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Chris Jones on Chiefs’ defense against Packers: ‘Fundamentals were not there’

Whether from injuries or execution, Kansas City’s defense turned in one of the season’s shakiest performances.

Syndication: Green Bay Press-Gazette Tork Mason / USA TODAY NETWORK

For weeks, the Kansas City Chiefs have done an outstanding job plugging a hole in the dam — the one that was opened when starting MIKE linebacker Nick Bolton was injured. Drue Tranquill has been the man plugging that hole — so when he left Sunday evening’s game against the Green Bay Packers after suffering a concussion during the opening drive, it wasn’t surprising that the dam finally burst.

Kansas City’s 27-19 loss started with Green Bay scoring two touchdowns — each of them on 75-yard drives. These methodical possessions limited the Chiefs’ offense to only two drives in the first half. After allowing another touchdown in the third quarter, the Chiefs’ defense held the Packers to two 11-play, four-minute drives ending in field goals during the fourth quarter.

Ultimately, the unit gave Kansas City’s offense a chance to win — but no one on the defense will kid themselves: it was arguably the worst game the group has played all year. After the game, reporters asked defensive tackle Chris Jones what went wrong.

“A lot of things,” replied Jones. “A lot of missed tackles... The fundamentals were not there today.”

Jones’ disappointment reflects a performance where the Chiefs allowed season-highs of 27 points, 382 total yards and 24 first downs. Green Bay executed a game plan that quickly got the ball to playmakers who were on the move. Kansas City’s defensive pursuit wasn’t as clean as usual — and Tranquill’s injury was a big reason why that happened.

The Packers churned out 129 rushing yards at 5.2 yards per attempt, using inside handoffs to running back A.J. Dillon and outside runs that utilized the speed of receivers like Christan Watson and rookie Jayden Reed.

Jones said that “a lot of guys were out of gaps.”

While these breakdowns in gap responsibility started up front, they were a team-wide issue throughout the game.

But working in a very tough spot as Tranquill’s substitute, second-year linebacker Jack Cochrane stood out. Over a career-high 57 snaps, he ended as the team’s second-leading tackler — and the only player for either team to earn two tackles-for-loss.

“We were very fortunate to have Jack,” remarked Jones. “He has been in this system for a while — and understands the basics of this defense. For him to come in and play a heck of a game for us, a lot of minutes? We asked a lot of him — especially when Drue went down. I think he did pretty well for the situation he was brought [into].”

Through most of this season’s games, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s play-calling — and its own on-field execution — gave the defense control over the opposing offense. But no matter how Spagnuolo tried to shake it up on Sunday, the defense was out of its comfort zone; for most of the game, it was on its heels. Green Bay stayed ahead of the sticks — and never allowed itself to be predictable.

“When you can run the ball as efficiently as they were running the ball, then you can pass the ball as efficiently,” noted Jones. “You can open up the playbook. We have to at least stop the run — or stop the pass. When you can open up the playbook and be comfortable about it, it can put us in a rut.”

It’s a rut in which the defense might be stuck for a while — at least until Bolton or Tranquill can get back on the field.

There is good news, though. Bolton returned to practice last week, starting a 21-day window in which the team can activate him to the 53-man roster. And if Tranquill passes through the concussion protocol at a typical rate, the team will have a completely healthy linebacker corps before the postseason.

While this won’t solve all of the defense’s problems, it will be a boost to the run defense. That’s a start.

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