Did Chiefs solidify their run defense after tough year?

1 of 2

Oct 26, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs inside linebacker Josh Mauga (90) defends against St. Louis Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin (11) in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City won the game 34-7. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Looking back on last year, the Kansas City Chiefs roster had a few holes. Some of these were due to injuries, some of these were due to losses in free agency, some of these were due to negligence throughout the draft, but they all hindered the success of the team. Here, I’d like to look at one of the Chiefs’ biggest issues: the run defense.

The run defense was, quite frankly, awful. It was extremely depressing to watch Kansas City concede chunks of yardage repeatedly off a simple run up the middle that was designed to only pick up a couple of yards. The Chiefs’ run defense was ranked 28th in the league, allowing 127.2 yards per game.

The pass defense, in contrast, was ranked second behind the Seattle Seahawks with 203.2 yards per game and 46 sacks. The stellar pass rush, spearheaded by Justin Houston, is one the best in the league. The defensive line, including the monstrous Dontari Poe, excelled at getting to the quarterback, but did undoubtedly struggle in stopping the run.

Below, is a table detailing the rushing performances of every leading rusher that Kansas City faced in 2014:

Week Team Lead Rusher Total Yardage Yards per Attempt Yards after Contact
1 Titans Shonn Greene 71 4.7 48
2 Broncos Montee Ball 60 5.0 35
3 Dolphins Lamar Miller 108 7.2 46
4 Patriots Stevan Ridley 28 5.6 11
5 49ers Frank Gore 107 5.9 33
7 Chargers Brandon Oliver 67 4.5 36
8 Rams Tre Mason 32 4.6 36
9 Jets Chris Johnson 69 6.3 34
10 Bills Anthony Dixon 62 6.9 30
11 Seahawks  Marshawn  Lynch 124 5.2 61
12 Raiders Latavius Murray 112 28.0 4
13 Broncos CJ Anderson 168 5.3 106
14 Cardinals Kerwynn Williams 100 5.3 106
15 Raiders Latavius Murray 59 4.9 35
16 Steelers Le’Veon Bell 63 3.2 43
17 Chargers Branden Oliver 71 5.1 44

The first thing to note is that Kansas City’s run defense had an integral impact on the fortunes of the team as a whole. In the five games that a 100-yard rusher was allowed, the Chiefs won twice. More crucially perhaps, when the lead rusher was limited to less than 60 yards, Kansas City were victorious in all these games.

The excellent pass defense means that the successes or failures of the opposition are often dependent upon KC’s run defense. Other than the abysmal offensive line and the lack of receiving talent, the failure to reach the playoffs can be placed at the door of the run defense.

Next: What was the problem?