December 21, 2011; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets linebackers coach Bob Sutton watches during practice. Mandatory Credit: Tim Farrell/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

Bob Sutton's Attacking Defense Will Spell Success For Chiefs


The Kansas City Chiefs defense sent four players to the 2012 Pro Bowl. The overall defense sat near the bottom of the league last season at 20th overall, giving up 356.5 yards per game and nearly 27 points. By most standards, that’s not very good. Giving up close to four touchdowns per game isn’t a way to win footballs games, especially when your offense isn’t producing enough to maintain that pace. And the Chiefs’ 2012 offense definitely didn’t produce four touchdowns per game. But that’s a whole other topic.

To be fair to the Chiefs’ defense, they played most of the season from behind. One only had to watch any Chiefs game from week one until they scored against the Carolina Panthers in week 13 to know that they didn’t have a lead the entire season. While that falls on the offense for not putting points on the board, the defense didn’t exactly hold their own, either. Still, four players of the eleven starters made the NFL All-Star game in Honolulu.

Many considered former Chiefs’ head coach and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to be somewhat of a defensive genius. I’ll admit, I fell into that category like most everyone else. However, the more I watched the Chiefs’ defense and compared it to other defenses, say like from the Pittsburgh Steelers or Chicago Bears, it was easy to see why the nay-sayers to the Crennel philosophy of “bend don’t break” was wearing thing with Chiefs’ fans. Even as horrible as the New York football Jets were last season at just about everything they did, their defense was ranked 8th overall in total yards allowed. That bodes well considering the man who devised that system, Bob Sutton, now calls Kansas City home.

But what’s the difference? Terms have been thrown around this offseason like “Attacking 3-4” and “Block Sucker.” (Okay, I made that second one up.) I don’t claim to be a defensive guru in any way, shape or form, but I like the idea of the team using their players to their utmost strengths.

The Chiefs have, perhaps, one of the more dynamic pass rushing duos in the NFL. While it’s been a couple of seasons since Tamba Hali, we’ll call him “Batman” in this scenario, has gone off in the sack department, it wasn’t long ago that he led the AFC in putting the opposing quarterback down. “Robin” (aka Justin Houston) is a young stud that works the other side of the field and led the team in sacks last season with ten. Many who claim to know more than me about defensive schemes, will say the success Hali and Houston have had is due to the genius of Crennel and the fact that the Chiefs linemen sucked up all the blockers and allowed Batman and Robin to reach the Joker unabated. Of course those same defensive Einsteins also lament – generally at great length – of how much a disappointment defensive linemen Tyson Jackson and the recently departed Glenn Dorsey were because they didn’t get the sack count many thought they would out of college. It would seem to me that this is a case of having your cake and eating it too.

So what does this all mean? Where am I going with all this?

I believe the Chiefs’ defense will be a top five squad this season. I think they have the potential to lead the league in sacks and they could very well turn into the powerhouse “offensive defense” similar to the Chicago Bears of last season. This is why:

Bob Sutton runs an “Attacking 3-4.” While we don’t know exactly what that means quite yet, it will most likely involve much more aggressive blitz packages and using the defensive linemen to do much more than just absorb blocks from the offensive linemen. Sutton will have Jackson, Dontari Poe and newly acquired lineman Mike DeVito trying to get to the quarterback just as hard as Hali and Houston. And oh, by the way, he may throw a wrinkle in there and bring packages where perhaps Brandon Flowers or former Miami Dolphin Shaun Smith blitz from the corner position. Let’s not forget our favorite defensive Chief, Derrick Johnson, coming up the middle on occasion or even the safeties moving up to get after the quarterback. The blitz packages Sutton arranges could involve any and/or all of those scenarios. While I think that will increase the Chiefs’ sack-count, it will serve another purpose as well.

Quarterbacks don’t like to get hit. Really, they don’t even like to get pressured. There are a ton of stats that show when even the great QBs of the game have a defender breathing down their neck, they get nervous and their accuracy goes into the toilet. We won’t even go down the road of the “sack-fumble” in the turnover category. Quarterbacks are taught from a young age that they are the most important person on the field and they become prima-donnas. Roger Goodell and the NFL “competition committee” have done everything in their power to perpetuate this quarterback elitist attitude. They have made every rule imaginable, to protect the signal caller. As long as the ball is out of the quarterback’s hands, he can’t be touched.

So, it stands that if the Chiefs’ defense is in the quarterback’s face all game long – or even better, putting him on his ass – he will start to get jumpy. A jumpy quarterback starts to make bad decisions and starts to hurry his throws. That’s where our much improved secondary comes into play. Between the vets and the rookies, as well as the free agents who have joined the Chiefs this offseason, I think the secondary is the most improved position group on this team. They all have the opportunity to not only prosper under this new “Attacking 3-4” system, but actually thrive. Flowers can fully reach his potential, as can strong safety, Eric Berry. Both are superstars who need the right system to fully showcase their talents. From everything I’ve read, I think this can be it.

Of course, the Chiefs’ offense will have to perform “as advertised” for all this to work. After all, half the reason the defense allowed so many points last season is because they were exhausted from constantly being on the field. Series after series of three-and-outs will do that to you. However, if Alex Smith and company can sustain some drives, and let D.J. and company on defense take a breath and get some water between series on the sidelines, Chiefs’ Kingdom could be in for one hell of a ride this fall.

My final thought, before I go is this: As you enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend out there in the Sea of Red, whether you’re enjoying a barbeque with friends and family, traveling, or taking advantage of any of the thousands of sales that seem to accompany this holiday, please remember why you have this three-day weekend. United States Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy everyday. They are who we honor the last weekend in May. To everyone who has served, who is currently serving and who will serve, I say thank you!

Have a happy and safe Memorial Day Weekend, Addicts. Until next time!

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Tags: Kansas City Chiefs

  • Billie Cabral

    I’m hoping they can use Allen Bailey’s freakish abilities on passing downs to get a few more sacks.

  • Lyle Graversen

    Jason, I really hope you are right. Nothing gets Arrowhead rocking like a great defense. I just have a few doubts. First off, the NYJ defense wasn’t Suttons, it was Rex Ryan’s. Sutton wasn’t even Ryan’s DC, just the LB coach. Now, he obviously knows the system, but in terms of actually calling a defense the last time he did it was under Eric Mangini (ironically calling the same “bend don’t break” NE scheme that Romeo ran). Sutton could be fantastic, but he could also prove to be a flop. We just don’t know. My other concern is that we don’t have the defensive linemen needed to get to the QB. Jackson flashed a little last season and I think he’ll do okay, but I don’t think he’ll ever be a great pass rusher. DeVito is a non factor in pass rush. He played under Rex Ryan’s system already and still only has 2.5 career sacks. Poe is the wildcard. If Poe can use his freakish size/athleticism to wreck havoc in the backfield, we’ll be okay. If he doesn’t I don’t think we get enough push from the DL to make this defense really good.

    • Jim Harper

      Well someone was going to rain on this parade so it might as well be you. At least it won’t be an F5 tornado and you hope you are wrong. I hope so too. I don’t say your evaluation is wrong,but I do believe that your teams success often hinges on your teams attitude, and so far this team has a great attitude.

      • Lyle Graversen

        I REALLY hope that Sutton and the Chiefs defense succeed. I think the attacking style is definitely the way to go. When Reid’s Philly teams were good was when Jim Johnson’s defenses hit the QB from anywhere and everywhere. I think that is what Reid is hoping Sutton can do in KC. Time will tell how well it will work, but I’d feel better about it if they had one more proven pass rusher on the defensive line (hence my Richard Seymour post).

    • KCMikeG

      Obviously Ryan became HC in 2009 but Suttons defense was already in place as he was DC 2006-2008. He converted Herm’s Tampa 2 and in 2008 Sutton’s unit was ranked near the top of the NFL in rushing defense (94.9) and yards per rush allowed (3.7), the Jets best statistical showing since 1993…Five defensive touchdowns were a Jets franchise record…Defense registered 41 sacks, seventh in NFL and 30 takeaways were tied for fifth in the NFL. So while Ryan is a defensive genius? Sutton built the foundation for him.

      Interesting post below describing part of what contributed to the decline of the defense once Ryan took over. While 2009 was a fantastic year troubles soon followed. Remember that Ryan reinstalled Sutton as DC in 2012 because of the problems “his” defense experienced in 2010-2011.

      I think Jackson will take another step forward this year and be a true every down DE. Poe will be a beast in an attacking defense. I don’t think we will see DeVito on passing downs and expect a healthy Bailey to provide the pressure from the other side. There is always a wild card which I believe will be Catapano who will play DE/OLB.

    • Jason Seibel

      Lyle, to me that’s what makes this scheme so great. Our guys up front don’t have to be great to make it work. If they can just put a little pressure on the QB that will force the opposing O line to adjust, thus creating a hole for one of the elite pass rushers to get through.

      • chiefdeorty

        I think you are right and I think we will see many holes open up this year and our sack total might be twice as high this year. Poe will wreak havoc on the o-line.

  • Jim Harper

    And Thank You, Jason, for recognizing all veterans. I was on a submarine during the Viet Nam conflict and I can tell you that when we came home the reception was less than welcoming. Thankfully that attitude has finally changed. I am totally with you on how exciting our new defense and offense look. Attacking is the key word and I can’t wait. The entire team seems to have a new lease on life. Reid is working them hard but nobody is complaining. On the contrary they seem to love it, and are thriving on the challenge in front of them. I also cannot remember when I was so excited about them either. Go Chiefs!!!

    • steve james

      Thank you for you service. I was not old enough to know what was going on but from what I have seen of history Hippie’s were self centered idiots. Assuming they were the less than welcoming part you spoke of. My brother spent 20 years in himself.

      • freshmeat62

        Speaking of hippies back then, here’s a story. May 16, 1969, I was sitting in the SF airport, just discharged but still in uniform for my last flight home to KC, after my year in Thailand and Viet Nam. I see these 2 hippies walking around the terminal going up to guys in uniform and talking w/ them for a couple minutes, then going on to another guy in uniform. I thought maybe they were going around welcoming them back to the US, that’s how naive I was. Eventually one came up to me and started w/ pleasantries, but quickly got to his point. He wanted to know if I wanted to go w/ him and his friend and smoke some marijuana. Of course they were a little short of money, and if I could loan them a little, they could make the buy and they’d come back and get me. I made it pretty clear that if he didn’t get away from me he was going to be needing a medic more than a puff on some weed.

        One other thing – a lot of the guys coming back were being separated from the military, and had all of their back pay, and any special pay they might be owed (travel pay, selling back unused leave time, etc.) on them in cash. I remember I had $1,600 on me. Luckily I didn’t see anyone go away w/ those clowns.

  • Stacy D. Smith

    I love that this team is going to be aggressive. I just wish we had more defensive linemen with a passrushing skillset.

  • chiefdeorty

    While we don’t know for sure how this will play out, but I do like the way the players are talking about this defense. It would appear everyone is on board with this new style of defense which is great, attitude is real important a great attitude they have so this a step in the right direction. With this style of defense we could have a breakout year for several players this year, I think Jackson will do great and while DeVito may not be a great pass rusher he is maybe the best against the run so I am okay with him. Poe could be a super star in this style of defense he is so big and fast for as big as he is, this will break down the pocket and Tamba and Houston will get a whole lot of sacks believe me. I agree the secondary is probably the most improved unit on the team and they will create more coverage sacks I truly believe that. And I think if this offense gets hot and starts scoring a lot of points this year teams will have take more chances which will create more turnovers as a result, this going to be a fun year and of course we have to stay healthy. We are going to have to have some depth at every position. So my final analysis is WATCH OUT DONKEYS HERE WE COME!

  • berttheclock

    Actually, Memorial Day began as Decoration Day to honor all those who had died in the Civil War, whether from the North or South. Now, it is reserved for all who have fallen defending this great nation. However, from one of the Red Leg “Over hill, over dale, we will hit the dusty trail” guys, thanks for your mentioning what this holiday is supposed to mean. It is far far more than 30 percent off at Loew’s.
    However, I would like to say Romeo Crennel on a given Sunday could devise defensive schemes which were far more than just “bend, not break”. He did confuse Peyton on several occasions, hit Aaron Rodgers with a scheme which caused him to have to keep trying to go to go to 2nd and 3rd reads, and shut down Tebow and exposed him as a QB fraud on the second time the Chiefs faced him. In fact, had not the Bears put in that stupid prevent defense in overtime and the DC of Pittsburgh had not been so arrogant in refusing to copy RC’s scheme, the legend of Tebow’s comebacks would have collapsed and perished.

    • freshmeat62

      Far be it from me to praise Crennel’s bend-don’t-break, but he did seem to have a genius for coming up w/ some scheme for those games where he had people injured, and had to play some subs, or the opponent had some big advantage on paper, and Romeo would come up w/ something to throw the QB off w/ blitzes or coverages. But I still prefer the attacking D that Sutton is advertized to prefer – of course he has to have the right type of players to do it, and I think he does.