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Kansas City Chiefs defensive trends and tabulation for Week 9

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The Browns executed the blueprint to move the ball against the Chiefs, but the defense held on just enough.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Another week, another performance where the opposition moves the ball on the ground, through the middle of the field and in the flats to running backs.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

The Kansas City Chiefs defense went up against a bit of a wildcard offense this week with the Cleveland Browns overhauling most of their offensive staff. I said in my advanced scout of the Browns offense that they had previously stuck with 11 personnel and long drops by quarterback Baker Mayfield. Against the Chiefs, they didn’t — and it allowed a bad offense to move the ball against the Chiefs base defense.

This week — as I do every week — I’ll break down the numbers from last Sunday’s game. We’ll hit the highlights, find where the Chiefs won, lost and bucked trends, and then we’ll move on to some clips of their good, bad and under-the-radar plays.

The numbers

Quarter/Down/Distance - Week 9

- 2018 Avg 2018 Success Week 9 Avg Week 9 Success
- 2018 Avg 2018 Success Week 9 Avg Week 9 Success
Q1 5.42 55.94% 3.89 63.16%
Q2 6.61 46.58% 6.17 43.48%
Q2-Under 2:00 6.80 51.85% 7.00 50.00%
Q3 6.37 49.21% 4.26 68.42%
Q4 5.92 53.97% 7.00 53.85%
Q4-Under 2:00 6.79 52.94% 9.00 0.00%
1st Down 6.66 49.51% 4.80 60.00%
2nd Down 6.22 47.89% 5.50 54.55%
3rd Down 4.04 66.04% 5.38 61.54%
4th Down 6.67 38.89% 7.33 33.33%
Yds remain 0-3 4.42 38.78% 5.50 35.71%
Yds remain 4-6 5.22 48.72% 3.62 61.54%
Yds remain 7-10 6.45 52.78% 5.32 60.98%
Yds remain 11+ 7.77 72.34% 7.80 80.00%

The Chiefs righted the ship in the early going this week, getting back to their staunch first quarter defenses after a big week last week. They were also especially improved on first downs this week — about a 10.5 perecent improvement over their season-long average.

The third down defense was a little under their stellar yearly average, and we all saw that the Browns exploited the Chiefs fourth down defense, converting two of three and allowing another due to penalty. The Chiefs lead the league in fourth downs faced with nineteen attempts — a whopping six more than the next highest team. Clearly, the opposition feels the need to go for it to keep up with the Chiefs offense. With an already-bad Chiefs defense, that results in more continued drives than we might have seen in prior years.

Defensive Formation - Week 9

- 2018 % 2018 Avg 2018 Success Week 9 % Week 9 YPP Week 9 Success
- 2018 % 2018 Avg 2018 Success Week 9 % Week 9 YPP Week 9 Success
1-4 1.22% 8.75 62.50% 0.00% N/A N/A
2-3 10.82% 5.27 57.75% 16.22% 7.25 58.33%
2-4 57.32% 5.76 50.00% 45.95% 4.59 57.58%
3-3 3.35% 3.64 36.36% 8.11% 5.17 50.00%
3-4 24.85% 6.45 41.10% 27.03% 5.35 55.00%
4-3 1.07% 0.00 71.43% 2.70% 0.00 100.00%
4-4 1.07% 0.29 57.14% 0.00% N/A N/A

Another week, another better performance by the Chiefs two-down-linemen packages. We’re now far enough in the year — with more than enough sample size — to say that the Chiefs are definitely at their best when in these sub packages, which are used almost exclusively against 11 personnel — the primary personnel package for the league’s best offenses.

Conversely, this team’s blueprint to getting beat is to force three-down linemen packages with 12, 13, 21 and 22 personnel and either run at it or throw to the running back in the flat against the Chiefs’ slower outside and inside linebackers. The Browns did it this week, and while the Chiefs were better out of the 3-4 than they have been against the run, it was more due to the level of competition than it was “getting things right.”

Rush Numbers - Week 9

- 2018 % 2018 Avg 2018 Success Week 9 % Week 9 YPP Week 9 Success
- 2018 % 2018 Avg 2018 Success Week 9 % Week 9 YPP Week 9 Success
Rush 3 14.32% 5.55 51.56% 12.24% 6.00 83.33%
Rush 4 72.48% 6.35 50.31% 75.51% 6.70 47.22%
Rush 5-6 12.98% 5.19 55.17% 12.24% -0.33 83.33%

Hello blitz!

When Sutton brought the house this week, the Chiefs definitely found success — 83 percent of the time for a ludicrous negative 0.33 yards per play. On the flip side, the Chiefs found the same 83 percent success rate with the three-man rush on the exact same number of snaps as the blitz. Sutton also brought the balance this week.

Sutton did drop an outside linebacker into coverage more often this week than he has on the season — 34.7 percent of the passing snaps. That is high — especially considering that Breeland Speaks dropped into coverage for 28.5 percent of the passing snaps this week. Even still, it got the job done by posting a 76.5 percent success rate and allowing 4.41 yards per play.

Coverages - Week 9

- 2018 % 2018 Avg 2018 Success Week 9 % Week 9 YPP Week 9 Success
- 2018 % 2018 Avg 2018 Success Week 9 % Week 9 YPP Week 9 Success
Man 53.69% 5.88 50.83% 51.02% 5.16 44.00%
Zone 45.64% 6.35 51.96% 48.98% 6.38 66.67%

Bob Sutton once again tested a young quarterback with more match zones in long to medium distances. Those zone coverages found success. Static Cover 3 and Cover 2 zones had some struggles, and the Chiefs definitely had trouble in man — particularly against running backs and tight ends.

The Chiefs gave a ton of cushion this week, which was part of the reason the Browns were able to move the ball through the air on short passes. This is typical when the Chiefs are up multiple scores and the press-man percentage — a season-low 56.5 percent — reflected how passively the Chiefs played coverage this week.

Something good

As Arrowhead Pride alumnus and Chiefs reporter BJ Kissel demonstrated in his player profile this week, cornerback Kendall Fuller has had a great couple weeks. Last week, I mentioned that he was coming into his own, and getting more comfortable in the Chiefs’ system. He really had a great game this week. Fuller led all of the Chiefs corners with an 87.5 percent success rate in coverage, but it wasn’t just in his coverage snaps that he made an impact.

Sutton often used Fuller as a blitzer this week, and that set up a golden opportunity for the Chiefs defense late in the game. The first instance came on the Browns’ second drive. The Chiefs lined up outside linebackers Speaks and Dee Ford on the inside with Dorian O’Daniel in the A gap. The two down linemen are lined up wide, and both apex defenders — Jordan Lucas and Kendall Fuller — blitz. The three linebackers showing pressure drop into coverage, and Lucas is able to have a free pass for a sack.

The second instance comes out of a similar alignment, with O’Daniel as an apex defender and Anthony Hitchens in the A gap. Once again, both apex defenders rush with the interior linebackers dropping into coverage. The third time quarterback Baker Mayfield sees this alignment, he recognizes the slant/flat combination to Fuller’s side of the field and looks to take advantage of it. However, this time the Chiefs drop the apex defenders and rush the outside linebackers. Mayfield tries to hit the slant route quickly, thinking the blitz is coming, and he misses Fuller dropping and robbing the slant route.

Fuller drops an interception here, but it’s a great showcase of how the Chiefs rush strategy throughout the game can set up other opportunities.

When the Chiefs win up front in three-down-lineman formations, it typically comes from the defensive linemen. We saw this to be the case this weekend, with Chris Jones making a play behind the line of scrimmage out of the base 3-4, and also in the above play.

Out of the Chiefs three-defensive-linemen/three-linebacker nickel defense, Allen Bailey makes a fantastic play on the back side of the defense. The Browns try to run to the strong side of the defense, and Speaks is able to set a good edge while Jones drives his blocker upfield to seal the C gap. The Browns right tackle tries to cut block Bailey, who showcases his athleticism to leap over the block and make a pursuit tackle.

Something bad

There’s been lots of hang-wringing about this play this week — and rightfully so.

This is quite simply a Sutton tendency that can be exploited. Sutton insists on having a middle of the field hook defender against the pass — something that most coordinators insist upon. This means that in a three-down-linemen formation, the Chiefs outside linebackers will have coverage responsibilities against either a tight end or a running back.

Because the Chiefs are in their three-down nickel — and in man coverage — the Browns recognize this tendency and shift to the correct play call: a wheel route with Speaks in coverage. Both Speaks and Ford are tasked with dropping into coverage to chip the slot routes, but because the wheel is coming to his side, Jarvis Landry doesn’t run a route. Landry impedes Speaks’ ability to get out into the flat, and Speaks is chasing a big play.

This is a primary example of teams doing their homework and recognizing a Sutton tendency, then exploiting a player who is asked to do something that is a little bit outside of his comfort zone. It’s a great play call and a big conversion.

Earlier I mentioned that when the Chiefs get a stop against the run out of three-down-linemen formations, it’s typically because the defensive line does the job. When they don’t, we tend to see what happens on this play.

Jones blows off the line, tossing the right tackle and chasing the back. He’s unable to get the angle he needs — and misses a tackle in the backfield — but he forces the running back into the bulk of the defenders. Hitchens gets tossed completely out of the gap, and Reggie Ragland decides to hang out and make a sandwich behind the nose tackle — not attacking the play. Meanwhile, Ron Parker sits flat-footed off the snap, then waits and seeks out the tight end’s block. Ragland is able to finally get to the back, and he gets dragged five extra yards.

This play is a microcosm of the Chiefs run defense over the past few weeks. If Jones is able to make the tackle after a great effort, it’s a stop for loss. If Hitchens stacks the guard in the gap, it’s a tackle for no gain. If Ragland shoots the back-side gap or flows to the ball better, it’s a tackle for no or minimal gain. If Parker attacks his run fit, it’s a tackle for minimal gain. Four different Chiefs could have made the play on this run, and none did. Normally it would be something you’d brush off as an unfortunate occurrence, but this is a regular one for the Chiefs run defense.

It’s been mentioned several times over the past few weeks that O’Daniel has had some struggles in his zone — but it hadn’t bit the Chiefs on the field until this week.

O’Daniel gets caught with eyes in the backfield in his hook zone, and just completely misses the receiver entering his zone on the crosser. As Mayfield loads up to throw, O’Daniel recognizes his mistake. But it’s too late.

O’Daniel ends up chasing the receiver and gets no help from Eric Murray — taking a poor angle to the ballcarrier — and Ron Parker, who is again seeking out a blocker. This third-and-12 play goes for a first down on a 5-yard crossing route that should have been broken up or tackled immediately by O’Daniel. These issues will hopefully get cleaned up with more snaps and a greater comfort level in his responsibilities.

Something you may have missed

This is why O’Daniel is the prototypical dime linebacker for the Chiefs.

After Sutton has him showing pressure in the A gap, O’Daniel drops into coverage. The Browns run to the boundary, and O’Daniel is chasing from the back side — with a lot of ground to cover and blockers to the second level. Jordan Lucas — who didn’t have a particularly good day — is late to diagnose and react, which allows the offensive lineman to get to him.

O’Daniel is able to use his speed and range to take a fantastic angle to the sideline, which stops the running back short of the first down marker. This year, the Chiefs have only seen that range out of Lucas and O’Daniel, which is one of the reasons we’ve all been clamoring for them. Quite simply, both need to be on the field more.

The bottom line

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs gave up 21 points to the Browns.

They forced two turnovers — yes, I’m counting Ford’s strip sack/phantom offside — and gifted two first downs via an offsides penalty on a fourth-and-1, and a baffling personal foul penalty on fourth-and-goal from the 12-yard line. Those three penalties were crucial to the Browns putting up 12 of the 21 points that the Chiefs gave up.

Would you feel better about the Chiefs defense if they had held the Browns to nine points?

It obviously helps mask some of the deficiencies that we saw on Sunday, but the blueprint is there to beat this Chiefs defense. The Browns switched from a seven-step-drop-with-long-developing-routes passing offense to a quick pass/screen game offense. Mayfield got the ball out on average in 2.13 seconds, a full six-tenths of a second faster than his season average. When he got the ball out under 2.5 seconds, he found success on 61 percent of his passes. Over 2.5 seconds? Just 24 percent.

Conversely, the Browns run game was heavily influenced by their shotgun-spread 11 personnel — something the Chiefs defend fairly well. The Browns changed it up and ran heavier personnel this week, and their run game found success against the Chiefs three-down-linemen formations.

It could simply be that the Browns’ new offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens wanted to implement a stronger ground attack and a quick passing game. We’ll see if that continues to be the trend for the Browns in the coming weeks. But to me, this appeared to be an attempt to execute the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, and San Fransisco 49ers’ game plans that moved the ball well on the Chiefs defense.

Even though the Browns weren’t able to hang big points on the board, the game plan they implemented is emblematic of a defense that’s been “figured out” in Week 9 — attacking the Chiefs in their weakest spots.

Going into the back half of the schedule, the Chiefs offense will certainly be able to keep most of the NFL at arm’s length, but the blueprint that teams are able to implement against the Chiefs defense is becoming a bit concerning.

Let’s hope that returning players and the new additions continue to show growth — Kendall Fuller’s last two weeks should give us hope — and the Chiefs are able to patch some of the schematic holes in the defense.