs played a season without MP22, they had six picks the whole year.

But Pete, the left side of the field was defended by four different starters last season, and we don’t even know who will start there this season.

I’ll have you know that I see your point, and I raise you a good friend of mine named “Bobby Suts.”

2. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton

At the beginning of this article I brought up the turnover percentage and how the Chiefs were tops in the league last season. There will be people that will bring up sample size and I get that so I looked at the season before as well (2015, when Sean Smith, who these days is getting called out by Charles Woodson, started most of the games on the right).

In 2015, the Chiefs finished third in turnover percentage at 15.3 percent, and they were the only team to remain in the top five in the category at the end of 2016. The Chiefs were second in picks in 2015 with 22, led by Peters’ league-leading eight.

In late December of last year, Sutton spoke about why the Chiefs have been so good at causing turnovers for as long as we can remember.

“It’s something we talk about every day,” Chiefs DC Bob Sutton said. “We show them every day if we have a takeaway in practice – that’s the very first thing they see in a meeting.”

You’ve seen HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” You know what these meetings are like. Guys are all sitting around a giant screen as the coach runs the tape. This is probably one of the most fun parts of the meeting because teammates get to gawk at players’ interceptions. Even more than that, fun or not, it’s a point that’s emphasized every single day for five months.

“There’s a lot of things that go into takeaways,” Sutton continued. “One, understanding when you have an opportunity to do it. Two, we use the phrase, ‘Numbers favor us,’ so, the more people we have around the ball, whether it’s being run or thrown, the better the opportunity we’re going to have, hopefully, to get the ball if it’s on the ground. Then, there’s certain times and techniques that you can use to try and get the ball out.”

3. The safeties

My final point on this is these Kansas City safeties.

Eric Berry proved last year that he can turn the ball over on cue, and Ron Parker showed he only needs one hand. And you can’t forget about the emergence of “Dirty Dan” Sorensen, who earned a four-year contract after going undrafted.

This trio combined for eight interceptions and five forced fumbles in 2017, and they are all on their way back.