Chiefs-Bills Defensive Preview

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Remember when making the AFC Championship Game was a rare thing for this franchise? Remember that winning a playoff game took 22 years of heartbreaking losses to get back into a position of contention? Well, our realities have changed now. We have Andy Reid, a top-5 coach of all-time, and Patrick Mahomes, the league’s greatest QB. With both of them at the helm, the Chiefs should have a run where they are near the AFC Championship every single season. We’ve been there two years prior to this, and we’re back to face the very formidable Bills.

The Bills defense is worth mentioning as a good unit, but in reality, this game will come down to who gets more stops. And considering I’m from the vantage point of the Chiefs, here’s five things I’m looking for this Sunday that can help us succeed in this game, and get us back to the Super Bowl for the first time in…one year?!

Keeping Josh Allen in the Pocket

So when I was watching the Bills game late Saturday night (it was after midnight), one thing I took particular note of was how they were using their defensive ends in their rush plan. Yannick Ngakoue and Matt Judon, particularly the former, are very talented pass rushers who can win up the arc, but the problem is keeping Allen in the pocket. If you’re trying to win around a 10 yard corner, Allen is going to escape right and fire a bullet at the boundary. We’re very familiar as Chiefs fans what happens when you try and rush super high up the arc vs Mahomes. If you are able to, go watch the two-minute drill in the first half vs the Colts, to see just what happens when your DEs don’t contain rush Allen. If you can’t, here’s two clips to watch.

So, instead of having their DEs tee off vs Allen, Baltimore asked their DEs to take these contain rushes vs Allen and keep him in the pocket, which they were pretty successful with. They didn’t blitz much (only around 20%, they generally are around 40-50%), and kept him in the pocket…and it somewhat worked! Allen was uncomfortable trying to throw the deep ball, and wasn’t particularly accurate compared to his Wild Card output.

How does this relate to the Chiefs? Well, in week 6, they asked Frank Clark and Alex Okafor to contain rush a lot. I remember people being mad at Frank for this game, but he was playing exactly how the Chiefs asked him to play. He was playing his contain lanes super well, and I don’t remember Allen drifting left once, where he’s also good. Okafor also did a pretty good job (not as well) at keeping Allen in the pocket, and he didn’t get a ton of room to move around. Combine that with Chris Jones having a ridiculous 25.8% pressure rate, and the Chiefs took away a lot of what Allen wanted to do as a mover. I would expect a similar gameplan from Brendan Daly this week.

Beating man-beaters

So in week 6, Spagnuolo mainly turned to 2-deep zones or 2-man to beat the Bills. He needed to keep a lid on John Brown and Stefon Diggs deep, but with all the man, Brian Daboll turned a lot to crossing routes and deep overs to beat the man coverage, and those are pretty easy man-beaters that put defenses in a bind. So, how does Spagnuolo adjust? He had two main strategies;

  1. Putting Tyrann Mathieu and Juan Thornhill in the robber role; it keeps the middle of the field closed due to teams not wanting to attack Mathieu and his IQ/ball skills (see Mayfield interception Sunday).
  2. Having his two-deep safeties come screaming downhill to “cut” all crossers and keep Allen from throwing to his first read

While I would expect Spagnuolo to make adjustments to his style to throw off some rhythm, I would expect a similar gameplan on how to attack Allen. Allen’s a really good QB who’s improved, but I’m not sold on his ability to read the field and get through reads quickly, let alone in enough time before Chris Jones comes screaming down his neck. So, taking away advantageous parts of the field, mainly the middle, and making him throw beyond the perimeter is absolutely the way I want to attack Allen. This is how Spagnuolo has attacked most teams since coming into KC, and I wouldn’t expect a change Sunday.

Stefon Diggs

Stefon Diggs is so good at football. These past 7 weeks, he’s been the best receiver in the NFL. I mentioned these stats the other day, but here’s what he’s done; 61 catches, 76 targets, 824 yards, and 6 touchdowns. The Bills are finding ways to move him around inside and outside, and finding ways to continue getting the football. I charted his last 7 games and watched his routes on all his targets (listed below), and let me just say this; he’s always open.

The Chiefs have had “success” defending Diggs in the past, holding him to 6 catches for 48 yards in week 6, with one being a Hail Mary catch for 15 yards with no coverage on him. That’s not to say he isn’t always open, Allen just sometimes has trouble getting the ball to him. The Chiefs are going to have trouble stopping him on the outside, so my goal is to keep the middle of the field closed, keeping a safety over the top to help our CBs, and hope they don’t call penalties on our corners. It’s the playoffs, I would hope they’re not calling this game super tough in terms of penalties, so our corners might be allowed to be more grabby. If we can’t do that…well, let’s just hope.

10 personnel and dime options

I mentioned this earlier this week, but the Bills love their receivers. Brian Daboll has crafted an offense around Josh Allen with a lot of speed, and instead of using tight ends and running backs to attack underneath zones, he uses four receivers he can move around to attack coverages. Coverages obviously shift for formation, but they do by personnel? It’s easy to say, “Why can’t we just double X”, but the way offenses move around receivers now, it’s hard to key in on one guy without an OC having ways to move them around. Daboll is one of the best in the league at moving his receivers around.

With their four receivers and basing out of 10 or 11 personnel 89% of the time, that means the Chiefs will be in their dime defense a lot this week. That means a lot of Ben Niemann, but that’s okay, to be honest with you. I think we’ll see more Anthony Hitchens if they decide to use some tempo in the dime, but I feel pretty okay about the personnel that’ll be out there this week. We didn’t have L’Jarius Sneed in week 6, and we have him back this week in the slot to deal with Beasley and Diggs inside. Spagnuolo is going to also use Tyrann Mathieu a lot in the middle of the field (read above!). I trust the Chiefs to formulate a plan and make great adjustments when needed, something Spagnuolo is so good at.

Chris Jones

There were a lot of reasons the Chiefs defense effected Allen in the week 6, but the primary reason was Chris Jones. Jones had a ridiculous 25.8% pressure rate, which is just absurd. Back in point one, I mentioned how the Chiefs were asking their defensive ends to contain rush, but that doesn’t work unless you have the guy to beat one-on-one blocks. Well, Jones absolutely does that at a ridiculous rate, and he did in week 6. Here’s a cutup of some of the ways he beat blockers.

Jones was winning with his speed and explosion, and Spagnuolo was giving him maximum space and one-on-one matchups as much as possible. The Bills IOL consists of Ike Boettger, Mitch Morse, and Jon Feliciano. Not bad players, but those guys vs Jones one-on-one? It’s a wrap. I would expect the Chiefs to try and isolate Jones as much as they can, and create advantageous situations to hurt the protections the Bills try to throw at the Chiefs. Brendan Daly and Spags are so good in how they attack teams in protections, and I would bet they do that again this week.


(Note; this is assuming Mahomes plays).

So, I honestly think this is a good matchup for the Chiefs. You’ll hear all week how the Bills are different and some terrible matchup, but I think this is a pretty solid matchup for the Chiefs. The Bills are built similarly to the Chiefs, but are just worse nearly everywhere. Worse coach, QB, weapons, DL. The Bills are better at LB, S, CB, but it’s not some massive difference. I just think the Chiefs are better.

That’s not to say the Bills can’t win. Gameplans matter, and maybe McDermott/Daboll have some awesome gameplan this time around. The Chiefs are kind of limping into this game at key spots, and the Bills really aren’t. So to say the Bills can’t win this game is ridiculous, but if Mahomes is healthy, give me the Chiefs.

On offense, I don’t know what the Bills do. The Bills didn’t blitz once vs Mahomes in week 6, I’m guessing that changes. Matt Milano was out in week 6, which gives the Bills way more coverage flexibility. I would expect more blitzes from a variety of angles, especially because the Bills’s four-man rush isn’t exactly good. Jerry Hughes is good, but not game-breaking. Ed Olivier is inconsistent. Mario Addison is just okay. I’m not terrified upfront at all if Mahomes has some ability to scramble. In the secondary, the Bills have speed, but do I trust them to cover all the space the Chiefs occupy? Frankly, no.

Defensively, it’s not a great matchup for the Chiefs, but I’m not as worried as most people are. Steve Spagnuolo is going to take away your strengths and make you hold the ball, which feeds right into what he wants. Give Chris Jones 3 seconds to reach the QB? Piece of cake. Give Tyrann Mathieu a QB who likes to lock down on a read? Oh boy…Spagnuolo has shown an ability to make quick adjustments to scheme and to deal with all types of QBs. Why should I expect something different now?

My last point this week; the Chiefs are battle-tested. This group has largely been around for 3 rodeos now. The Bills are young and inexperienced compared to us. This is Andy Reid’s 8th Championship Game. This group may be limping, but they’re going to be poised. They’re going to be ready to go, and not have the same pressure on them as last year. Even last Sunday, the team was on the verge of a blowout before Pat got hurt. This week won’t be the same, but in high leverage situations, when it gets tight, give me the team who’s been there twice and knows what it takes. Give me Chiefs 34, Bills 23.

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01/20/2021 1:53 pm

Press Conference Today:
Andy reid, mecole hardman, chad henne, tyrann mathieu, chris jones

Sounds like clyde edwards-helaire & Sammy Watkins are practicing this week. Same round the clock updates on patrick mahomes – that we all are hearing/reading.

No updates on:
taco charlton
willie gay jr
mitchell schwartz 

Reply to  gonzangkc11
01/20/2021 2:11 pm

Hopefully not, but after this much time Schwartz is probably gone for the year.

Reply to  probablyamistake
01/20/2021 2:32 pm

others that spoke today were: tyreek hill, eric fisher

Severely Concussed
Severely Concussed
01/20/2021 1:50 pm

D line needs to rush like it is Lamar out there, but the back 7 needs to play like Baker is the qb again.

Protect the middle of the field. Limit YAC. He has the arm strength to beat you over the top, but it is not a consistent part of his game from in the pocket.

01/20/2021 12:17 pm

I heard an offhand comment from Bills fans about Josh Allen having a bum arm in the week 6 game. I wonder if that had something to do with it. He’s definitely taken off in December. This will be a good game.

Team Player
Team Player
Reply to  HawaiiFiveOh
01/20/2021 12:30 pm

I wanted to make a ‘bum’ joke but the truth is Josh Allen deserves better. He’s another in a long line of overhyped people attached to cannons (Drew Lock anyone?) but he is exceptional in that he actually has learned to play quarterback after college

Reply to  Nate Christensen
01/20/2021 12:44 pm

He’s good enough to get his team to the AFC Championship when he plays well. The Bills are built around Josh Allen. They don’t seem to have any other way to win than Josh Allen playing well but he doesn’t have to be a superhuman like Deshaun or Russ. The Bills have just provided him with weapons.
The Bills are as bad as the Ravens in that they rely too much on one aspect of the offense. The Bills have almost no rushing attack this year. Stop Josh Allen and you can stop the Bills. Stop Lamar’s rushing and you can stop the Ravens. The Chiefs are not like that. Mahomes is a massive threat for the knockout punch through the long bomb aerial attack, but he’s also a threat for crossers, screens, scrambles, and play action. Williams balled last game because the Browns were worried about Mahomes. CEH chewed up Houston and the Bills because they were so worried about Mahomes.

Last edited 1 month ago by HawaiiFiveOh
Reply to  Nate Christensen
01/20/2021 12:58 pm

Oh I didn’t say stopping the pass. I said stopping Allen. Keep him in the pocket. Put a spy on him so he can’t scramble.

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