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Kansas City Chiefs defensive trends and tabulation for Week 15

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A half of hope — and then the wheels fell off.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefsmas celebration will have to wait another week.

The Kansas City Chiefs coughed up a golden opportunity to put away the Los Angeles Chargers and the AFC West on Thursday night, in a game that with this weekend’s NFL results would have earned them the number one seed in the playoffs.

The offense had struggles, but the story of the game was the Chiefs’ fourth quarter defense, which gave up two touchdowns and a two-point conversion in the final four minutes of the game.

This week — as I do every week — I’ll break down the numbers from this week’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.

While the Chiefs did get Eric Berry back this week, my good buddy Matt Lane is taking a deep dive into how he looked this week, so we won’t be touching as heavily on him as we would otherwise.

The numbers

Quarter/Down/Distance - Week 15

- 2018 Avg 2018 Success Week 15 Avg Week 15 Success
- 2018 Avg 2018 Success Week 15 Avg Week 15 Success
Q1 5.72 52.29% 8.56 66.67%
Q2 5.86 50.43% 4.50 50.00%
Q2-Under 2:00 5.72 57.35% 3.00 66.67%
Q3 6.34 50.72% 5.80 40.00%
Q4 5.69 54.73% 6.70 50.00%
Q4-Under 2:00 6.00 56.25% 4.43 57.14%
1st Down 6.39 51.70% 5.44 58.82%
2nd Down 5.65 50.50% 6.39 43.48%
3rd Down 4.60 59.52% 4.80 40.00%
4th Down 6.60 40.00% 26.00 0.00%
Yds remain 0-3 4.50 33.33% 3.17 16.67%
Yds remain 4-6 5.19 48.82% 3.60 60.00%
Yds remain 7-10 6.26 54.15% 5.84 57.78%
Yds remain 11+ 6.08 75.58% 14.50 50.00%

In the least shocking news of the week, the Chiefs defense was at their best while Eric Berry was on the field. Playing just 30 snaps — stepping out near the end of the second quarter, but coming back when the Chargers entered the red zone — Berry’s impact was felt at all levels, even if he wasn’t yet 100 percent healthy yet.

The Chiefs tried to tighten up in the fourth quarter when the clock was under two minutes — forcing a fourth-and-8 and a third-and-10. Both times the Chargers converted (once via a penalty on Kendall Fuller), and the Chargers were still able to score and get the two-point conversion.

The Chiefs gave up consistent yardage in the third quarter — allowing a scoring drive that averaged 6.9 yards per play — a disturbing trend we’ve seen in the last two weeks. The Chiefs were also very poor on second and third downs this week, allowing Philip Rivers and company to convert early downs and short distances.

Finally, the Chiefs allowed a frightening 14.5 yards per play on downs with 11 or more yards remaining. This matches an abysmal stat from Thursday’s game — the Chiefs sacked Rivers five times on the day, but after the first one, the Chargers were able to gain a new set of downs on the next four sacks. The Chiefs put themselves in good down and distance situations enough times in this week’s game, but allowed way too many chunk plays to offset their good work.

Defensive Formation - Week 15

- 2018 % 2018 Avg 2018 Success Week 15 % Week 15 YPP Week 15 Success
- 2018 % 2018 Avg 2018 Success Week 15 % Week 15 YPP Week 15 Success
1-4 0.78% 8.75 62.50% 0.00% N/A N/A
2-3 15.93% 4.90 58.28% 25.68% 5.16 66.67%
2-4 53.08% 5.77 49.17% 52.70% 6.97 43.24%
3-3 6.65% 4.18 45.59% 6.76% 5.00 20.00%
3-4 21.70% 6.07 43.69% 14.86% 1.00 63.64%
4-3 0.88% 0.11 66.67% 0.00% N/A N/A
4-4 0.78% 0.38 50.00% 0.00% N/A N/A

With the Chargers in 11 personnel for over 83 percent of the game, it’s no surprise that the Chiefs had to lean on their nickel and dime defenses. The Chiefs dime defense was brought out in third-and-long situations, as well as the end of the game when the Chiefs were trying to come up with a stop in an obvious passing situation.

The Chiefs’ three-down-linemen, three-linebacker nickel struggled for the first time in several weeks, while the two-down-linemen, four-linebacker nickel continued its downturn. The Chiefs base 3-4 defense had its best week in a long while — buoyed by good run fits early on from Berry.

Rush Numbers - Week 15

- 2018 % 2018 Avg 2018 Success Week 15 % Week 15 YPP Week 15 Success
- 2018 % 2018 Avg 2018 Success Week 15 % Week 15 YPP Week 15 Success
Rush 3 11.18% 5.12 48.68% 10.00% 0.80 50.00%
Rush 4 73.82% 6.20 51.20% 78.00% 6.74 48.65%
Rush 5-6 14.85% 4.54 55.45% 12.00% 3.33 60.00%

Another week, another lack of extra rushers — but with a good success rate when they did it. The Chiefs rushed more than four defenders only once in the second half after doing it five times in the first. That first half included multiple occurrences of seven-man rushes, which is not typically a Bob Sutton hallmark.

Outside of that, the Chiefs basically played right along their season averages for their rush numbers and success rate. Ouotside of a couple fo overlaods, it was a pretty basic rush plan for the 2018 Chiefs. The Chiefs also only dropped an outside linebacker into coverage 10 percent of the passing snaps — which is a low number compared to the Chiefs’ season average of 25.6 percent.

Coverages - Week 15

- 2018 % 2018 Avg 2018 Success Week 15 % Week 15 YPP Week 15 Success
- 2018 % 2018 Avg 2018 Success Week 15 % Week 15 YPP Week 15 Success
Man 55.29% 5.84 50.00% 56.00% 7.54 39.29%
Zone 44.26% 5.83 53.82% 44.00% 3.45 50.00%

For a team that wants to play effective man defense, they sure do struggle to do it effectively.

The Chiefs found themselves with a terrible performance in man this week, which is somehow slightly improved over the last time these two teams met. Kendall Fuller especially had a rough day, with just a 12.5 percent success rate and 11.6 yards per target. Orlando Scandrick wasn’t much better with a 16.6 percent success rate. Dorian O’Daniel led all players with a 66.7 percent success rate, but gave up a couple crucial plays to the Chargers offense in coverage.

To Sutton’s credit, he mixed up the shells this week, rather than just sticking with his normal Cover 1 and Cover 3 tendencies. While those still topped the charts in usage, Sutton implemented more Cover 2 man and quarters coverages than usual, with some Cover 0 sprinkled in — and not just around the end zone. He was far from static or predictable with the calls, but the safety depth he implemented this week — sometimes as deep as 30 yards from the line of scrimmage — left a lot to be desired on some crucial third and fourth downs near the end of the game.

Something good

We’re all aware of how good Chris Jones has been this season, leading the team in sacks and getting sacks in an NFL record 10 straight games. Part of the reason why he’s been so successful is the effectiveness of a multitude of rushes this season — not just the arm-over and the bull rushes that we’ve seen so frequently in the past two years.

This week, Jones was able to utilize a speed rush and showcase his flexibility by dipping and bending around the corner on both offensive guards. On his two solo sacks this week, Jones was able to fire off the snap, get to half man, lower his shoulder and turn the corner to get into the backfield around the outside of his blocker.

We’re witnessing one of the greatest seasons ever from a defensive tackle in a Kansas City Chiefs uniform. Week after week, he seems to come up big against both the run and the pass. He’s showing no signs of slowing to finish out the year, and with the offensive lines he’ll face, there’s little reason to believe he won’t end the regular season on a high note.

Something bad

I stated during the game that Reggie Ragland had one of his worst drives of the year against the run. He was hesitant and lethargic, and the Chargers ran right at him. Here we see that Los Angeles didn’t even need to block Ragland with an offensive lineman, instead choosing tight end Virgil Green for the task.

Green gets off the snap well in both of these plays, but Ragland continues to play hesitantly. Instead of ID’ing the run and attacking downhill, he shuffles, skips forward a yard, and doesn’t attack his blocker. Green is able to blow Ragland out of the play in both of these because Ragland is flatfooted or on his heels when the block is engaged, giving him no chance at stacking and shedding the block.

The end result of the third quarter scoring drive was a doozy. The Chargers ran an end-around to wide receiver Mike Williams. Justin Houston is unblocked and plays contain while he waits for the tight end to come across the formation to try to cut block him. By not squeezing the gap, that allows the cutback to occur in the B gap, where Jones has been sealed by the right guard. Anthony Hitchens shoots the A gap, but he isn’t fast enough to make the play behind the line of scrimmage.

All of that isn’t great, but the angles the safeties take to this play are worse. Ron Parker crashes down like he’s going to be the force defender, but sees the cutback late and manages to run directly into a blocker who had his back turned moments beforehand. Dan Sorensen attempts to come across the formation in run support but takes a terrible angle that he has to correct inside the seven-yard line, losing momentum and resulting in a poor tackle.

In the fourth quarter, the Chiefs found themselves struggling to come up with some stops, especially on third and fourth downs. One of these — a third-and-2 — is shown above, and it highlights the depth of the Chiefs safeties on the fourth quarter drives. This is a situation where a Cover 2 man call isn’t a bad one. The Chargers are likely going for it on fourth down if the play isn’t successful, so taking a deep shot in this position is a high enough possibility that protecting against the fade — something that beat the Chiefs in the first half — was a good call.

However, if your safeties don’t have the range to keep a lid on the defense while 10 yards off the line of scrimmage on third-and-2 with your corners pressing, why are they out there? Those are terrible safeties. Having to keep them this far back allowed the Chargers to eat up the middle of the field and pick up way more yardage than necessary. Dorian O’Daniel on this play has poor coverage, and Antonio Gates is able to make a catch past the sticks. It’s when Gates shrugs off a tackle attempt by O’Daniel that this play goes for fourteen yards because the safeties are so deep.

Instead of grabbing a short gain and forcing more time to tick off the clock late in the game while protecting a lead, the Chiefs gave up a chunk due to the depth of their safeties. That depth is almost solely because of the ability of the players that the coaching staff continues to put on the field, and in a situation like this, it’s hard to swallow.

This is my least favorite play of the day.

I’ve questioned the communication, the execution, and the decision-making all year long. None of it has been consistently good. However, to see players standing mere feet away watching a single player try to bring down a running back while he gains another four yards? That’s absolutely unacceptable.

I’m not sure how the Chiefs film sessions are executed. I’m not sure if this is even a blip on their radar. But for me, it just continues to speak to a lack of accountability toward the players for their actions on the field. Why put in that extra effort to bring down the back when they’ll probably get it anyway and the coaching staff won’t punish you for it... right? And sometimes, that’s how it seems with this defense.

The next play was a loss of two yards on a good play by Derrick Nnadi, with Hitchens getting the cleanup tackle. That set up third-and-3 where the Chargers got four yards with a pass completed just past the sticks. That’s a set of downs that gave away four free yards with a bunch of players watching a tackle that could have resulted in a stop. Instead, that drive ended in a touchdown for the Chargers.

Something you may have missed

Just because Dee Ford isn’t showing up on the stat sheet in the same ways that he was a few weeks ago doesn’t mean that he’s not making an impact. This play showcases just how much attention Ford got from the Chargers last Thursday — with a running back sent to chip him from the outside and the left guard rotating to help inside.

Because the guard peels off of an initial double on Jones, he’s able to get upfield against the center and results in a hit on Rivers, forcing the ball to float down the middle of the field on a third-and-17. The 8-yard gain isn’t enough to threaten a fourth down attempt, so this play forces a punt.

The bottom line

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The major story this week is — and should be — Eric Berry’s return to the lineup. He looked a little bit like a guy that’s still shaking the rust off physically on a couple plays, but his play identification and ability to sniff out the read still showed up in a big way.

With Berry on the field, the Chiefs had a 55.5 percent success rate and came up with three drives stopped. When he wasn’t on the field, it dropped to a 46.3 percent success rate and just one drive stopped. That’s a guy that’s going to make this defense better with his presence on the field.

And that’s where my biggest story of the week comes in.

This is about the worst look that Bob Sutton and the Chiefs defensive coaching staff could be wearing after this game. A guy — who admittedly is one of the smartest players out there — comes in off the street after 13 regular-season games and has to direct traffic like a crossing guard for the players who have been in the scheme all year? How does that happen?

I counted at least 10 occurrences of Berry having to shift alignments, adjust fronts and scream at players to get into the right technique in his 30 snaps. At least one-third of the time, Berry had to make an adjustment. In the span of the season to date, the rest of the secondary has only noticeably made a handful more than that in total.

When Berry came off the field, the miscommunications, poor alignments and poor technique immediately showed up again. Every single play, I highlighted in the Something Bad section came from the second half — and I could have posted many, many more. What’s worse, the desire and effort seemed to completely disappear from this defense as he stepped off the field. They started playing like a 2-11 team with nothing to play for — rather than an 11-2 team with the division on the line.

Last Thursday was the biggest indictment against the defensive coaching staff to date. The implementation of their scheme and personnel was poor — specifically with their safeties.

It’s clear that the players don’t know their assignments well enough, as we got a like-for-like comparison of what happens with someone who can lead the group and someone else who can’t.

Worst of all, they just don’t seem to put in the consistent effort to make this defense tick. They apparently need a journeyman defensive lineman and an oft-injured safety to challenge and demand accountability.

If the defensive staff isn’t holding the players accountable, choosing the wrong personnel, and not coaching the scheme well enough to implement it properly... what exactly is it that they’re doing?