When they consider the Kansas City Chiefs, most NFL fans are likely to think about the potent Kansas City offense with quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his collection of offensive stars. But from the perspective of New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold — who will face the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday — the Chiefs defense is more of a worry.
“Obviously, the offense gets a lot of hype,” Darnold said of Kansas City on Thursday, per the Associated Press, “but we know we’re going against a really, really good defense, as well.”
Darnold said he is particularly concerned about Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu and the secondary Mathieu leads — and his concern is justified. Even without star cornerbacks at its disposal, the unit has held opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of just 77.6 — the league’s second-best mark. Meanwhile, the Jets offense currently ranks near the bottom of the league in many offensive categories — notably yards per play and scoring percentage, where it is ranked dead last.
But after Jets head coach Adam Gase handed off play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains in Week 7, the team went into halftime of last week’s game against the Buffalo Bills leading 10-0 — and then collapsed in the second half, falling to the Bills 18-10 for their seventh loss of the season.
Loggains had concentrated in calling more pre-snap motions in the game.
“I think having some of that stuff in helps with diagnosing defenses and obviously helps in the run game, in the pass game, as well just with certain things,” said Darnold. “So yeah, definitely, shifts, motions — when any team does it, when you watch other teams do it on film, you see how it helps them. So, we said kind of why not, and I felt like it was really good for us.”
But Darnold was also sacked six times against Buffalo, so it’s reasonable for him to be concerned about the Kansas City pass rush, too.
“Obviously, they’ve got — we call them ‘game wreckers’ — with Chris Jones and Frank Clark on the defensive line. They’ve got other guys as well, but those guys can do some special things on the football field.”
According to PFF’s Pass Rusher Productivity statistic, Jones is currently the league’s fourth-best interior pass rusher.
“It’s one of those tough ones of, ‘How do you stop this guy?’” added Jets head coach Adam Gase. “He’s been phenomenal, really since he’s got in the league. Just big, fast, his instincts are unbelievable. He just seems to know the right time to do with all his moves.”
Gase said that Jones is particularly disruptive when he and Clark and lined up on the same side of the line.
“That’s a whole different animal right there in itself, because those two guys, they’re impressive when you watch them, especially when they’re working together.”
Speaking to Kansas City reporters on Thursday, Jones said that Gase is not the first to notice; he and Clark are seeing offenses devote more attention to them in those situations.
“Yeah, you know we tend to get the slide if we’re on the same side, so we kind of have an understanding of that. So we just try to work in games. [working] on creating opportunities for each other along the defensive line.”
Jones, however, also said that the Chiefs’ defensive coaches are also aware of this tendency — and are working to counteract it.
“Our coach and Spags (defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo) have done a really good job putting us in a position to make plays and drawing up schemes for us to be able to affect the quarterback and get him in a one-on-one situation.”
On Thursday, both Jones and Spagnuolo praised Darnold and the Jets’ offense after their performance in the first half of Sunday’s game against the Bills — and through their week of preparation, every Chiefs player and coach has insisted the team will not overlook the Jets.
As long as that is true — and as productive as the Chiefs offense is — the matchup between the Jets offense and the Chiefs defense may turn out to be the most significant part of Sunday’s game.