The Kansas City Chiefs‘ defense was a bit baffling in 2013.
First, let’s take a glance at the “good” Chiefs defense. Prior to Week 11 versus the Denver Broncos, Kansas City had yet to allow an opponent to eclipse 17 points in any single game and was undoubtedly the most stifling defense in the NFL. The unit logged 23 turnovers (12 INT, 11 FR) and scored seven touchdowns in the Chiefs’ first nine games of the season.
Now for the bad. Kansas City’s Week 10 bye rolled around and the proverbial wheels fell off. What had once been an ironclad force field was suddenly rendered completely unable to function. Over the Chiefs’ final seven games, the team only held one opponent under 17 points and allowed an average of 27.7 points per game. They registered only 14 turnovers (nine INT, four FR) and four touchdowns. And that’s excluding their playoff shellacking they suffered at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts.
So what exactly went wrong? Which Kansas City defense should fans expect to see in 2014?
The answer is neither. The Chiefs’ defense will neither be the immovable force that they were in the first half of the season, nor the incapable mess that they became in the second. Kansas City struggled to find its identity on defense throughout 2013, but expect them to enter next season with a clearer idea of what that identity is.
The Chiefs indeed possess some of the top defensive talent in the league, as evident in sending a league-high six players from that unit to Hawaii for the 2014 Pro Bowl. Every area of the Kansas City defense is represented—line, backers and secondary—so what exactly is holding this squad back from being great?
Well, probably trying to do too much. Chiefs’ defenders had a boom-or-bust mentality at times in 2013; players wanted the game-changing pick six, but occasionally at the cost of conceding a long score to opponents. This explains how Kansas City was tops in the league in interception yards, fumble recoveries and total defensive touchdowns, but still managed to be among the NFL’s worst defenses throughout the latter half of the year.
Kansas City was too intent on making the big play, when they simply should have been focused on making a play. While the Chiefs’ offense isn’t necessarily intimidating, they are capable of getting the ball in the end zone. Kansas City defenders must allow Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles to worry about putting points on the board, as they worry about simply getting stops.
This is a team that has all the physical tools to be successful; it’s just the mental aspect of the game that isn’t there at this point. This is where DC Bob Sutton will earn his money. If Sutton is able to convince Chiefs defenders to buy in to his system and to cease playing as 11 individuals as opposed to one unit, Kansas City is again a top-tier defense in 2014. If not, a repeat of 2013 is highly plausible.
Sutton has a respectable track record and one would assume that the Chiefs will be able to figure out their consistency issues next season. If that’s the case, anticipate for them to be among the top four or five defensive squads for 2014.