Immediately after the Kansas City Chiefs’ season opening 34-20 win over the Houston Texans, safety Tyrann Mathieu publicly expressed his displeasure with the defensive unit’s performance. He declared that he was “pissed”, citing the Houston offense scoring 13 fourth quarter points as... a problem.
With an entire week to reflect while moving on to preparation for Week 2, members of the Chiefs defense still have similar feelings. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was all the way behind Mathieu’s message.
“He thinks like I do,” Spagnuolo pointed out to reporters on Thursday. “I felt the same way — but you don’t want to sour the fact that we won a football game, because it’s hard to win in this league. But I’m with him 100%. I think when we get to that point where we can close a team out, I’d like to be able to do that — and not let it get back to two possessions or whatever the score was.”
The Chiefs’ lead did shrink from 24 to 11 points during a nine-minute span in the fourth quarter. While that period may have felt like garbage time to fans, the starting Chiefs defense was still on the field, trying to prevent scores.
Defensive end Frank Clark — known for his effort and determination to finish a play — repeated the words of his fellow defensive leader.
“Pissed off. That’s the word,” Clark agreed. “Because you pride yourself on stopping the run, finishing games strong as a defense. I feel like we stopped the run for the most part, [but] let a few at the end of the game get away, Deshaun Watson had a few scrambles as we were rushing the passer — when the game was obviously in our hands. It’s just finishing games. We give up two touchdowns in the fourth quarter after we held them to seven points.”
The Chiefs obviously stopped the run well enough to hold the Texans offense in check for most of the game — but from a statistical perspective, they were unimpressive. They allowed 5.4 yards per rushing attempt, which ended up as the NFL’s second-worst mark in Week 1. On their only touchdown drive of the game, Houston averaged 9.75 yards on four carries — including the scoring play.
“Just finishing drives — not letting them extend drives so you can get off the field,” Clark continued. “We had some good signs, no penalties on defense — stuff like that — so there was some good signs; it wasn’t all bad... It just takes us having to fight and get it out of the mud to claw and scratch for a victory.”
With no preseason and reduced practice time, Spagnuolo had been warning us about how behind the Chiefs defense might look right out of the gate. While he might have expected the lackluster play, he acknowledged the importance of Mathieu’s “pissed off” message.
“I value his leadership — and I’m glad he feels that way,” said Spagnuolo. “I think most of the guys are the same, to be honest with you. They’ll follow his lead — and hopefully, we can step it up. We all thought we played just okay last week defensively. I’m glad we won — and there was a point there where it was 31-7, so it looks good — but we’d like to play better.”
They will have their first chance to play better against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2. The defense allowed 19 points per game last season in their two matchups with the Chargers — and Los Angeles’ offense didn’t get any more dangerous this offseason. It should be a good opportunity for the defense to get right — and feel better about their performance.