From the Armchair: Kansas City Chiefs, Week 13
I am trying to look on the bright side after KC's third consecutive loss. After all, who am I to complain about a 9-3 start after last year's debacle: 2-14, No. 1 overall draft pick, starting MLB murders his girlfriend and commits suicide. Everything about this season is an upgrade, three-game losing streak and all.
This isn't to say that I'm not worried--I am. This Chiefs team is starting to look more and more like a one-and-done kind of playoff team -- the only kind Chiefs fans have known for 20 years.
Throughout the season, even during the winning streak, this team had holes. The problem is, as soon as one hole is plugged, another is opening up. The Chiefs fix the passing game, only for the pass defense and pass rush to disappear.
Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton's defense, which earlier in the season was as dominant a unit as there was in the NFL, has been exposed three weeks in a row. After not allowing more than 17 points in a game for the first nine weeks of the season, KC has allowed at least 27 in each of its three straight losses (two of which came at home).
The Chiefs problems on defense aren't complicated. Kansas City has big, physical corners, so they try to play a ton of press man coverage. Early in the season Sean Smith, Marcus Cooper and Brandon Flowers were able to delay the roots of receivers enough to allow Kansas City's ferocious pass rush to get to the quarterback and be disruptive.
So what has changed? Well, a few things. For one, the pass rush isn't what it used to be. Part of that is Justin Houston's injury and part of that is adjustments by offenses. One of those adjustments is more quick hitters. It's hard to sack a quarterback if he gets the ball out quickly, which Peyton Manning was especially good at in the Broncos' first win over KC in Denver. The other is a lot of crossing routes/pick plays. These are man-coverage-busting plays, and they have been working to perfection for Manning and Philip Rivers these past three weeks. Lastly, the corners, especially Cooper and Flowers, have just been getting beat.
How badly? Well Cooper, once a revelation as a casted-off rookie, was thrown at 11 times on Sunday, allowing seven catches for 180 yards and two TDs. Flowers wasn't any better. He was thrown at six times for five catches, 120 yards and two TDs. (Numbers via Pro Football Focus).
Not all is lost. The Chiefs are still in great position to reach the playoffs, and their offense is looking better.
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