Dec 15, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs free safety Kendrick Lewis (23) loses his helmet after nearly intercepting a pass against the Oakland Raiders in the second quarter at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs Pass Rush vs. Pass Coverage Conundrum

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There are few things more important this offseason for the Chiefs than trying to figure out why the Chiefs defense collapsed in the second half of the season. Was it the Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, and Philip Rivers? Was it the secondary? Was it the injury to Justin Houston? There are a lot of combinations of potential reasons why the Chiefs went from having a dominate defense to a very shaky one.

This is a question I am going to try to figure out an answer for over the course of the offseason, as it is probably the most important question for the Chiefs to figure out between now and September. Obviously, this isn’t something which can be answered in one blog post, so it is going to be a lengthy period of discussion, research, and evaluation before some kind of serious answer is formulated.

However, I do have something I think is interesting to share with you right now.

Pro Football Focus posts individual grades for each individual player in every game during the season. They are really well respected for their ability to grade individual performances over the course of a season. Are they perfect? No. Are they the end all, be all of NFL analysis? No. But they are an immensely useful tool in getting an unbiased look at the individual performance of a player, unit, or team.

With this in mind, I went back and looked at the break down of what PFF graded the pass coverage and pass rush between weeks one and sixteen (I did not include week 17 because the Chiefs primarily used backups in the season finale). What I found was interesting as it relates to the correlation between a good pass rush and good coverage. Here are a few notes to consider.

– Kansas City had seven positive pass rush grades from week one through week eight, but only one positive pass rush grade from week nine to week sixteen.

– From week thirteen to week sixteen – a span of games which includes the home Denver game and the Indianapolis game – the Chiefs had a cumulative -14.2 pass rushing grade and +5.2 pass coverage grade. If you do not include the Denver game, Kansas City’s cumulative pass coverage grade was +13.7.

– The only positive pass rushing grade the Chiefs had after week eight was against San Diego at Arrowhead. KC posted a +3.4 pass rush grade for the game. However, +2.9 of that grade came from Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, both of whom ended up getting hurt in the first half and missed the remainder for of the game. Their replacements, Dezman Moses and Frank Zombo, combine for a -2.9 pass rushing grade.

– From weeks one to sixteen, Kansas City had five games were they had a negative pass coverage grade. Their total pass coverage grade was +19.6 in that span.

– KC’s pass coverage in the two games against Denver and the one against San Diego accumulated a -28 grade.  The Chiefs had a cumulative +43.6 pass coverage grade in the other 13 games.  It should be noted that a +43.6 coverage grade would rank second in the NFL behind the Seattle Seahawks. KC ended up finishing seventh in the NFL in cumulative pass coverage.

– In the playoff game against Indianapolis, the Chiefs combined for a -5.4 pass coverage grade. Dunta Robinson and Kendrick Lewis had a combined grade of -6.4, while Brandon Flowers, Marcus Cooper, and Sean Smith combined for a +1.4 grade.

Now, there is a lot more digging which needs to happen to fully understand what PFF’s grades are telling us about the Chiefs defense, but it is interesting the Chiefs pass coverage graded out as being more consistent than the pass rush. It is also interesting, when looking at the grades on a game-by-game basis, how a very high or very low pass rushing grade does not effect the pass coverage grade very much. The same is true of a very high or low pass coverage grade compared to the pass rushing grade.

Kansas City’s pass rush disappeared after week eight, minus the first half of the home game against San Diego. It wasn’t just a Justin Houston getting hurt problem for the declining pass rush, it was an issue which was building in the weeks before his injury.

The early numbers do indicate our dislike for Kendrick Lewis is valid, so do not feel bad about not wanting the Chiefs to re-sign him.

There is a lot more to come of this subject, but early indications seem to be the Chiefs pass rushing problems of the second half may be more problematic than the pass coverage.

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