Chiefs Film Room: Return of the sack


If there was one thing that defined the Kansas City Chiefs defense in 2014, it was Justin Houston and company making life miserable for quarterbacks on a weekly basis.

Prior to our “home” game in London last week, it was quite obvious that this Chiefs defense wasn’t playing up to their 2014 level. Heading into the game against the Lions, the Chiefs were sitting at 15 sacks, with 33 percent of those coming in the Week 1 demolition of the Texans. That’s right, in the six games that followed the season opener, the Chiefs mustered-up a paltry 10 sacks.

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Now we all know that the Chiefs have the personnel to put up numbers much gaudier than that, but talent often isn’t enough in the NFL. Scheme is equally as important and is the area where the Chiefs (i.e. Bob Sutton) have been coming up short all season. Sutton is a good defensive coordinator, but he tends to be a little too stubborn when it comes to changing tactics – case and point, refusing to roll safety help over to Flemming’s side during the Broncos’ game-tying march down the field in Week 2.

From a pass rush perspective, Sutton has been too reliant on Houston and Hali straight up beating their guy off the edge to cause pressure. Opposing teams have been quick to adapt by keeping tight ends and running backs into block/chip, causing us to put up goose eggs like we did in Cincinnati. Our dynamic duo needed help, and last Sunday Sutton finally provided them with it in the form of some awesome scheming (playing the second-worst offensive line according to PFF didn’t hurt either).

This is on a second down play inside the red zone on the first drive of the game – you know, the drive that made us all think we were about to make Matthew Stafford look like Aaron Rodgers.

Well in order to stop the bleeding, Sutton dialed up a safety/corner/whichever position-Parker-was-lined-up-in blitz on Houston’s side. Since it’s an empty backfield, the quarterback or center better identify the blitz otherwise there’s a good chance a man is coming in unblocked.

Thanks to some good disguising pre-snap, neither picks up on the blitz and three linemen block two rushers, giving Ron an easy path to a sack. I love Sutton using Parker to run this blitz since his history as a corner since it allows him to line up right at the line of scrimmage and the offense will think he’s just in press-man coverage.

This play set the tone for the rest of the game. Sutton masterfully mixed in MLB blitzes, DB blitzes, and dropped Houston/Hali in coverage to keep the Lions off balance. But out of all of those plays, and there were numerous worthy of highlighting, this one was by far my favorite.

Look at that pre-snap movement; Stafford has zero idea of what to expect! Let’s breakdown what he’s seeing:

  • Corners lined up in press-man coverage across the board
  • Berry starts off in the box and then drops, while Branch is creeping down at the same time
  • DJ and Abdullah are lined up right at the line of scrimmage showing blitz, but DJ then backs off
  • Oh and you have Mr. Corner-Safety, Ron Parker, lined up in the slot…again

That’s an incredible amount for a quarterback to digest and decipher in the span of a few seconds. Now look what happens when the ball is actually snapped:

Abdullah (red circle) ends up dropping into coverage over the middle. Dee Ford (black) drops into coverage as well and we didn’t even mention him pre-snap. DJ (yellow) turns on the jets and blitzes. Parker (blue) decides he likes this whole sacking the quarterback thing and comes on a blitz as well, leaving his guy to Branch over-top. Penny for your thoughts, Stafford?

Throw-in a Justin Houston stunt to draw the tackle away from the blitzing LB and DB, leaving poor Theo Riddick on an island, and you have an absolute masterpiece of a play by Sutton and this defense. Love it, love it, love it.

For the Chiefs to make a serious run at a wild card this season, Bob Sutton must build off of what we saw in London. When you have a front-seven built around guys who can do this while being held by a left tackle:

Or make an NFL tackle look like he’s a pylon:

Generating only 10 sacks in a stretch of six games is simply unacceptable.

The Chiefs come out of the bye and play a monumental game in Denver next week. If Sutton is able to put his guys in a position to manufacture pressure like he did against the Lions, we have a shot. But if the return of the Mad Scientist was just a flash in the pan, the Chiefs are going be in for a longgg day at Mile High.