After Saturday’s 27-20 preseason loss to the Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs fans weren’t yet carrying torches and pitchforks, but it would be safe to say that after the Chiefs defense appeared to play so poorly against the Bears second-team offense during the first half, they were at least putting them in their Amazon shopping carts.
Head coach Andy Reid even offered some fairly mild criticism of the defense in his postgame remarks — which, for the low-key Reid, is roughly equivalent to a full-blown cray-cray rant from most of us.
“So you’ve got to, you know, you can’t let your guard down at all you’ve got to continue to challenge, you’ve got to tackle. Those are the things I was looking for. We’ve got to do better on that.”
In his weekly defensive trends and tabulations review, our own Craig Stout was blunter.
Nobody’s going to try to pretend that the defense was good this week. There were critical execution failures and tons of miscommunications that led to big gains and bad performances.
But for a man who is likely on the hot seat in 2018, Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton was remarkably serene during his appearance before the press on Monday.
When asked if he had enough time to fix defensive issues to his satisfaction before the season opener against the Chargers, he was quite matter-of-fact about the whole thing.
“I don’t know that I can ever get it to my satisfaction,” he said. “But we have enough time to do it in. There’s a lot of things in there that from a coaching perspective I wouldn’t consider that difficult to fix. Some of our coverage has got to be a little tighter — ‘You’ve got to get a little closer to this guy on this coverage.’ Again, it’s not, ‘I didn’t know who to cover, I just have to move closer in this type of coverage. I need a better break when the ball is thrown.’ Or, ‘This is pure zone coverage, so I need to do that.’ Or, ‘It’s man-to-man coverage. I need to get my eyes out of the backfield and strictly on my man.’
“Things that I know seem basic, but that’s usually what gets you in trouble. From a technique standpoint, I always think it’s your eyes and your feet that get you into trouble the fastest — you’re not looking at the right thing, or you can’t get your feet going where you want them to go, and then you have that third step that you have to make up all the time. That’s really hard. That’s all part of the technique thing that you just keep drilling on all the time.”
Just another day at the office for Sutton — even when our own Pete Sweeney asked him directly about two players being vilified by Chiefs fans on social media after Saturday’s defeat: David Amerson and Orlando Scandrick.
“Obviously these are two different scenarios,” he replied. “David has been here for what seems like a long time — compared to some of the other guys — and Orlando just got here. I think David didn’t play as well as he is capable of playing on Saturday. But he’s still got the ability to do this thing and get it done — technique, good eyes, all that — that just has to keep going. He’s a player that’s played enough snaps that he can make that improvement and get that back.
“Orlando is just learning the system,” Sutton continued. “He’s a veteran guy who has played in a lot of different systems. It’s terminology and those small adjustments. There’s nothing you can do but keep playing. There’s no way to get him past that without playing, and meeting with him. And keep doing that.”
And while Sutton — like his head coach on Saturday — acknowledged poor tackling by his defense, he did think there were some positives on Saturday, including having Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland on the field together.
“I liked the fact that we got a couple of these guys out there that hadn’t played a lot together. The organizational part of getting the calls, the checks and the alignments were good for the inside linebackers.
“Obviously we didn’t play as well as we wanted to. We didn’t convert on third down, which was big in that game. We had some scrambles that got out that hurt us early in the game. On two of them we got into pretty good position to have a shot at a sack. On most scoring drives, you’ll usually find a big play and/or a penalty in the drive, and that played true in Chicago. Eliminating those will be big for us.”