After the Kansas City Chiefs won a 33-31 nail-biter against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, defensive end Frank Clark said there much room for the defense to improve.
“There are going to be mistakes throughout the game — and throughout the season — but [we have] to eliminate those big mistakes,” he told reporters.
“The penalties, the mental errors and stuff. I mean, the stuff you can control — stepping out [of] your gap, not being gap-sound. That’s when you get plays running 15, 20 — those big run plays.”
There have certainly been games where the Chiefs have given up more rushing yards than they did against Carolina on Sunday — but all things considered, holding a team with superstar running back Christian McCaffrey to 104 yards (at 4.3 yards a carry) wasn’t a bad day’s work for the run defense.
However, allowing Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to throw for 310 yards and a pair of touchdowns (and a higher-than-typical opponent passer rating of 103.3) wasn’t ideal. The Chiefs sacked Bridgewater twice. Clark had one of them — his fourth of the season — plus a pair of quarterback hits. While defensive tackle Chris Jones has been among the league leaders in quarterback pressures this season, Clark has not been — and neither of them seem to be getting as many sacks as we might expect.
“I think last year, I had one sack — probably none — like six games in the season,” recalled Clark, “but I don’t trip about stuff like that. And I know my teammates aren’t really tripping — especially Chris.”
Clark’s recollection was correct: he had one sack through the first six games of last season — and then seven in the final 10. But he was careful to explain that what he does on the field isn’t always about sacks — or even quarterback pressures.
“I put a lot on us,” said Clark, “because it’s our defensive line. But in reality, it’s our defense. A lot of things have to do with calls and stuff. You’ve got to understand: I’m dropping more than I’ve usually dropped over the years — doing a lot more dropping in coverage.
“You might be in a defensive call that you get excited you’re pass-rushing, but the offense might show you something else — they might show a screen. We’ve got a great defensive coordinator; he’s on top of things like that. Usually when he calls a play, it’s putting you — as a player — in the right position to be successful.”
On Sunday, that included some snaps where Clark and Jones rushed from opposite ends of the line. And Clark said he would like to see more of it.
“It’s kind of easy for a team to game plan when you’ve got two of the best rushers in the league — or two of the best D-ends or defensive players in the league — on one side,” he explained. “It’s easy to game plan that. We both like the right side. It’s one of those things where I told him, ‘I want to be able to move around more. I want to be able to do more. Move me everywhere — I don’t care. I’ll play right end, I’ll play left end. I can play D-tackle [or] nose in pass-rush situations.’ I know that. So watching him on the other side... it was like, ‘Man, this opens up a lot of things.’”