After 10 games, the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense has allowed 214 points. At 21.4 points per game, that ranks seventh in the NFL. But over the last two games against the Carolina Panthers and Las Vegas Raiders, the team has allowed 31 points — not to mention the 40 given up to Las Vegas in Week 5.
Fans have been frustrated by what they see as a downturn in recent weeks — especially against a division rival like the Raiders. Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu feels it, too.
“Obviously, I didn’t think we did a great job tackling early on in the game,” Mathieu told reporters on Wednesday. “It was a lot of third downs where we couldn’t get off the field, missed tackles, miscommunication.”
In fact, the Chiefs allowed the Raiders to convert 67% of their third downs — the highest percentage in any game this season. In the previous game, the defense allowed Carolina to convert all three of their fourth-down conversion attempts — one of those a fake punt that fooled the special-teams unit, but another that was a fourth-and-14 that Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater converted with a scramble.
“It’s little things, but they’re important things,” said Mathieu. “If we can continue to harp on those things and continue to make those things important, I think we’ll be fine.”
Still, Mathieu acknowledged the defense is feeling the pressure.
“We’re kind of upset with the last two outings we’ve had. I wouldn’t say that we’re down. We’ve kind of been in these situations before — the kind of situations where you have to lean on each other [and] take the coaching. You’ve got to find a way to get better.”
But it’s worth noting that these two games have been against teams that aren’t exactly offensive slouches. At 28.6 points a game, the Raiders currently rank eighth in scoring — and are second only to the Chiefs in offensive scoring percentage at 50.1%. The Panthers aren’t far behind at 46.2% — and have been without their main offensive weapon Christian McCaffrey for most of the season. In his return to action against the Chiefs, the All-Pro running back had 151 total yards and two touchdowns.
“Obviously, every football game won’t be a blowout,” observed Mathieu. “Every football game won’t be a dominant defensive performance. But I think mostly, our fans should be able to see us playing hard — us sticking together.”
In his second year with the team, Mathieu said he remains confident that his defensive teammates can do exactly that.
“I think we have the right kind of guys in our room,” he said. “Obviously it’s been a rough couple of weeks for us defensively, but I know we’ve got the kind of guys that can turn it around — and that’s the only thing that matters. As long as we continue to look each other in the eyes and commit to each other, I think we’ll be able to get back to playing the kind of defense our coaches really want.”
But the time is now. Just six games remain in the season. And on Sunday afternoon, the team faces the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — the league’s second-most prolific scoring offense.