The Chiefs defense looked rough for the majority of the game against the Chargers on Sunday. That being the case, they still managed to only give up 20 points due to a few key performances.
At the end of week two of the NFL regular season, the Kansas City Chiefs have missed 29 tackles, which according to PFF ranks them second-worst in the NFL only behind the New York Jets. Sundays contest against the Los Angeles Chargers certainly played a role in why the Chiefs are ranked so low in that category as it seemed at times the defense couldn’t’ even make the most fundamental stop.
Despite the tackling issues the Chiefs defense only managed to give up 20 points which seems like a miracle after watching the tape. While the Chiefs did struggle at times they had a few bright spots on this side of the ball, that played a big part in the team coming away with a win. Before we get into the bad here are those bright spots.
Stone Cold Swim Moves
Chris Jones was a force in the interior all day and despite the camera angles and the way CBS chose to portray Jones playing the run, he had a solid day against the run and used his swim move, much like the one below to get penetration in the backfield and create chaos.
I counted only a handful of plays where Jones was out of position but I did count six plays that I consider “impact plays”, where Jones either made the play or directly contributed to it. Despite not generating much of a pass rush he and the entire defensive line played well against the run.
Mathieu in the right place at the right time? Of course!
Looking back on the outcome of the game this play ended up being huge. To Justin Herbert, it looks like Mike Williams has the corner beat and is headed down the seam for an easy score, but Tyrann Mathieu at the single high safety knows the Chiefs had them baited as it appeared the Chiefs were in man but it was a clever zone disguise by Steve Spagnola. Mathieu catches up to Williams and beautifully breaks up the ball. Football IQ at its finest.
Rookie Standouts Shine
In only his second professional football game L’Jarius Sneed recorded his second interception of the season, and it might have looked like just a toss-up from Herbert on TV, but upon a second glace at the All-22 it was a near-elite level play by Sneed.
He came from across the field just as Keenan Allen created a little separation from Sorensen. If he makes that grab it could have been a game-changing play, but Sneed shows his speed, instinct, and playmaking ability to come over and take the ball away and spark the Chiefs.
Sneed was once again impressive but he wasn’t the only rookie to make an impact on the game.
This kind of recognition by Mike Danna is not normal for a young player, a rookie nonetheless, but to see him take away the flat route entirely while still charging back to sack Herbert is remarkable.
Everything Danna showed on film from Michigan and Central Michigan has been seen in the last two weeks, from his quick play recognition, sound fundamental play, and relentless effort. He is exactly what the Chiefs need more of right now.
Now that most of the good has been highlighted it’s time to take a look at how the rest of the game played out. It’s not all pretty but one silver lining to take away from the review is that with the amount of missed tackles that the Chiefs defense had they still had guys in position to make plays a high percentage of the time.
The mental assignments are there but now it’s a matter of finishing. This is very similar to the start we saw from the defense last season, which as we all know need with the unit being among the top units headed into the postseason last year.
It was far from pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but we were able to see the emergence of new contributors. L’Jarius Sneed, Mike Danna, and Tershawn Wharton all made an impact on the game and each made key plays in key moments.
We saw the usual outstanding performances from Chris Jones, Tyrann Mathieu who made impacts plays that are often not talked about enough. It is also important to remember that this is far from the finished product for the Chiefs.
This week against Baltimore they will get back run-stuffer Mike Pennel who should make the defensive front even tougher to face. It should also be of note that Charvarius Ward missed the game with a hand injury, his status is unknown right now but his presence back in the lineup should help the pass coverage improve, but what will also help the coverage is that Bashuad Breeland will be back from suspension after week four.
It’s early on in the season, and the final form of this defense has yet to be seen. For the young guys, and stars carrying the unit right now they will have perhaps their biggest test of the season on Monday night against the reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. The key to judging improvement is the little things improved upon each week. Let’s see how much better the Chiefs defense looks in week three.