Chiefs Defensive Meltdown: Who Is Really To Blame?

Pretty much the entire Kansas City Chiefs defensive unit gets an F for the way they played against the Atlanta Falcons but often what we think we see on TV is deceptive.

Luckily, our friends at Pro Football Focus give us a much better idea of what really happened. PFF grades every player on every play of every game all season long. A play where a player does nothing good or bad one way or the other, gets a 0.0 grade. Most plays are o.o grade. If they do something good, they might get a +1.0 or a bad play could mean a -1.0. PFF goes way beyond the stat sheet with their evaluations.

PFF is turning out their grades faster than ever. Let’s go inside the numbers with Pro Football Focus and find out who is to blame on the defense.

First, let’s look at the coverage. We know it was atrocious but who gave up what?

After looking at the stats, it appears the loss of Flowers and some unfortunate mismatches are what did the Chiefs in.

Derrick Johnson (-3.0):

DJ got burned over and over again in coverage. He was targeted six times, allowing five catches for 80 yards and one TD. Matt Ryan completed two passes each to Julio Jones and  Tony Gonzalez while DJ was covering them and one to Roddy White.

It was Gonzo that burned DJ for the TD.

DJ on a TE is one thing but you never want a linebacker covering Julio Jones or Roddy White. Credit the Falcons. They found this matchup and they exploited it.

Jacques Reeves (-2.8):

Brandon Flowers being out was the knife in the heart of the KC defense. Jacq Reeves was seriously outmatched here. He was targeted six times, allowing five receptions for 67 yards and a TD. Roddy White, in particular, victimized Reeves for three catches for 48 yards. Jones burned him for a TD.

Stanford Routt (+0.7):

Routt did a pretty nice job, considering he is truly a #2 guy, thrust into a starting role. He was targeted four times, allowing three receptions for 44 yards. One of those catches, however, went for 33 yards to Julio Jones. Otherwise, Routt did a pretty good job of forcing Matt Ryan to look elsewhere.

Eric Berry (+0.5):

Berry was targeted four times. He allowed two receptions for 11 yards. One was a pass to Gonzo and another to some guy named Michael Palmer. Ryan targeted Berry once when he was on Jones and the pass was incomplete.

Justin Houston (-0.3):

Houston was targeted three times, allowing two receptions for 13 yards.

Abram Elam (-1.0)

Elam was targeted twice and both passes were completed for 33 yards One was a 25 yard pass to Gonzo.

Javier Arenas (-1.1):

The man the Chiefs got in the Tony Gonzalez trade was targeted twice. He allowed both balls to be caught for 33 yards. One went to White, the other to Douglas.

Travis Daniels (-0.6):

Daniels got beat once by Gonzo for three yards.

Andy Studebaker (-0.5):

Andy got targeted once for 15 yards. It was a pass to Roddy White

All in all, the KC secondary was targeted 29 times. They gave up 23 receptions for 299 yards. 10 receptions for 147 yards and two TDs were on Jacq Reeves and Derrick Johnson.

The entire defense played poorly but we can see from this how desperately the Chiefs missed Flowers and Hali. With no credible pass rush, Atlanta was able to exploit their matchup advantages. You never want Derrick Johnson covering Julio Jones but if he has to, you don’t want him covering him for long.

With Jalil Brown hurt, Flowers out and Reeves the only other option on the outside, there was a chain reaction throughout the KC defense.

As for game-planning, Crennel did he best to create a pass rush. The Chiefs pressured Ryan on seven occasions with seven different players. Crennel sent Houston, DJ, Studebaker, Elam, Berry, Sheffield and Arenas after the QB. He may have sent more but those are the guys that recorded at least one pressure.

After looking at all this, I am not sure there was much Crennel could have done. Ryan was laser sharp and Jones, White and Gonzalez are all exceedingly dangerous. Crennel may have tried to give some help to Reeves and DJ but who did he have available? The safeties were playing back, protecting against the deep ball. The Chiefs were just outmatched here and I don’t think any amount of game planning would have helped them.

To those asking if having Hali and Flowers would have made a big difference Sunday, I say, yes, they would have. Add to that Kendrick Lewis. The Chiefs lost a consistent pass rush when they lost Hali. Having Flowers would have enabled Crennel to have his top two corners shadow Jones and White. The rest of the sub-par DBs, Arenas, Reeves and Brown if he wasn’t hurt, would have been able to provide support. Instead, Reeves got thrust into a role he had no business playing.

When the gang gets back, the KC defense will be much, much better. Eric Berry will soon shake off the rust, Hali will get back to forcing early throws and holding penalties and Flowers will cause headaches for opposing QBs.

Hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later.

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Tags: Kansas City Chiefs

  • Calchiefsfan

    Exactly Paddy.

    It was clear DJ’s ankle was bothering him. It slowed him down in coverage and there were several plays where he needed to make sharp cuts and just couldn’t do it.

    There will be big difference when these guys are healthy. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

    • sidibeke

      I think it’s a groin (hope so, heals faster), and yes, he was playing banged up and it showed.

  • DoubleD

    Instead of putting a fast Berry on a slow Gonzalez (who’s going to catch the ball anyway no matter who is covering him), Crennel should have been blitzing Berry to pressure Ryan more. I say put Belcher in basic run d and have him cover Gonzalez when Gonz is present. If Gonz needs to be covered by Belcher, then bring up Elam in run support and/or to deny crossing patterns. I wasn’t impressed at all with how Crennel schemed this game. He should have emphasized pressuring Ryan with our speed rushers coming from all parts of the defense. He should have put Routt man-to-man on Jones all day long, use something along the lines of a cover 3 or Tampa 2 to double up on White, and keep an eye on Douglas.
    I just don’t feel that this one, on the defensive side of the ball at least, was thought all the way through. We had injuries and other limitations hampering this defense, and yet little, if anything, was done to overcome or compensate for any of that.

    • sidibeke

      Do you think RAC would have done differently last year as DC? More to the point, is Romeo’s not scheming a function of him or of him trying to be HC and DC at the same time? Not a loaded question; sincerely interested in your opinion.

      • DoubleD

        Well to be quite honest, the thought has certainly crossed my mind. I don’t have an answer and I’m not sure there is really anyway to know for certain. In any event, I think it’s a little early to make any kind of educated assessment on that. Guess we’ll just have to see how this season plays out and come up with some kind judgment at the end of the season (hopefully right after we win the Superbowl ha ha!)

      • DoubleD

        Well to be quite honest, the thought has certainly crossed my mind. I don’t have an answer and I’m not sure there is really anyway to know for certain. In any event, I think it’s a little early to make any kind of educated assessment on that. Guess we’ll just have to see how this season plays out and come up with some kind judgment at the end of the season (hopefully right after we win the Superbowl ha ha!)

  • DoubleD

    Also, why not have Houston take Hali’s position when you know the latter won’t be playing? The match-up with Houston playing ROLB was highly favorably for KC. I just don’t get it!?

    • Tarkus

      Then you’re disrupting two positions instead of one. You’re having Houston play a side he’s not used to, while weakening his old position.

      • DoubleD

        The idea is to weaken the Falcons offense. The best and only way to do that is to limit Ryan by constantly pressuring him. To accomplish that, you attack the Falcons weakest positions on the OL with your best and fastest rushers while simultaneously pressing the receivers. I didn’t see anything in our defensive schemes that even slightly resembled what I’m talking about.

        • Tarkus

          Not sure it would have mattered. The WRs were getting open so fast, Ryan was usually getting rid of the ball quick anyway. If Flowers was healthy, it would have probably made a lot more of a difference. With both Hali and Flowers out, I really don’t think scheming was the problem.

          • DoubleD

            I could not disagree more. What I saw was us getting hurt the worst when Ryan and the offense had time to set up elaborate passing plays. Press coverage on Jones and White, send in your speed rushers, and basically let Gonz and Douglas have the garbage underneath.

  • Tarkus

    Routt was thrust into a starting role? Huh? Routt was brought into to be the starter on the offense’s left side, and that’s exactly where he was.

    • DoubleD

      I think what he meant was that Routt is the #2 CB behind Flowers. That Flowers would generally cover the #1WR, and Routt the #2. Still, I thought Routt had a good game and I would have put him on Jones exclusively. Jones, may or may not be as good a receiver as White, but Jones is definitely the bigger threat to score whenever he is targetted.

      • Tarkus

        The Chiefs don’t play their corners that way. They don’t move their corners around for matchups. Flowers covers the right side and Carr/Routt covers the left side. That didn’t change yesterday. Reeves, not Routt, played Flowers’ side.

        • DoubleD

          Sometimes circumstances dictate that you don’t do things the way you normally would. True in football, true in life.

          • Tarkus

            That’s another philosophy. But my point remains, Routt wasn’t thrust into anything because of injury. He played exactly what and where he was signed to play.

  • ArrowFan

    Good point why was DJ covering WR’s? Was it me or did Atlanta seem completely un-phased by the atmosphere at ArrowHead?

    • Stacy D. Smith

      Early in the game they were rattled by the crowd noise. The 12th man forced them into one false start penalty.

  • Danny W

    The defense is going to get better no doubt but when are we getting Flowers back? I have had a bruised foot and didn’t limp for five or six weeks.

    • sidibeke

      I was wondering the same thing when I heard he was in a walking boot. Romeo says he’ll practice this week, though. So while he likely had something more than a bruised foot, it seems there is a chance he plays this next Sun (of course, I thought there was a chance of that this past sunday).

  • Chiefswatch

    Messed up on one thing: Hali will not get holding penalties as long as Goodell keeps these shit replacment refs out there. You see the scores across the league? Nobody got pressure because these Oline are told to hold because no way these idiot refs are going to call it.

    • sidibeke

      Yes, this could be a problem. There were VERY few penalties called week 1 as far as I can tell. And saw a headline that the scrubs are slated through week 5. Not impressed with the league’s handling of this one.

  • Kyle

    only as good as your weakest player, i dont care how many player we had out, all i care about is if we won or lost. the last 2 super teams have had alot of injuries on their team, we have 26 million under the cap, we need to have better depth

  • Mark Williamson

    There’s still no quality depth at DB