Poor pass defense stands out in Chiefs’ loss; What actually happened?

The Kansas City Chiefs lost once again last Sunday, losing 30-24 against the Los Angeles Chargers to become last in the AFC West division with a 1-2 record. This is the first time they have been under .500 at any point of the season since 2015.

Everyone was quick to point out how the offense turned the ball over too many times, but also the difficulties the defense had stuck out, especially the pass rushers.

Countless tweets asked Steve Spagnuolo to put Chris Jones back to his initial and usual position and bring Juan Thornhill back in the first team.  

Repairing the defense will be problematic though. The Chiefs, after a strong start on Sunday, allowed the Chargers to score on five of their final seven possessions, including all three in the fourth quarter.

The Chiefs’ defense, which also had a bad game in the loss to the Baltimore Ravens, is the biggest reason to many the Chiefs are 1-2.

The Chiefs are allowing almost 32 points per game, and they entered Sunday’s game last in the league in total defense and rushing defense, which is not “good,” to say the least.

The issue of the defense seems to be at all levels, but one position really puzzles: the pass rushers. Going into the beginning of the season, who would have thought this position could be a real problem for the Chiefs? In theory, everything should have worked out perfectly.

Yes, the Chiefs have focused mainly on revamping the offensive line this offseason, so few changes have been made to the defense.

One of the players with a big question mark on his head is Frank Clark. The big contract that was given to defensive end Frank Clark doesn’t look as good as it once did. Clark helped the Chiefs win Super Bowl LIV two years ago and helped them get back to the Super Bowl last year with a few flamboyant actions, but this year seems a little bit more difficult. He had legal issues off the field, missed much of the training camp and the whole preseason.

The Chiefs pass rush struggled, that is for sure. They were last in the league entering the game against the Chargers, with a pass rush win rate at 26.2%. Chris Jones weirdly struggled too in his new position on the edge (at least as a part-time position).

“Defensive end is a little different because you’re more so on an island — it’s just you and the tackle,” Jones said. “You have so much space between you and the next guy on the field. So it’s a little different. But I like it.”

So, the Chiefs actually used their best pass rusher in a new position, even with all the difficulties it might bring along the way. Was it a good solution? Chris Jones will occupy mostly left defensive end, while the new Chief Jarran Reed would replace him on the interior. Reed, so far has not had a big impact, unfortunately.

It’s all still new to Jones, and although he could improve, he looked lost sometimes on Sunday against the Chargers. Against the Ravens, Jones finished the night with zero tackles and one assist.

The experiment Reed-Jones looks like a big flop to me.

“We’re going to move him around and use him to the best of our ability and his ability,” Chiefs defensive line coach Brendan Daly said. “(It will be) based on the bodies that we have available — and that may change based on game plans sometimes. It may change on the availability of the rest of the group. The versatility, I think it gives us some great options and great flexibility.”

The Chiefs have also been happy with the development of tackles Tershawn Wharton, a pass rusher, and Khalen Saunders, a run stopper, though they are not main pieces of the defense, just a part of their rotation.

For this beginning of the year, Mike Danna and Alex Okafor are the two defensive players who played most snaps at end, and Danna has been the most efficient player on the defensive line.

Will the defense become a real liability for the Chiefs?

Let’s not forget the Kansas City Chiefs have been in the Super Bowl these past two years, and Mahomes and Co became the team to beat. Every team will play extra motivated…

“We’ve got to expect that we’re going to get each team’s very best,” Reed said. “Just because of what the Chiefs have done the past few years. So when teams come in here, it’s their Super Bowl to them. We’ve just got to stay grounded and we’ve got to take each game as that — we’re going to get the team’s best and we’ve got to step up to that challenge. We’ve got to play that much better.”

However, the Chiefs will have to improve their defense in order to win games, piling up 24 to 34 points on offense without winning is not acceptable, and will not be enough to win a Super Bowl.