A Look Back At Week 17 And What We Know Heading Into The Postseason

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The Chiefs finished their season at an astounding 14-2. Even with the ups and downs throughout the season the Chiefs proved week-in and week-out that they are the best team in the NFL, and it really shouldn’t be questioned. Now they’ll have to prove it three more times in order to keep the Lombardi Trophy in Kansas City.

We’re not going to put much stock into the defensive performance against the Chargers, because the Chiefs sat their regular starters and gave some young guys and guys who don’t get a ton of snaps their chance to show what they have and put something on tape for next season. To say that it did not go well for them would be a pretty accurate description, but again we’re not going to hold that against them given the situation.

One of the players that was given his chance to prove himself on the field was Deandre Baker. The former first-round pick out of Georgia played his first game in a Chiefs uniform after being claimed in mid-November. Baker is a first-round talent but off the field issues arose, forcing the Giants to release him. But hey, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, as the old saying goes.

One of the things that he was noted for in college was his abilities in man coverage. He has an outstanding ability to get his hands on receivers, staying square, and mirroring his man in coverage. He puts that on display here against Mike Williams. Even though Williams is lined up off the line of scrimmage, Baker does a good job of staying square to his man and attacking him, but without getting his head over his heels. After he gets his hands on Williams he’s able to ride him into the route, giving him no chance of making a catch, and Baker almost comes up with an interception on this play.

Baker will be around next season, and these are the kinds of things he will be asked to do. To be able to show it against a talented receiver like Williams is a promising sign for next season.

The Chiefs were able to carry over their increased efficiency in blitzing into week 17, even with reserves in the game. This time Baker is going to be the one blitzing on this play at the bottom of the screen. I talk about teams being at formational disadvantage or advantage depending on what side you’re looking at and on this play the Chiefs are at a formational advantage with the receiver in a tighter split to the tackle.

That allows Baker to disguise his blitz more easily, because he doesn’t need to creep in as the quarterback is going through his cadence. He comes off the edge and is met by the running back, but he’s able to avoid that block and get a sack. Baker was a solid blitzer in college, he just wasn’t asked to do it a ton because he was one of the best cover corners in the country. But, when he’s asked to blitz he’s pretty efficient at it which is a good quality to have especially from an outside corner.

His day was cut short by injury, but Baker showed a lot of good things against the Chargers on Sunday.

Here’s one of the few really good snaps the Chiefs pass defense had on Sunday. The Chargers are going to go with a double pass on this play, and on trick plays like this it’s important for the third level defenders to have excellent eye discipline. That means on this play Juan Thornhill and Armani Watts have to stay in their zones and make sure they’re not sucked in by the toss action and not allowing receivers to get behind them.

Everyone on this play has good eye discipline and doesn’t allow anyone to get free in the secondary forcing the throw away by Justin Herbert. There wasn’t a lot of good things that came about in the secondary on Sunday, but it was good experience for a lot of the guys. Baker got to show that he wasn’t just taking time off while dealing with his off the field issues, BoPete Keyes had a rough go of it, but again it’s a learning experience for guys like him. Willie Gay suffered an ankle injury early in the game, so we didn’t see much of him. Hopefully he will return to the lineup for the Divisional Round if not the Conference Championship game, because the Chiefs will need his athleticism.

The Chiefs’ performance on Sunday tanked their EPA/play numbers, as expected. Officially they finished the season 19th in overall defensive EPA/play and 15th in dropback EPA/play after climbing into the top 10 just two weeks ago.

Unofficially, counting the games the Chiefs played with their regular defensive lineup (weeks 1-16) they finished 17th in overall defensive EPA/play and 9th in dropback EPA/play. Given the ups and downs they’ve had this season, they finished strong to close the season, with their best performance coming against the Falcons in week 16.

Heading into the playoffs we know what kind of team the Chiefs are. They get up big on teams and force their opponents out of their game plan and wreak havoc from there. They played the last postseason without the services of Juan Thornhill and fared pretty well. He’s been relegated to a reduced role the second half of the season, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get a heavier workload this postseason, because he has more range than anyone on the back end. That will allow Tyrann Mathieu to play closer to the line of scrimmage, which will be beneficial should the Chiefs end up facing teams like the Ravens, Bills or Titans on their path to the Super Bowl.

We know the Chiefs are a fairly situationally sound team. They know the situation and they respond accordingly. Last postseason they were fourth among all playoff teams in second half overall defensive EPA/play and dropback EPA/play. The only teams ahead of them were the Patriots, Vikings and Titans. The Pats only played one game and the Vikings were bounced in the divisional round. During the regular season they struggled in the second half but a lot of that can be attributed to them playing with such large leads late in games. We’ll see if they can turn that around this postseason.

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01/11/2021 4:28 pm

I see people assuming DeAndre Baker will be around next season, but he’s not under contract, correct? I’m not saying he won’t be back, but it’s not a given. I would think he’ll be getting paid a fair bit more where ever he does end up.

01/11/2021 1:22 pm

what we KNOW is that the Chiefs are scheduled to play the Browns on Sunday

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