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Are the Chiefs’ recent defensive efforts a cause for concern in playoffs?

On Monday’s Out of Structure podcast, we took a closer look at how the defense finished the regular season.

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Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

On the latest episode of Arrowhead Pride’s Out of Structure podcast, we discussed everything about the Kansas City Chiefs’ 28-24 victory over the Denver Broncos and the big picture of the upcoming postseason, which starts this week against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card round.

(Listen to the podcast above or by clicking here. It is also available on Spotify.)

The Chiefs finished the regular season with two underwhelming games — even if one was a win. The most prevalent theme from those games was noticeably poor effort when tackling on defense. Early in the season, it was a theme, but it seemed to improve as the defense hit its stride. Yet, the faults in that aspect led to the unit allowing 58 points over the last two weeks.

Do these performances give reason to worry about the team’s chances at advancing through the AFC playoffs?

I was giving Chiefs defenders a little bit of a pass in Denver, where the field had a very shaky, unstable surface that definitely affected both teams. When a Broncos player broke into the third level of the defense, no one could change direction and cut their path off — and even when they did, their lack of momentum led to missed tackles; Pro Football Focus counted 12 for the game.

There wasn’t much from the pass rush either. If you ask former Chiefs offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz, the offensive line has an advantage in these games.

However, these excuses can’t be made for the Cincinnati Bengals game.

The same issues with tackling started in that matchup — in which the defense allowed 34 points and a season-high in passing yards to give up the Chiefs’ positioning as the No. 1 seed with the loss.

Both games also featured lapses in coverage, whether it was safety Dan Sorensen not effectively helping over the top or one of the cornerbacks getting plain beat by the very-talented receivers they’ve faced over the last two weeks. Coverage is a volatile skill in today’s NFL, and we’re seeing the downswing — but that means an upswing is coming.

The bottom line

The strategy that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo used to defend the Bengals is worrisome because that same strategy could lead to similar results against top-tier receivers in the AFC — including seeing those same Bengals again. It will be interesting to see if he adjusts.

That said, there shouldn’t be a worry about the individual players’ effort. It would’ve been nice to see a heightened sense of urgency against the Bengals — when securing the No. 1 seed was still in their control. Their performance over the back half of the season is proof that they can be trusted to play well enough, especially if coupled with peak performance from the offense.

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