Everyone knows the Kansas City Chiefs are the only remaining undefeated team in the NFL. Yet, only two years ago, who would have guessed we’d hear those words this soon about the Chiefs? Only a few weeks ago, who would have thought the Chiefs would be in first place in the AFC West? But as Chiefs fans learned long ago, it’s not how well a team starts, but how well a team finishes, which matters the most, and that only counts if the team also plays well in the second and third quarters of the season. After three games, the Chiefs record and their stats only mean that they are off to a good start. One of the biggest surprises of this quick start has to be the play of their defense, especially their ability to stop the run.
Although the Chiefs 160 rushing yards per game is third in the NFL, what’s even more amazing is the fact that they are fifth in the league against the run – allowing only 75 yards per game. This was against two teams who are supposed to win their respective divisions, and/or are historically good running teams. With a yawner for an off-season as far as the front seven are concerned, who would have thought the Chiefs would be this stingy against the run?
One answer after the jump:
The most obvious explanation is the addition of Romeo Crennel. It’s beginning to look like if you’re playing defense for the Kansas City Chiefs, and you want to keep Crennel off your back, you’d better stop the run. Crennel’s dedication to stopping the run is a welcomed sight for eyes tired of watching opposing runners dart back and forth on the television screen like tennis balls at the US Open. After almost a decade, it’s good to finally see a clear commitment to stuffing the run. It’s thrilling to see Chiefs occasionally in their opponent’s backfield. After all that’s what good teams do, consistently. Apparently, Crennel knows this. He’s interested in getting to the quarterback too, but it makes it much easier to get there when the other team is having difficulty running the ball. It puts Chiefs opponents in second-and-long, or third-and-long situations. Those are much easier to defend. The fact that teams are converting a third down against the Chiefs only 27% of the time – fourth in the NFL – proves that it’s working.
Along with the leadership of Crennel, it looks like he’s coaching his young defensive players in the right way, too. Glenn Dorsey is flourishing in his third year, and Tyson Jackson looked better for the short time he played in the first game. Players are obviously learning quickly.
For example, “Inside the NFL” showed highlights of the Cleveland game with a mic’d up Josh Cribbs on the sidelines repeatedly telling his coaches, “22’s coming up”. He was referring to rookie safety Eric Berry, who was sneaking up to the line of scrimmage to support the run. The Cleveland coaches were listening and called a play-action-pass to Cribbs on the next series which went for a 65-yard touchdown. We knew Berry would need to learn some things in the NFL, but it’s exciting to see Berry learning while the Chiefs are still winning. We didn’t see the same mistake again that game, and we probably won’t see it down the road. Getting better while winning – what a concept?
Crennel’s coaching is pushing veterans to make strides, as well. Ron Edwards is playing better than ever. Tambi Hali is quickly becoming a force off the edge and Derrick Johnson is all over the field. It seems Crennel has the confidence in his secondary to take some chances in order to provide more support up front. Not to discredit the hard work and play of these veterans, but apparently one coach and one year can make quite a difference. Weren’t many of us excited about the offense this year?
After three wins, we shouldn’t get too carried away. I like how Todd Haley described the team after their third win,
“… we’re a team which hasn’t won many games…and that’s really all we are right now…trying like heck to make that transition from a not so good team into a good team sooner rather than later, and we are by no means there.”
I like that statement, not because Haley is “keeping it real”, but because it indicates that getting off to a good start isn’t the ultimate goal. It sounds like he wants the team to achieve more than what they’ve accomplished so far. That’s good news for Chiefs fans who want more this year, too.
Who would have thought we’d be talking about the possibility of the Chiefs going into Indianapolis and coming out with a win this year? The Chiefs may not remain undefeated after their game against the Colts – although Joe Thiesmann says they will – but their good start is proof that they are quickly becoming a seriously competitive team.
It’s been a while since we had one of those in Kansas City.