Chiefs Texans Defensive Review: A Solid, Unspectacular Performance

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Nate reviews the Kansas City Chiefs defensive performance against the Houston Texans

We did it! After possibly the worst first quarter of all time, the Chiefs turned it around, and played their best three quarters of the season. While a lot of attention goes to Patrick Mahomes and the offense, the defense put together a solid performance. They weren’t beat up and down the field like they were in week 6, and were able to only allow 7 points in the last 40 minutes of the game.

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The Good

While I’ve highlighted the 3-2-6 defense that Spagnuolo has used over the last half of the season, this week, we saw a new variation of that defense this week. Instead of Reggie Ragland being the only LB/DE in that package, they used Dorian O’Daniel as a dedicated spy on Watson, without any coverage responsibility. They used him in this role on 12 snaps, which was more than he played the entire season.

This package may not be used the rest of the year, due to Lamar Jackson no longer being a threat for us to play against, but it’s good to see Spagnuolo having some trust with O’Daniel, and with a potentially increased role in practices, we could maybe see a future for O’Daniel in Kansas City.

I had some concerns about communication in the backend without Juan Thornhill to cover some of those weaknesses, but without the first drive, the communication still looked to be really good. This was a really good call by Spagnuolo, especially in the red zone. On the boundary side, Spagnuolo brackets Will Fuller, making his speed a non-factor. On the field side, Kendall Fuller plays the high hole as a free safety.

Anthony Hitchens collides with the #2 receiver to the field side, and Kendall Fuller decides to take him. The communication was good after, and Tanoh Kpassagnon gets the pressure to force the incompletion.

Clearly, Spagnuolo made sure that everyone was still good on the backend, and the communication was still really good. Especially with more reps with each other as we progress into the Super Bowl, we should be good for the rest of the year. I love Thornhill, but we seem to be fine without him.

Last time we played Houston, we gave up 192 yards rushing, which pretty much lost us the game. We played 90 snaps and were getting pushed around by a really poor offensive line. This time around we only gave up 92 yard rushing. A lot of it was due to much better gap discipline.

Derrick Nnadi played much better on Sunday, doing a nice job anchoring the A-gap, taking away the HB Lead and the seam for Hyde. Hyde then has to try and cut to the B-gap, but Kpassagnon spilled inside to take it away, closing the hole. By the time he tried to cut again, Clark was there to get an easy stop.

The run defense will be vital this week for a win. If we maintain our gap discipline again, we should be in solid shape for Tennessee.

Tyrann Mathieu is great. We all know that. What makes him even greater is his versatile skillset. We also all know that. If I had to pinpoint one thing Mathieu does the best, it’s quite possibly playing in the middle hole of the defense, in that “robber” role, patrolling the middle of the field.

On this rep, the Chiefs are playing a sort of Cover 2, and Mathieu is allowed to play the robber role. After passing the #3 receiver to the deep safety, Mathieu makes an excellent play on the ball, forcing the third down incompletion. I like to say that the closer Mathieu is to the line of scrimmage, the better he gets. So the closer he gets to the quarterback’s eyes, the better he gets.

Rashad Fenton has put together two really good weeks since coming back from injury, but this week, he was asked to play in the slot again. Whether it was blitzing, or dropping into the curl zones of the defense, he did a really nice job in coverage.

Here, he’s responsible for the curl/flat zones of the defense, and after passing the #2 receiver to Mathieu in the high hole, he made a really good play in the flat, violently tackling the running back.

Fenton was big in our dime packages this week, and while we may not play a ton of dime against Tennessee, we’ll need him in the Super Bowl, regardless of the opponent.

The Bad

Only one bad play today, which was the obvious one on the beginning of the game. Charvarius Ward will want to have that rep back. This was a Cover 0 blitz, playing man coverage everywhere else. He had his eyes on the backfield and the fake screen, and lost his eyes on his assignment. This spotted the Texans 7 easy points, giving them momentum and confidence.

We can’t spot Tennessee easy points again this week, so everyone needs to be assignment sharp this week.

Game-Ball

Our weekly game-ball goes to Frank Clark, who possibly had his best game on Sunday. Clark had 10 QB pressures, and 3 sacks during the game. Clark was unblockable, and considering he was really the only defensive lineman rushing due to the Chiefs plan of containing Watson, the fact that he was so dominant speaks to his effort and preparation.

Whether it was with a speed rush, bull rush, or just relentless effort, Clark never quit. I understand why some people miss Justin Houston or Dee Ford. They were fantastic last year. Here’s the deal though; they never would put out this effort. If they had to deal what with Clark has had to deal with this year, they wouldn’t have played. This is why we paid Clark. We needed that mentality. Clark’s had 10 sacks over 9 games. That’s nearly 18 sacks over an 16 game season. To me, that’s worth every penny.

Conclusion

Our defense wasn’t perfect. We didn’t need to be though. Watson, Hopkins, and all those weapons create serious matchup issues. I didn’t expect a shutout but for what we needed to do we got some great stops. As I said earlier, we gave up 7 points after the 10 minute mark in the second quarter. To me, you couldn’t ask for any better against Watson.

We have a different, yet still challenging, matchup this week against Tennessee. This will be more of run defense oriented matchup, but we can’t afford to fall behind early. Luckily, this team is different. Like Tyrann Mathieu always says, we need “championship swagger.” Over the last 7 games, we’ve had that swagger. We need it to finish the job. We will. Whatever it takes.

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Love Kpass flashing across the lineman’s face to cover the weakside B gap. It’s going to be huge against the Titans. Henry loves to cut back on the outside zone.

zulu trader
zulu trader

Is K Saunders a better run stopper than C Jones?

zulu trader
zulu trader

Nate, what defensive position would you draft upcoming?

zulu trader
zulu trader

How important is Chris Jones this week?

WaywerdSon
WaywerdSon

Henry will get yards. No way to shut him down completely. And at the end of the game yards won’t make any difference. Tennessee has to score on every possession because I don’t see anything stopping this Chiefs offense we witnessed Sunday. Keep Henryvoutcof the end zone. If we get any lead the Titans better hope pass pro can keep Clark off Tanyhill and give him time cuz I don’t see a receiving threat that’s will beat our secondary right off the snap as long as our guys use good eye discipline and don’t get off their assignment

RDD India
RDD India

Heck of a post Nate. Nice work! 👍 I like Fenton the most in this game. I’m not saying others didn’t. For a 6th round rookie; his play was awesome to watch. He was fired and in the game right from start. Only good that he dropped that INT.

RDD India
RDD India

How do you stop monster Henry?

Berserker

How do you think Saunders is coming along? Rather see him or Pennel on any given down?

What a great surprise Fenton has been. At least for me. I honestly didn’t expect him to even see the field on defense this season, much less be actually good at it.

Thoughts on Hitchens’ reduction in snaps Sunday? Can we really say it was only because Houston was trying to play catch-up in the 4th quarter?

RDD India
RDD India

Sarcasm: Hitchens job is spying- on himself and other two LBs. So they can lineup right and shoot wrong gaps or overplay or don’t tackle.

Berserker

Well apparently the rest of the defense has learned how to line themselves up right more than half the time now, because Hitchens only played 44% of the defensive snaps against Houston.

KCChef
KCChef

” Whatever it takes. ” … Amen … : )

Tyrone

The Patriot way?

01lowbird

Great work Nate

Warpath
Warpath

I concur.