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.