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Chiefs defensive trends and tabulation for 2019 Divisional Round against the Colts

The Chiefs defense gave a big-time performance in a big-time game.

NFL: AFC Divisional Playoff-Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

That’s two!

For the second straight game, the Kansas City Chiefs defense showed up in a big way, locking up the opposition and holding the Indianapolis Colts offense under seven points. Unlike the previous game, the Chiefs didn’t have to rely on turnovers to force stops early. Quite simply, they just lined up and beat the Colts offense.

This week — as I do every week — I’ll break down the numbers from this home playoff victory. 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 - Divisional Round

- Div Round Avg Div Round Success
- Div Round Avg Div Round Success
Q1 1.33 77.78%
Q2 7.90 40.00%
Q2-Under 2:00 10.00 28.57%
Q3 2.45 72.73%
Q4 6.43 60.87%
Q4-Under 2:00 5.86 71.43%
1st Down 5.68 64.00%
2nd Down 6.39 44.44%
3rd Down -0.33 100.00%
4th Down 12.00 0.00%
Yds remain 0-3 1.75 75.00%
Yds remain 4-6 5.50 50.00%
Yds remain 7-10 5.13 65.79%
Yds remain 11+ 6.20 40.00%

My goodness, this defense was good!

1.33 yards per play in the first quarter! 2.45 yards per play in the third quarter! Negative average yardage on third down!

Even the Chiefs’ kryptonite — short yardage situations — resulted in a 75 percent success rate and an average of 1.75 yards per play. As was widely publicized, the Chiefs didn’t allow the Colts to convert a third down for the entire game.

That’s ridiculous.

The only “bad” numbers occurred when the Chiefs were in their prevent defense at the end of the second quarter, when they allowed 10 yards per play. Second downs and long distance situations could have been better, and the lone fourth down was converted by the Colts.

Defensive Formation - Divisional Round

- Div Round % Div Round YPP Div Round Success
- Div Round % Div Round YPP Div Round Success
1-4 N/A N/A N/A
2-3 65.45% 5.06 60.00%
2-4 27.27% 4.53 71.43%
3-3 0.00% N/A N/A
3-4 3.64% 0.00 100.00%
4-3 3.64% 8.00 0.00%
4-4 0.00% N/A N/A

With the Chiefs going up by three scores early, the defense leaned on the three-safety dime for the majority of the game. The Chiefs ran the dime in all but three plays in the second half before the backups came in for the final drive of the game. The strategy definitely worked, forcing Colts drives to stall for the entire third quarter and most of the fourth.

Of note: the Chiefs had a 100 percent success rate against the run out of their two-down linemen, four-linebacker nickel formation. While the majority of the Colts rushing attack was abandoned early, the times the Chiefs saw it in that sub-package were positive for Kansas City.

Rush Numbers - Divisional Round

- Div Round % Div Round YPP Div Round Success
- Div Round % Div Round YPP Div Round Success
Rush 3 2.38% 9.00 0.00%
Rush 4 85.71% 4.61 68.57%
Rush 5-6 11.90% 4.20 60.00%

The Chiefs didn’t need to blitz much this week, but when they did, they brought some diverse pressure. The four-man rush attacked well and was able to generate enough pressure through stunts, Dee Ford and Justin Houston off the edge, and Chris Jones bull rushing inside.

The Chiefs starters got pressure on Andrew Luck on 50 percent of his dropbacks — and when you include passes deflected by the defensive line, affected over 58 percent of his dropbacks. Against an offense predicated on quick passes and a strong offensive line to protect Luck, that is an astounding feat.

Coverages - Divisional Round

- Div Round % Div Round YPP Div Round Success
- Div Round % Div Round YPP Div Round Success
Man 35.71% 3.20 73.33%
Zone 64.29% 5.48 59.26%

It was a zone-heavy scheme this week, but with a small caveat — the Chiefs still mixed it up plenty. Pattern matching Cover 3, Quarters, static Cover 3 and a little bit of Cover 2 made up the Chiefs zone coverage plan this week. This kept Luck on his toes and forced him to think twice about quick releases because defensive backs were regularly peeling off to rob underneath routes.

When the Chiefs were in man coverage, they pressed 55 percent of the time. The 73 percent success rate out of the man coverage looks is a very encouraging statistic, as the Chiefs had a 50 percent success rate out of man coverage on the year.

Something good

In last week’s Advanced Scouting article on the Colts rushing offense, I talked about the Chiefs’ ability to slip pulling blockers with their outside linebackers. Ford’s speed and Houston’s quick play identification allow them to set up or beat these blockers to the spot and blow up the play before it’s even started.

This play is precisely what I was talking about. Before the tight end can come back across the formation to seal Ford on the back side edge, Ford has exploded off the edge and beaten the blocker to the play. By attacking the run game in this way early in the game, the Colts had to evaluate the pulling blockers in the run game.

A shout-out to Reggie Ragland on this play for stepping up into the A gap, beating the climbing blocker and getting to the running back. Ford rightfully gets credit for the tackle for loss, but Ragland would have likely gotten one, too.

Another one from last week’s article. The Chiefs defensive line was able to take advantage of some risky or greedy reach blocks in gaps left behind by pulling blockers. With the defensive linemen playing straight-ahead gaps more often, Derrick Nnadi is able to fire off the snap, immediately filling the void left by the pulling center and preventing the guard from sealing him with a reach block.

The quickness of Nnadi’s first step to attack this stretch run prevents it from ever getting started, and it makes the Colts’ risky reach block unsuccessful.

I don’t know what got into this coaching staff and their pass rush plan, but more of this, please!

A stunt between Anthony Hitchens and Chris Jones — looping two gaps on the weak side — and a twist between Houston and a blitzing Charvarius Ward overloads the left side of the Colts offensive line. While the Colts do a good job picking it up, both Jones and Hitchens are able to pressure Luck and speed up the throw to the flat.

On this blitz, the Chiefs line Hitchens up in the A gap, then loop him around the left side of the offensive line. Houston’s inside rip gives the edge to Hitchens, and the left tackle has to peel off to protect Luck, which releases Houston inside. Ford bends the edge and is able to corner right at the top of Luck’s drop, allowing him to strip the ball. Houston is free to recover the fumble and give the ball back to the offense after a turnover.

These blitz packages were unlike anything the Chiefs have regularly dialed up this season, and it gave Luck fits almost every time they implemented them.

A diverse rush plan with multiple moving parts could take the Chiefs defense to some really good places in the postseason.

In the span of just three games, moving Ward into the starting lineup has gone from a head-scratching switch to a fantastic move by the defensive coaching staff. Ward’s ability to understand the route tree and close on the ball in tight man coverage has been a major key to the success of this defense in the last two games.

Ward has shown steady improvement and a snap-by-snap understanding of his role in this defense — something that wasn’t necessarily there with prior Chiefs cornerback hopefuls. He was able to keep a blanket on good receivers like T.Y. Hilton and Dontrelle Inman for the majority of the day. Even when he did allow a completion, he typically showed good technique and forced a tough throw and catch.

Along with the diverse coverage schemes, one of the reasons that Luck was unable to get the ball out on time was that the Chiefs were sitting on underneath routes. The Chiefs defensive backs were often driving on routes at the top of Luck’s drops, forcing him into making a decision to throw on time and get picked off, or hold onto the ball and find another receiver.

Luck chose to hang onto the ball more often than not, which resulted in more pressure, sacks, and incompletions for the Chiefs defense.

Something bad

There really wasn’t much bad this week — even the prevent defense at the end of the first half was somewhat understandable — so I’ll pick on Steven Nelson for not getting his head around on this play.

Outside of this play and the dropped interception, Nelson had a pretty good day. Here, after missing on his initial jam, he recovers well to stay stuck to Hilton’s inside hip through the route. It’s a fantastic throw by Luck, but if Nelson can turn and locate the ball over his shoulder, he’s got an opportunity to come down with a pick and help ice the game.

Something you may have missed

Not only did the Chiefs bust out some new blitz packages, more stunts and a diverse coverage scheme, they also added some wrinkles to counteract specific heavy personnel from the Colts.

Indianapolis utilized an extra offensive lineman and a blocking tight end early against the Chiefs, and Kansas City countered with four down linemen with two outside linebackers on the line. This presented a six-man front against seven blockers while maintaining man coverage outside, a hook zone defender, and a deep safety.

Another new personnel package tailored for the Colts shows that this coaching staff is doing a great job adapting to the opponent.

The bottom line

The Chiefs defense helped destroy the Colts game plan this week, and it was largely due to the coaching staff putting its players in the best position to succeed.

Keeping the Colts offense off-balance with a varied rush plan and a shifting set of coverage shells got stops early and allowed the Chiefs to get out to a three-score lead.

After that — quite simply — it was over.

The re-emergence of this defense is a sight to behold. Gambling on Ward — a player that I liked, but a move whose timing even I questioned — has grabbed the headlines, but putting rangy Jordan Lucas on the field has added some energy and speed to the back end that has been missing all year. Meanwhile, the return of Daniel Sorensen’s agility and speed has offered the Chiefs another dynamic piece at safety that they had been lacking before.

With a simplified gap scheme up front and inside linebackers playing more downhill than they have been, the Chiefs took away the Colts run game early. Outside of a handful of runs late in the game against the dime defense, the Chiefs completely nullified one of the Colts’ biggest strengths.

The defense we saw on Saturday was good — not good enough, but good. If they continue to be good, there are trophies in this team’s immediate future.

Let’s bask in this one.

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