David Bowie sang of pressure in his 1981 release “Under Pressure.” He might as well have been singing about our 2012 Kansas City Chiefs. There’s just no other word that can describe what will become of these Chiefs: pressure. Not only the pressure they might feel, but also, the pressure they will be placing on other teams.
Reviewing the four preseason games is not a good idea in determining who these Chiefs will be. Even then, you have to wonder if the Chiefs will be more like their first two possessions against Arizona or the rest of the preseason? When the Chiefs scored on their first two possessions and kept the Arizona Cardinals team from crossing their own forty yard line, they placed a great deal of pressure on their opponent.
So, let’s get a clearer picture of “pressure.” Pressure is the exertion of force on an object.
We have long been aware of Romeo Crennel’s defensive mind. He’s brilliant really; just think back to Dec. 18, 2011 when the Chiefs hosted the mighty and undefeated Green Bay Packers. If you never had the opportunity to read my post “Honey, I Shrunk The Packers” you should check it out.
The point about Crennel is that he has championship rings and he got those rings by knowing how to push all the right buttons on his defense system control panel. Remember this is his third season as a Chiefs coach and he’s been working with the personnel long enough to know during this offseason exactly what he needed to succeed and I believe he has the players he needs to succeed.
By reviewing the preseason game one tape, I could see that Dontari Poe has plenty of work to do before he can become a dominant nose. The rest of the preseason supports my findings. However, I saw him doing many of the things he’s been coached by Romeo Crennel to do. When Poe ties up more than one blocker (which he did repeatedly in preseason games) the rest of the mathematical equation for all other Chiefs defenders improves. IOW… it becomes Chiefs 10 on the Oppositions 9. Since the QB is usually holding the ball then the odds get even better: Chiefs 10 > Oppositions 8.
Now if you’re saying “so what” then you’ve missed out on the point of this post because when this happens, the Chiefs are placing so much extra stress and strain on the other team that it nearly becomes impossible for them to deal with it.
What that means statistically is that the defense can place two coverage people on two playmakers on offense. What happened against Seattle was that the young legs of the QB took over. That may have looked bad, but ask yourself why Russell was having to run: because the Chiefs defense had everyone covered. That’s not something I see Matt Ryan being able to do to break the Chiefs D down. So, even without Tamba Hali, the Chiefs should be able to apply plenty of pressure on the Falcons offense. The problem (or pressure) comes in the form of three, not two, playmakers for the Falcons, those being Tony Gonzales, Julio Jones and Roddy White. The Chiefs won’t be able to double all three all the time so we’ll have to keep an eye on Matty Ice to see if he can consistently detect who’s not getting doubled.
All of this can happen because of the extra pressure Dontari Poe brings by demanding a double-team himself.
Now–Dontari Poe isn’t doing this all by himself of course but, when you consider all of the playmakers that the Chiefs have on defense, the pressure mounts to an even greater degree. What it does is “force” other teams into mistakes, mismatches and into decisions they don’t want to make.
An example of these kinds of mistakes is the interception by Abram Elam. Cards QB John Skelton was getting “squeezed” from both sides–especially Tamba Hali who barely missed him from the backside, when Hali swiped at him–and with Dontari Poe holding his ground up the middle and requiring a second blocker to come and hit him before peeling off to assist on others, when Skelton stepped up in the pocket to deliver the ball, he angled away from Poe (who had already blocked a pass earlier in the game). If Skelton doesn’t release the ball when he does, Poe is stepping up to go in pursuit. That kind of stress on a QB makes it much easier for DBs to read where they’re going with the ball and Abram Elam should thank every single man on the front seven for his pick.
To typify what happened on that play can be summed up in a word: pressure.
The same thing happened later in the preseason on a play in which Stanford Routt intercepted a ball, but a Chiefs penalty disallowed the INT.
While the Chiefs have steadily improved their defense this offseason they have dramatically improved their offense. Consequently, the “stress” they can place on an opposing defenses is much greater than it was last season.
On offense the Chiefs will be able to apply much more pressure too.
When you see quarterbacks dropping their head between plays or shaking their heads as they walk off the field, you know they’re in a heap of hurt or have at least just lost their cool. Chiefs nation has seen plenty of that in recent years, but you couldn’t find one moment when that happened to Matt Cassel this preseason.
The Chiefs now have so many playmakers and dependable performers that the greatest pressure they feel is only to execute the play calling.
20 months ago when the Chiefs hosted the Ravens in a playoff game at Arrowhead, one of the unforgettable memories I came away with is Dexter McCluster getting planted in the turf by the Ravens Safety Ed Reed. The Ravens had so many playmakers on defense that when they took away the one major Chiefs threat, Dwayne Bowe, the only other option Matt Cassel had to go to was Dexter McCluster. With Bowe doubled, McCluster plastered, and the rest of the Ravens D keying on Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs had no one else to pressure their defense.
But: these are not your 2010 Chiefs.
Peyton Hillis is not only truck-built ram-tough, but also has the quickness and speed to get out on the freeways of NFL defensive backfields. Shaun Draughn has proven he can run inside and out and looks to be more effective than Thomas Jones was at the beginning of 2010. Jamaal Charles is Jamaal Charles, and that’s good news for fans wondering if he’d return to his old illusive ways. I’m particularly excited to see how newcomer Nate Eachus will look running with the bulls we have on the offensive line–first teamers. Eachus is Pioli’s sweaty dream come true and is ready to do his real life Rudy duty.
On the outside, Dexter McCluster was the Chiefs’ best preseason performer and will be a huge threat in the slot this season. Also, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen him drop a ball or take a hit like he did against the Ravens. Dwayne Bowe is expected to be better than ever as he continues to play in a contract year. Jon Baldwin is as intent as I’ve ever seen a player be about making his presence known in the big boy’s league. Steve Breaston continues to be the sure-handed receiver he’s always been and presents a problem for defenses with his ability to get open. I would rank this group of receivers as the best group of wideouts the Chiefs organization has ever had.
That is going to present problems for opposing defenses. In other words: pressure, with a side of hot sauce.
Aside from the addition of Brian Daboll as offensive coordinator, the most impressive positive change on the Chiefs offense this offseason is: the play of Matt Cassel.
Last year, I wrote a piece called “Matt Cassel: Time To Go.” That was based upon four years of QB ratings which reflected a great inconsistency as well as a lack of other essential QB traits necessary for success in the NFL. However, I haven’t seen any of that inconsistency or inability this preseason. You might be able to throw away the preseason record, but a lot can be said about the play of specific players and Matt Cassel is bringing his best right now and I have to agree that he could vie for league MVP as has been suggested recently by a Bleacher Report writer.
It looks like Matt has improved his ability to go through his reads. He checks down at the line of scrimmage too and without “A-Todd-The-Hunn-Haley” in town, Cassel looks comfortable everywhere, on the field and off. Another trait I’m thrilled about for Cassel is escape ability. He looks comfortable throwing on the run and does it with a high percentage of success. However, his ability to escape in the pocket has to have Chiefs fans everywhere excited about this season.
While you can give credit to Romeo Crennel, Brian Daboll and the unique cadre of coaches the Chiefs have employed, as well as credit to GM Scott Pioli and Clark Hunt for tapping the talent pools, no one should get more credit than the players themselves. General managers can acquire and coaches can fire up the acquired, but unless the players respond positively to that influence by placing pressure on themselves, then the kind of success we’re about to witness in Kansas City, with the Chiefs, wouldn’t be possible.
Pressure? C’mon Chiefs–let’s get it on!