The Kansas City Chiefs had an opportunity for a rare feat at home on Sunday in Week 3 against the Chicago Bears — and when they entered the halftime locker room up 34-0, they knew they wanted it: a shutout.
“I think every defensive player or coach in this league could tell you that that’s something special,” said defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo at the podium on Thursday. “It’s hard to do. It doesn’t happen very often. I’ve had very few in my career. It would have been nice to have, but the ultimate goal is to win it.”
The defense losing the shutout was not the fault of the unit, given that a Blaine Gabbert interception allowed the Bears to begin at the Chiefs’ 28-yard line. Kansas City got Chicago to third down, but a conversion put it in field-goal range.
The Arrowhead crowd swiftly booed as the Bears trotted on for a field goal, trailing 34 points. Spagnuolo was OK with it.
“I was just as proud of the fact that we forced him to kick a field goal because that was our job at that particular point,” he said. “The extra would have been finding a way to get a turnover and taking it to the house or something — but that didn’t happen. And then sometimes when the game gets out of hand and you’re trying to protect players from injury, things change a little bit.”
The shutout was gone, but the most important takeaway is that the halftime messaging was to go and get it.
“I love what coach Spags said at halftime when we came in — and they hadn’t gotten into the end zone,” said linebacker Drue Tranquill in the post-game locker room. “They hadn’t even had a field goal up to that point. He said, ‘Be greedy as a team.’ I feel like when you get up, big guys can start trying to get out of their rush lanes, try to get sacks, trying to make things happen — and we played greedy as a defense, we played stingy defense, we played sound defense. There will be things to clean up, but I thought our hustle to the ball, our physicality all day was really good.”
Filling in for the injured Nick Bolton, Tranquill played an excellent game, leading the team with eight tackles and successfully calling the defense.
Spagnuolo detailed exactly what he meant by using the word, “greedy.”
“Where I was going with it is [that] sometimes when you get ahead like that, we’re all human, right?” he said. “The players are human and sometimes you chase stats and so you start to do things that you’re really not supposed to, but I did want [them] to continue to be greedy and continue to play like they were playing. So I wanted it to be a unit greediness. In other words... I wanted to be greedy about getting shutout or not letting them score or get in the end zone, so that was the jist of it.”
With a chunk of the starters out of the game, the Bears scored a touchdown after another Gabbert interception in the fourth quarter. The circumstances take away nothing from the Chiefs defense, which currently sits as the No. 9 defense in the league (according to DVOA), ahead of teams such as the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and its opponent on Sunday, the New York Jets.
Chiefs defensive players can sometimes be seen in the facility wearing shirts that read, “My Job Plus.”
“You hear everybody saying about do your job, do your job — that’s been some mantra,” said Spagnuolo. “I turned it around at one point and made it a personal prideful thing. Hey, I’m gonna do my job... plus if I can a little bit more, you know, I’ll help my buddy.
“A good example is [say] a defensive end is a 5-technique (lining up on the outside shoulder of an offensive tackle) on a stretch (run) play. When he sets the edge like he’s supposed to, but then he comes back inside and makes the tackle on a back. That’s a ‘My Job Plus.’ He did his job, got the ball turned back, and he fell back in and helped somebody else.”
So, to recount, Spagnuolo has been preaching greediness to his defensive players. Regardless of a five-score lead, do more than your job and go get the shutout.
Kansas City didn’t get the shutout on Sunday, but Spagnuolo’s message of greediness has resonated with the players, leading to a grittiness we haven’t yet seen since he took over the unit in 2019.
The natural next step could be greatness.