By Matt Derrick
Chiefs Defense Peaking at Season’s End
CHICAGO – If Kansas City fans had just one wish for the 2019 season, it would probably have been for a top-10 defense to go along with their fast-break offense to put a Super Bowl within their reach.
Don’t look now, but that’s just what the Chiefs seem to have found. Behind another stifling defensive performance, the Chiefs cruised past the Chicago Bears 26-3 on Sunday night. This is exactly what head coach Andy Reid envisioned when he brought in his old friend Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator in the offseason.
“It’s hard to predict the future in this business, but Spags is a heck of a coach,” Reid said after Sunday night’s win. “You know his production from past jobs and I’ve had a long-term relationship here with the guys, so I’ve known him for quite a few years and understand the scheme that he has, and it’s a pretty solid scheme.”
The Chiefs moved in fits and starts early in the season. Spagnuolo thought he might know what kind of defense he had after the first month of the season. In Week 10 against Tennessee, the Chiefs defense melted in allowing 35 points in a loss to the Titans.
Since then, however, the Chiefs turned a corner. It’s defense driving the club’s current five-game winning streak in allowing just 9.6 points per game. In their last three contests, the Chiefs have allowed an average of only 7.3 points. Green Bay is second-best in that span allowing 13.7 points per game.
Reid said Spagnuolo never surrendered, however, convinced that more time would eventually help the defense gel.
“It’s just a matter of the players buying into it and them him being able to add to it every week,” Reid said. “That’s a compliment to both Spags, his coaches and the players for trusting in it. Things didn’t start off great, but he was able to keep adding a bit here and there because of the guys’ work ethic, ability to study and learn.”
Newcomer Terrell Suggs brings a fresh set of eyes to this defense, and he’s already sold by what he saw this week.
“This (defense) has tremendous personnel as you all see,” Suggs said. “Coach Spagnuolo, he’s calling a very great game.”
Mathieu sees this Chiefs defense finding its groove and peaking at the right time.
“I think we are able to wreck a game,” Mathieu said. “We control football games and that is what we have been trying to do, especially defensively. We have been trying to play aggressively, and put teams in bad situations. We have been doing a good job of that.”
The Chiefs still have some holes to plug on defense, but the’s no doubt the arrow is trending in the right direction. The team is 17th in yards allowed on the season, but have allowed just 254.3 yards in their past three games. Only Pittsburgh (252) and Baltimore (253.3) have yielded fewer yards.
“We are able to come out on game days and really play fast, play smooth and there is not to many mental errors,” Mathieu said. “But I do feel that we have to tackle a little bit better. Other than that, I feel like we played pretty well defensively.”
The Chiefs defense, however, possesses a grand plan that extends beyond next week’s season finale against the Los Angeles Chargers. On Sunday night the Chiefs placed emphasis on clamping down the Bears’ zone-read offense and putting pressure on quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in the pocket.
“You’ve got some good teams in this league, one of the best teams in our conference, that’s their main thing,” Clark said, going out of his way to avoid invoking the Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson.
“I don’t want to mention other players and other guys, but that’s one of the things one of the best teams in our conference does, and I’m sure we’re going to see them in the future,” he said.
A year ago the Chiefs defense couldn’t play this degree of chess. Simply trying to slow down that week’s opponent was often more than it could handle. Now, Spagnuolo has the Chiefs with one eye on the present and one on the future preparing for what lies ahead in January.
“We’ve got more special things happening in the building that we haven’t showed that I feel like we’re going to show sooner than later, then we can talk about that,” Clark said.
Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and a contributor for Sports Radio 810 WHB. Follow him on Twitter @mattderrick.