Ladies and gentlemen, a big hand for your 25th ranked (in points per game) Kansas City Chiefs!
OK, so that’s supremely excessive for the worst defense in the league in yards, yards per rush and first downs per game. It also ranks near the bottom in passing yards per game, yards per play and basically anything that isn’t third-down percentage (1st in the league) or sacks (12th in the league).
It was a better performance this week against the Denver Broncos on the surface, with yards and points at their lowest marks of the season, and the Chiefs found a little more pressure on the quarterback. However, missed tackles and blown coverages continued, with the addition of some miserable run defense to the tune of 7.2 yards per carry.
Basically, they’re still bad.
Fortunately, for Arrowhead Pride readers, I sat down and charted this week’s game to get all the numbers for you so you can see where the Chiefs were bad, worse and slightly OK throughout this week’s 60 snaps.
- The Chiefs lined up in their base 3-4 formation 16.6 percent of the time, typically against the Broncos 12, 21 and 22 personnel. In those snaps, the opposition gained a staggering 9.86 yards per play and 7.78 yards per carry. Quite simply, the “run-stopping” defense didn’t stop the run.
- The Chiefs lined up in their nickel defense with two down linemen and four linebackers 41.6 percent of the time, making it their preferred formation once again. They allowed a not-too-shabby 4.43 yards per play out of this formation.
- The Chiefs showed their dime defense 16.6 percent of the snaps this week. On those snaps, the Broncos gained 5.41 yards per play.
- The Chiefs dropped an outside linebacker on 39.5 percent of the snaps in Week 4. That’s higher than usual this season, and once again, the vast majority of them came out of the 3-4 defense. Those plays gave up an abysmal 10.53 yards per play, and on average, the quarterback threw the ball in 2.08 seconds. Needless to say, dropping the outside linebackers didn’t give quarterback Case Keenum much pause this week.
- The Chiefs sent extra rushers 23.7 percent of the time. That’s the season record thus far for Sutton’s defense! Those plays gave up 7.88 yards per play and the quarterback got rid of the ball in 2.28 seconds, on average. The Chiefs showed pressure, brought a rusher from the second level while dropping another rusher, ran a stunt or blitzed on 42.1 percent of the snaps, which is ridiculously high for a Bob Sutton defense.
- The Chiefs rushed three players on THREE SNAPS. After a week with only a single three-man rush, Sutton dialed up a total of three this week. Those resulted in an average of 8.66 yards per play and an average time to throw of 1.92 seconds. Clearly, flooding the secondary with extra bodies or from abnormal areas was not effective this week.
- The Chiefs rushed four players on 68.4 percent of the passing snaps. Those snaps resulted in a reasonable 5.19 yards per play and an average time to throw of 2.35 seconds.
- The Chiefs were in man coverage on 73.7 percent of the passing snaps. Those snaps resulted in 7.51 yards per play and an average time to throw of 2.20 seconds. After a zone-heavy Week 3, the Chiefs reverted back to more of a man-coverage scheme this week. They played press-man coverage 60.4 percent of the time with their corners and slot safeties. That’s the lowest press percentage of the season for the Chiefs defense.
- The Chiefs were in zone coverage 26.3 percent of the passing snaps. Those snaps resulted in a stellar 2.1 yards per play and an average time to throw of 2.55 seconds. Even though some coverages were blown that weren’t capitalized upon this week, this number would still have been trending downward form week to week.
- The average time to throw this week was 2.30 seconds. When the Chiefs forced the throw under 2.5 seconds (21 plays), they allowed 6.55 yards per play. When the throw took longer than 2.5 seconds (13 plays), they allowed 8.61 yards per play. Keenum got the ball out of his hands especially quick this week trying to avoid the Chiefs rush.
I pick on them when they're wrong, so it's only fair I show when they're right.— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) October 3, 2018
This is a C3 Buzz call, and Denver tries to attack it with an out route to find the soft spot underneath at the sticks. Scandrick ID's the route and closes on the pass as help over the top for a PBU. pic.twitter.com/EkKYXKgMhe
I’ve spent this first quarter of this season detailing how poor the Chiefs secondary has been in passing players and executing their zone responsibilities. So when I found an opportunity to highlight a good play out of the Chiefs Cover 3, I took the opportunity.
Here, the Chiefs are in a Cover 3 Buzz look, with Eric Murray spinning down as the weak-side hook defender. Kendall Fuller has the underneath boundary zone as the strong-side apex defender, and Orlando Scandrick has the deep boundary third behind him.
Denver runs an out route, targeting the seam between the Fuller/Scandrick zones. Fuller gets good zone depth and takes away the quick throwing lane while still keeping an eye on the running back in the flat. This forces Keenum to have to loft the ball over Fuller, and that air underneath the ball allows Scandrick to get a good break on the ball and knock it away.
Bob hanging 'em out there on a 1st and 10 in the red zone with :48 left in the first half. Cover 0, six man blitz. Hat for hat in the secondary.— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) October 3, 2018
Mixing it in forces the QB to throw quick underneath for no gain, using up a down and clock or forcing a sack. Nice change up. pic.twitter.com/2jcj6kBrju
When most think of present-day Sutton, they don’t think of especially risky pass rush plans. This week, with a higher blitz percentage, we got to see some more adventurous blitzes and the blitz shown above is definitely one of them.
After a fourth-and-1 conversion late in the first half, the Chiefs found themselves backed up against their own end zone. The Broncos had one timeout remaining with 48 seconds left in the half. Sutton made a gutsy call to send six rushers and run a Cover Zero shell, meaning there’s no safety deep to keep a lid on the defense when the Broncos go empty. Each member of the secondary is man to man with a skill position player.
Due to this gamble, the cornerbacks are lined up in off-man coverage. This makes sure they keep all the routes in front of them, because the ball is likely coming out quickly with the extra pass rushers. Keenum calls an audible and calls a bubble screen to beat the blitz, which it does. This is a positive outcome for the Chiefs defense.
By forcing the bubble screen audible, the Chiefs are able to close quickly on the receiver and tackle him in bounds, wasting both a down and forcing the Broncos to use their final timeout. This limits the number of plays the Broncos can run in their remaining downs before the half without that extra timeout.
By forcing the issue, Sutton gave the Chiefs one of two outcomes if it’s not an incompletion: stopping the play in bounds for a short/no gain or getting home with the blitz. Either way, Denver has to burn its final timeout. The Chiefs defense held to a red-zone field goal right before half, and this play was a key ingredient in that outcome.
Denver targeted Ron Parker in both the pass and the run this week.— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) October 3, 2018
DEN saw Parker in the box in run support and changed the play, motioning Thomas in as an H-back. Thomas absolutely flattens Parker, clearing the hole.
Special shoutout to Hitchens getting flattened by the OC. pic.twitter.com/L2WCy5Ihou
There was plenty of blown coverage this week, but the Chiefs defense was by far at its worst against the run. The Broncos especially targeted Ron Parker as a box safety in the run on Monday.
It’s first and goal on the above play, and Denver recognizes Parker in the box, up on the line. They motion Demaryius Thomas over Parker, and off the snap, Thomas blows the gap wide open, putting Parker on his back.
Elsewhere, Anthony Hitchens shoots the A gap off Allen Bailey’s inside shoulder. The guard/tackle combo block stalls Bailey initially, and the guard pulls back to knocks Hitchens to the ground. The tackle has leverage on Bailey, and is able to move him easily out of the gap.
The Broncos routinely moved Chiefs defenders well out of the play and got to the second level often, taking out the second and third-level run defenders. Denver completely bossed the Chiefs front all game long and when the Chiefs defenders did get some push, well...
Royce Freeman is a good running back.— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) October 3, 2018
Royce Freeman is not a "bounce off of a 288 pound DE" good running back. The Chiefs can't tackle at every level of the defense. This play shows Allen Bailey and Ron Parker both with supremely poor efforts. pic.twitter.com/cjDqsPgcdi
...the Chiefs couldn’t tackle.
At all levels, the Chiefs routinely find themselves in good positions to make a play, yet can’t bring down the ballcarrier due to poor tackling. Above, Bailey does great work to read the play, shed the blocker and attacks running back Royce Freeman in the gap. He hits Freeman square, but doesn’t wrap up and Freeman is able to run away into the second level. Parker misses a tackle coming up in support, and what should be a tackle for no gain or a short gain instead results in a chunk play setting up the Broncos for a second and short yardage.
Something you may have missed
Something you may have missed: this is a fantastic read by Murray on the toss sweep. He gains no stat for this, but reading the play, crashing down to become the force defender, and forcing the defender back to the teeth of the defense is crucial. Ford with great pursuit as well. pic.twitter.com/DRG3Z1vf9U— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) October 2, 2018
It wasn’t all awful in the run game this week. Here’s a fantastic play you might have missed from safety Eric Murray. After a tight end motions inside, Murray crashes down to become the force defender and blows up the fullback, forcing the running back to cut back into the defense, where Reggie Ragland has stacked a pulling guard, and Dee Ford is able to track down in pursuit to make the tackle.
Murray gets no stat for this, but good film study tipped him off on this play and he was able to completely blow it up so the running back couldn’t reach the edge. Murray had a solid day in run support and a good day in coverage. This kind of dirty work is indicative of the types of things some may miss out of Murray on a week-to-week basis.
The bottom line
We’re not a quarter of the way through the season, and the conclusion has been basically the same: this is a bad defense.
They’re not executing, still missing tackles and blowing coverage right and left. I’ve heard claims against Sutton’s scheme, but the execution is so poor that it’s hard to even begin to see the scheme.
Quite simply, they need to hit the “reset” button on this defense. Start brand new this week, wipe away the first quarter of the season, and pretend it’s the start of the season all over again. These are basic mental mistakes that every single one of these players are capable of cleaning up.
Luckily, the Chiefs offense is buying this defense time to figure out their side of the ball and correct these very correctable mistakes. With two very important games in the next two weeks, let’s hope the defense can start climbing out of the basement of the NFL.