On several occasions during the last few weeks, the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense has appeared to have been caught off guard when opposing offenses have quickly come to the line — and in some of those instances, those offenses have made them pay.
Speaking to reporters before the Chiefs resumed their preparations for Sunday night’s game against the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said that at least one of them was due to a player who didn’t come to the sideline as quickly as he should have.
“The one that I can remember — and we’ve talked to the guys about this — but if you kind of get injured and you think you might have to come out, [you] do it right away,” explained Spagnuolo. “Because if you don’t do it right away, there’s some, ‘Are you staying in?’ So there was one of those; we were making a substitution [and] that’s one I remember vividly.”
Spagnuolo flatly denied that the problems arose from the defense being unprepared for a quick offensive play.
“Listen: we prepared for it,” he insisted. “We had a bunch of no-huddle periods. Chad (Henne) was out there [running the scout team] last week and did a great job with it. So as far as the preparation, I felt we were prepared; we didn’t get it done quite the way we wanted to. And we’re going to get teams doing that all the time.”
Pressed on the issue, Spagnuolo finally had to shrug.
“Gotta get it done better,” he acknowledged. “We practice it. We get a bunch of fourth downs. We take the last play of one or two or three periods every week where we go right to the line and we make a call.”
But Spagnuolo also thinks that that might be just the kind of approach that could work best against the Bills on Sunday night.
“I’d like to think that we can just go out there and play fast; throw a bunch of fastballs,” he said. “Just let loose a little bit. Because [against] this offense, if you’re thinking too much, the offensive coordinator and the coaches there do a good job; I don’t think we’ll see a lot of what they did against other teams. They create other, different kinds of run schemes. They create different concepts.
“So I think we’ve got to be brilliant at the basics: stick to fundamentals and play fast football. I know that sounds like coach-garb, but it’s true.”
That also sounds like a perfect time to get linebacker Willie Gay Jr. back on the field. Rookie linebacker Nick Bolton — who has had to shoulder an increased workload in Gay’s absence during the first four weeks of the season — called Gay a powerful player who will bring speed and violence to the Chiefs’ defense.
“I watched him while I was in college, too — we played in the same conference — so I know kind of what he brings to the table,” said the former Missouri Tiger. “Being with him, learning from him, watching him go out there and compete and perform, it’s something that you get the knowledge [from] watching.”
“So I’m glad to see what he brings back to us: again, [he’s] fast, powerful [and] violent. Everything you need from the linebacker position, he can do it. I’m just excited he’s going to be back.”
Unfortunately, Gay was only activated from injured reserve for practice on Tuesday; it’s not yet clear if he’ll be available for the Week 5 game.
“He looked good yesterday; it was the first day we really had him out there,” Spagnuolo said of his second-year player. “We’ll slowly get him in there, keep our fingers crossed, and hope there are no setbacks — and hopefully, get him to the game.”