For the first month of the season, the story has been the improvement of the Chiefs’ defense — a narrative that continued during Sunday’s victory. Kansas City held the Vikings’ offense — which includes Justin Jefferson, who might be the league’s best wide receiver — to only 20 points.
But according to the Chiefs’ defensive tackle Chris Jones, Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins didn’t make it easy for his teammates.
“It’s always a challenge when you’re going against a heck of a quarterback like Kirk Cousins,” Jones told reporters after the game. “No matter how exceptional that offensive line plays, when you have that smartness behind those guys, it tends to get the ball out fast, it tends to call play-action passes, and it forces the D-Line to kind of hold up on their pass rush.
“I think they did a tremendous job on adjusting to what we like to do best — and getting the ball out early. Kudos to those guys.”
Before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury, the Kansas City secondary held Jefferson to just three receptions for 28 yards.
“They played exceptional today,” declared Jones. “Hats off to those guys. If we had a game ball today, I’d give it to the whole back end. They held their own — especially against a great wide receiver and a heck of a quarterback. Hats off to them.”
Head coach Andy Reid wanted to specifically highlight the work that fourth-year cornerback L’Jarius Sneed had put in against Jefferson.
“What can you say about Sneed?” he asked reporters. “This is the best receiver in the National Football League — or at least one of them, but arguably the best. [Sneed] went toe-to-toe with him tonight. So it was a great job.”
Sneed himself wanted to turn the praise toward his coaches.
“I’ve been preparing all week,” he recalled. “Coach has been installing in me what to do and what not to do. I just come to work and do my work.”
The cornerback was involved in the game’s most controversial moment. Late in the fourth quarter, the Vikings had a chance to tie the score on a fourth-and-12 from the Kansas City 24-yard line. Sneed initially appeared to have been called for pass interference against Vikings receiver Jordan Addison in the end zone. But after discussing the play, officials decided the pass had been uncatchable — and picked up the flag.
“I know it was fourth down,” Sneed said of the play, “and I knew they had to go to the end zone. So, I played off — at the sticks, you know — getting my head back.”
Unsurprisingly, Reid agreed with how the crucial call played out.
“He was just jogging [or] running with him,” the coach argued. “He wasn’t grabbing him or pushing him or anything. That’s how they were: just running down the field. The ball obviously wasn’t catchable. He did a nice job, I thought, shadowing him.
“I thought it was a good call. I think picking the flag up was probably the right thing to do. They communicated, which is all you ask for. It was one guy, so they’re human beings working on it there.”
In spite of their early-season success, the Chiefs’ defenders expect their side of the ball to continue to improve.
“I know we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Sneed reminded his listeners. “We’re still progressing. We’re still trying to come together. We’re piecing it together.”
Part of what still needs to be done is reducing penalties. Although the game’s most important call bounced Kansas City’s way, the defense saw yellow laundry throughout the afternoon. On a second-quarter drive that resulted in a Vikings field goal, the defense gave up four first downs via penalty — including a pair by Sneed.
“As a defense, that’s careless mistakes,” he said. “We’ve got to stop the penalties. We hone in on that. Coaches hone in on that as well: eliminate the penalties.”
Jones agrees that the Chiefs’ defense is still working through some things, but is happy with the high number of players contributing.
“It’s still early,” noted the All-Pro defensive tackle. “We’re still building. Getting the chemistry along the D-line still [is] always a challenge. Most importantly, [we’re] getting everyone going.”
Kansas City’s star pass rusher sees a high degree of buy-in for what defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is selling.
“I’m not a DC,” Jones explained. “I’m just a part of [it]; one of 11. Whatever Spags comes up with, he’s been in this game a long time [and] had a lot of success within this defense. We trust [him] — and we try to execute to the best of our ability.”
While neither the Chiefs’ defense or offense is playing perfect ball, Jones sees them as a good complement for one another.
“I think it’s a fair trade,” he said. “We keep them under 20 points, offense scores more than 20 points — and we win the game. If that’s the way it can go all season, then it’s going to be a heck of a season. But I think we can be better on both sides of the ball [and] continue to challenge each other.
“And we’ll see you guys [on] Thursday.”