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Kansas City Chiefs defensive trends and tabulation for Week 2

Craig gets out the schematics to give you the numbers for Week 2: the good, the bad and the VERY bad

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

82 snaps.

That’s how many snaps — including penalties — the Kansas City Chiefs defense was on the field Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s also the same number of snaps they were on the field last week, too.

At this rate, the Chiefs defense will be on the field for 1,312 snaps this season.

Hell, I’m going to need an IV for that!

Let’s not try to spin it, this week was bad for the defense. They started great, allowing the offense to get a three-score lead, then promptly coughed up that lead before halftime. They showed a slight improvement late in the second half, stopping the Steelers on three consecutive drives to help the team seal the game.

But my goodness... what took place in between was some of the worst defense we’ve seen in a little while.

The Chiefs have now given up over 400 passing yards to the opposition in each of their games this year, and have allowed teams to hang around all game long, despite the ridiculous offensive output that the Chiefs offense is sustaining.

But where did those numbers rack up? Where did the Steelers find the most success? Why is Bob Sutton torturing one of his only supporters with a ludicrous number of snaps featuring some baffling schematic problems?

Fortunately (or unfortunately for some), I’ve got the numbers this week to tell you where they had some marginal success, some catastrophic failures, and an overall “meh” outcome.

The numbers

  • The Chiefs lined up in their base 3-4 formation 4.88 percent of the time, typically against 12 personnel. In those very limited snaps, the opposition gained 0.66 yards per play.
  • The Chiefs lined up in their nickel defense with two down linemen and four linebackers 69.51 percent of the time, once again making it their preferred formation for the week. They allowed 7.09 yards per play out of this formation.
  • The Chiefs showed their two defensive linemen, three linebacker dime formation 12.19 percent of the snaps this week. On those snaps, the Steelers gained 5.8 yards per play.
  • The Chiefs dropped an outside linebacker or defensive lineman — brace yourself — on 36.60 percent of the snaps in Week 2. Those plays gave up 7.47 yards per play, and on average, the quarterback threw the ball in 2.72 seconds.
  • The Chiefs sent extra rushers 11.20 percent of the time. That’s higher than last week, but still very low compared to the rest of the league. However, the Chiefs showed pressure, brought a rusher from the second level while dropping another rusher, ran a stunt, or blitzed on 29.50 percent of the snaps, so they weren’t completely vanilla.
  • The Chiefs sent extra rushers just as much in the second quarter as they did in the fourth quarter. Those hoping that Sutton turned up the heat and blitzed more to get the stops he needed at the end of the game should take note that he did it while the Steelers were also marching down the field in the middle of the game. Those opening drives with three straight stops? Those were three and four-man rushes from the Chiefs defense.
  • The Chiefs rushed three players on 31.0 percent of the passing snaps. Those snaps resulted in 9.35 yards per play and an average time to throw of 2.82 seconds.
  • The Chiefs rushed four players on 57.8 percent of the passing snaps. Those snaps resulted in 6.18 yards per play (three whole yards less than rushing 3) and an average time to throw of 2.72 seconds.
  • The Chiefs rushed five or more players on 11.2 percent of the passing snaps. Those snaps resulted in 6.75 yards per play and an average time to throw of 1.93 seconds.
  • The Chiefs were in man coverage on 59.2 percent of the passing snaps. Those snaps resulted in a superb 4.26 yards per play and an average time to throw of 2.71 seconds. They played press man coverage 83.10 percent of the time with their corners and slot safeties.
  • The Chiefs were in zone coverage 40.8 percent of the passing snaps. Those snaps resulted in a terrible 10.93 yards per play and an average time to throw of 2.70 seconds
  • The average time to throw this week was 2.65 seconds. When the Chiefs forced the throw under 2.5 seconds (33 plays), they allowed 4.33 yards per play. When the throw took longer than 2.5 seconds (27 plays), they allowed 11.33 yards per play.

Something good

The Chiefs pass defense didn’t have many quality coverage snaps this week, but this was definitely one of them.

The Chiefs are in Cover 1, and the Chiefs rush both inside linebackers while dropping both outside linebackers for a four-man rush. Eric Murray has nice catch technique in the center of the field, and the corners are pressing. Ben Roethlisberger holds onto this ball for 5.04 seconds, but the Chiefs secondary stays sound in their coverage, resulting in an incomplete pass that forced a missed field goal.

One of the few bright spots this week was the Chiefs run defense, allowing a fantastic 2.18 yards per carry on 11 attempts, and this clip highlights what the Chiefs can do against big packages.

The Steelers are in 23 personnel, and the Chiefs are showing a four defensive lineman, four linebacker look to counter it. Derrick Nnadi goes low off the snap and creates an obstacle while Allen Bailey swims over the tackle to get into the backfield. The fullback has to make a decision on who to block, and his hesitation leads to Reggie Ragland filling the gap and catching running back James Conner in midair for no gain.

The Chiefs run defense has struggled with some power running teams in the past, but plays like this show what the shift in mentality this offseason has created on that side of the ball.

Something bad

I could spend 4500 words this week on how poor the Chiefs zone defense was against Pittsburgh, but I’m going to highlight one that encapsulates the way the Steelers beat up the Chiefs zone defense.

The Chiefs ran a lot of Cover 3 Cloud this week, where a cornerback joins the two deep safeties to split the deep zone into thirds, with four defenders playing zone underneath. It’s a common look for the Chiefs, but they struggled with their discipline in it this week, as Steelers wide receivers tested the seams.

Here, Antonio Brown runs the seam between Steven Nelson and Murray’s zones for the deep third. Murray doesn’t shift to pick up Brown, and Nelson doesn’t pass him off, so they both end up overlapping the coverage on Brown.

The problem with that is that Terrance Smith - the Apex defender — is expecting deep help behind him. He doesn’t know that zone has been evacuated, and as Juju Smith-Schuster gets depth on his route behind the underneath zone defender, Smith releases forward to cover the running back in the flat, thinking he’s passed the receiver to the deep zone defender.

It’s a fantastic play design by the Steelers, but the success of the play was compounded by poor zone discipline by the Chiefs defenders.

This is just poor recognition on a blitz.

The Chiefs are bringing the safety and the slot corner from the passing strength of the offense without dropping an outside linebacker on that side of the field. Smith is in man against the running back, who motions out wide to leave the backfield empty. There are hot routes for days against this blitz, as they’re asking Justin Houston to come from the back side of the formation to cover the tight end in the slot after the snap. It’s some of the easiest yardage the Steelers had all day.

In situations like this, someone on the defense has to kill this blitz. It arguably wouldn’t have worked against the 3x1 set with the running back in the backfield, but there’s not a prayer of stopping it once Smith shifts opposite the passing strength.

Something you may have missed

The Chiefs did get to throw a little bit of a curveball here at the end of the game.

After running a lot of zone looks all day, the Chiefs cornerbacks fake a Cover 3 look just before the snap. Ben Roethlisberger anticipates the space in front of the underneath zone defenders off the snap, but the Chiefs kick into man coverage. Orlando Scandrick goes over the top of Ron Parker and closes on Brown for a physical pass breakup to put a cap on a good day in coverage for him.

The bottom line

The Chiefs defense is bad. Full stop.

After a week in which I praised Sutton for bringing some exotic looks and general confusion up front, he called a pretty poor game with soft zone coverages and rushing three players far too often.

While playing man coverage for 82 snaps is not sustainable, the 60/40 split between man and zone is far too high when you look at the yardage discrepancies between the two.

As I mentioned on the AP Laboratory podcast this week, the Chiefs don’t have the bodies in the secondary right now to run man all game and rotate players. We saw Nelson cramping at the end of the first half, so even the current split is taking its toll.

The splits also show that even by simply rushing four players, the Chiefs defense can get stops, improving by three yards per play over rushing three players. There’s a time and a place to rush three, but even against a team like Pittsburgh where flooding the secondary with bodies can help, we can see that the time and the place wasn’t this week.

Finally, the Chiefs have to get better on first and second downs. After the Scandrick holding penalty that nullified Chris Jones’ touchdown in the first quarter, the Chiefs forced only two more third downs for the rest of the half — a third-and-1 (after a second-and-1 deep shot that went incomplete) and a third-and-10 that resulted in the game-tying touchdown right before the half. The Chiefs only forced three third downs of longer than three yards after the first three drives of the game. That’s called not getting it done on your early downs.

The Chiefs need help, and the weak spots appear to be shifting around the defense throughout the first two weeks. Going forward, this ailing defense may need more than a superhuman return from Eric Berry to set it straight.

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