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Film review: Darius Harris — and the beginning of life without Willie Gay

Even minus one of their best defenders, Kansas City’s linebacker group shined

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts Robert Scheer/IndyStar Staff-USA TODAY Sports

While the first loss of the Kansas City Chiefs season falls on the shoulders of the offense and special teams, the defensive group wasn’t perfect either. It was without Willie Gay Jr., as he served the first of a four-game suspension in Week 3. Darius Harris stepped in to take the starting duties, and he picked up where he left off in preseason.

Harris finished with a game-high 13 tackles while Nick Bolton was right behind him with nine, and Bolton contributed two sacks as well.

They were tasked with slowing down arguably the best running back in all of football and they answered that call. They held the Colts’ Jonathan Taylor to 71 yards and only 3.4 yards per carry while keeping out of the end zone. The pass defense took a bit of a hit with Gay out but overall a good outing for the linebackers.

Let’s go to the film

The first score of the game came after the muffed punt early in the first quarter. The defense had a chance to force a field goal, but the Colts took advantage of the new faces.

Harris and rookie defensive end George Karlaftis don’t seem to be on the same page. Karlaftis looks like he could play a bit deeper as Harris peeks inside at Taylor, which creates enough of a window for Matt Ryan to deliver the strike.

If Harris gets to his drop sooner and Karlaftis gets deeper, the throw would have been much harder to complete. Willie Gay tends to do well in pass coverage so this is one he was most likely missed.

Another play where Harris looked a little out of place. You can see the receiver breaking in behind him as Harris and Nick Bolton take their drops. You can see Bolton pick up on the design and he points out where the ball will be going. Had Harris’ drop have been the opposite angle he goes, he would’ve been in better position to make a play.

Kansas City lines up in the nickel formation and a six-man box even though Indianapolis has six blockers along the line. This could have been a bigger play from Taylor, but defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi is able to eat up the double team effectively enough for Harris to run free.

Taylor shows a little hesitation, but Harris is able to mirror and fill the gap with some help from safety Justin Reid.

Colts center Ryan Kelly is able to pull and get position on Harris, but No. 47 is able to get leverage and strong arm Kelly out of the hole. Harris has enough separation to still make the tackle near the goal line. Harris has natural play strength and it shows on film. He is a solid run defender who doesn’t create many liabilities in the box.

Bolton initially looks like he is about to make a heck of a play by shooting the gap center Kelly is able to peel off and get a hand on Bolton, which is barely enough to prevent No. 32 from making a play. Harris scrapes over the top from the back side and cleans it up.

Defensive end Carlos Dunlap makes the initial play here but Harris gets a nice lick in at the end to finish the play. A clean play and hit from Harris show his ability to read and come downhill in a hurry. He would probably be starting in plenty of other defenses, so for the Chiefs to have him on the roster is valuable.

Harris lines up as a stand-up edge in a bear front look. He is able to knife in behind Malik Herring, who bull rushes the right tackle to create the opening Harris utilizes. He is able to run down Taylor from behind before hitting the cutback into the open field.

Bolton is recognized as a fierce run-stopper and is reliable in pass coverage. Here we see his pass-rushing prowess. Thanks to what looks like a miscommunication on the part of the Colts' offensive line, the Mizzou-made product has a straight-line shot at Matt Ryan. Bolton gets his hands up to prevent a quick throw and is on top of the quarterback before he even completes his drop back. Bolton recorded two sacks on the day.

The bottom line

The Chiefs dropped the first game in an ugly sort of way, and each facet of the team (offense, defense, special teams, and coaching) each has at least one pinpoint reason for the loss.

A tough Sunday night matchup awaits Andy Reid and company in the form of the Buccaneers.

The Chiefs will be looking to get back in the win column in a rematch of Super Bowl LV. The linebacking corps will be important once again to keep running back Leonard Fournette in check.

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