Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi put it simply.
"At the end of the day, we got to do our job, and we got to do it well," he said on Wednesday.
Ah, yes, the end of the day. Is there a better time of day, than the end of the day?
The end of the day means work is over. Beautiful sunsets.
For a moment, close your eyes and imagine what the end of today will look like for you.
Maybe you get off work and drive home, as the sun sets over the majestic Kansas City skyline — as purple and orange light breaks between the towering buildings — falling over the Liberty Memorial lawn, warming the crisp autumn air.
Maybe it looks entirely different.
One thing is for sure; at the end of the day, the Chiefs record stands at 2-3, and the NFL season is already over a quarter of the way over.
At the end of the day, the Chiefs need to make adjustments along the defensive line, and it starts with Nnadi playing better.
Nnadi has never been much of a pass rusher, but he has always been a large-bodied, gap-sound run defender who can eat up bodies along the interior and free up the MIKE linebacker to make a play on the ball. Almost more so than any other player, he is crucial to the Chiefs' run defense.
In his first three years in the NFL, Pro Football Focus gave him the following ratings in run defense:
• 2018: 76.8
• 2019: 71.9
• 2020: 81.7
So far, in 2021, Nnadi's run defense rating is down 30 points from last year to 51.1. What's worse is that Nnadi's numbers are not an outlier on the Chiefs' defense.
According to PFF, Nnadi is toward the top of Kansas City's run defense rankings in 2021.
To highlight how bad the Chiefs run defense has been this year, I'll put it this way— there is not a single defensive lineman or linebacker on the Chiefs who has played more than 10 snaps this year that has a run defense rating over 60.
The closest is Willie Gay Jr. at 58.2, and he has only played 25 snaps so far this year.
Unsurprisingly, the three worst run defenders on the Chiefs are:
• Ben Niemann: 37.9
• Daniel Sorensen: 33.5
• Anthony Hitchens: 30.5
Now, PFF's ratings are not the end-all, be-all to football analysis. But they are a good overall indicator of performance on the field, and when an entire defense scores as poorly as the Chiefs have, it's a problem.
At the end of the day, it's also challenging for a defense to continue to play as poorly as the Chiefs have. In the NFL, when you see numbers as drastic as these, it's usually a good bet that at some point, a team's performance will drift back toward the mean.
Not my photo but can we admire this Kansas City sunset? pic.twitter.com/vjKj8Aq1Om— ⋆｡ﾟ☁︎｡⋆｡ ﾟ☾ ﾟ｡⋆ (@MickeyMarie1313) June 27, 2021
The Chiefs aren't deaf and blind to these facts. They read web articles and see the tweets of fans and analysts, who point out that Kansas City is currently allowing a historically worst 7.1 yards per play on defense.
"It's early in the season, nothing is ever perfect at the beginning," said Nnadi on Wednesday, "It's just all about fine-tuning — you just got to keep working. At the end of the day, it's never going to be perfect. You just got to keep working at it, and it should turn around."
If anyone ever tells you that Kansas City has the best sunsets, well they are 100% correct. pic.twitter.com/eJk1TQ0bEn— Boulevard Brewing Co. (@Boulevard_Beer) November 13, 2019
Some might point out that the Chiefs defense has been ravaged by injuries to start the year:
- Tyrann Mathieu missed the season opener with Covid.
- Willie Gay Jr. is just now coming back from a turf toe injury.
- Frank Clark seems to have a hamstring that refuses to heal.
- Chis Jones is battling a sore wrist.
- Derrick Nnadi is working through a training camp hip injury.
- Charvarius Ward hurt his quad.
- Anthony Hitchens tweaked his knee.
And then I'm sure there is a multitude of minor injuries that we will never know about.
"At the end of the day, in the NFL, there's going to be some injuries here and there," said Nnadi. "There's going to be some bumps and bruises."
Ok.... JC Nichols fountain at sunset. Looking good Kansas City! pic.twitter.com/UFmjiVfVLF— Jonathan Tasler (@TaslerPhoto) May 29, 2020
In Nnadi's mind, having a few injuries does not warrant having the worst defense through five games in NFL history.
"At the end of the day, there's always the next-man-up mentality," said Nnadi." So no matter who's on that line, whoever is on that line has to be ready to go no matter what the circumstances."
When you have played as poorly as the Chiefs have as a unit, the one thing you cannot afford is players not taking personal accountability – to the Chiefs' credit, this has not been an issue.
Talking about his own injury, Nnadi said he is taking the necessary steps to keep himself healthy enough to stay on the field.
"It was bothering me a lot at the beginning of the season, but as I know myself, I just got to make sure I'm staying healthy," he said. "Working out, trying to get a nice and loose. Knowing me, I'm going to get it right – just keep working and keep improving it. And I should be fine as the year goes by."
It's all about practice
Some professional athletes believe that practice is not a crucial aspect of the game – these players believe in their athletic gifts so much, that they don' think they have any element of their craft to improve upon.
Just don't tell Nnadi and the Chiefs defense that.
In their eyes, practice is the only way that they are going to turn this thing around.
"There are some critiques," he added. "There are some things we got to work on, but that's why we have practice. There's a quote in our D-line room that says, 'Practiced execution becomes game reality.'
"So when we go to practice, we got to practice like we're playing in a game. Execution is something we need to work on. That's why we have practice. We've got to keep working at it. We got to go balls-to-the-wall, going 110%."
Though the Washington Football Team may not look like the most formidable opponent on paper, Nnadi believers their running backs, Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic, can do some damage if the Chiefs aren't adequately prepared.
"They [have] some speed monsters, that's for sure," he said. "At the end of the day, we have to be disciplined and play solid technique and be sound."
Absolutely Beautiful Sunset in the "Kansas City Skyline" pic.twitter.com/atWfXd1ZIQ— Gary (@DJGARYNH) July 6, 2019
So far this year, Washinton is averaging 108.8 yards per game on the ground, which is good enough for 16th place in the league. But these numbers have been skewed due to Washington playing from behind to start the second half in four out of their five games.
If Washington can somehow get the lead on the Chiefs, they have the talent in the ground game to exceed its season average by quite a bit.
The bottom line
At the end of the day, all we can really ask from a team is that they care about getting better as much and/or more than we do.
At the end of the day, the Chiefs are still led by a future Hall of Fame head coach in Andy Reid, and they have too much talent on this defense to remain as bad as they have been.
What a beautiful sunset over Arrowhead Stadium pic.twitter.com/42iEq5UydX— Cody Hartl (@cody_hartl14) January 4, 2017
The end of the day means no more work. Beautiful sunsets.
It's not the end of the day for the 2021 Chiefs quite yet.