To say I was surprised at the pure domination of the Kansas City Chiefs defense last Sunday would be a bit of understatement.
Here I was, thinking that Peyton and Kubiak had finally put together a competent Bronco offense with a solid showing against Green Bay and a decent performance against the Colts, but Justin Houston & Co. walked into Denver and shut that thing down before it even got a chance to start. I could not think of a better way for this Chiefs regime to get the Peyton monkey off of their backs.
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Now, when a defense gets five interceptions and doesn’t allow a point until garbage time, you know the whole unit was playing at an incredibly high level. But today, I want to focus on the play of this secondary, because in the past three games they have been the very definition of ball-hawking. In that span, the Chiefs have accumulated nine interceptions! That’s three more than they had the entire 2014 season!
Before we look at how great the secondary was against Denver, we should get one thing out of the way: Manning had a horrible game and gifted the Chiefs three interceptions (and that number could’ve easily been five or six if not for a couple of drops). I mean just look at some of these throws:
The receiver has a step on Peters but Manning underthrew that ball quite a bit, giving Peters an easy pick.
Sanders has quite a lot of open space in front of him to convert that third down, but Peyton doesn’t even give him a chance with that throw.
… I, I don’t even know.
Suffice to say, Peyton didn’t bring his A-game. However, this day wasn’t only about Peyton being in a giving mood; the secondary was downright smothering the Broncos receivers throughout the game. Exhibit A, Mr. Sean Smith:
Here we have Smith playing off-man coverage at the top of the screen. This allows him to keep his eyes on the backfield and receiver at the same time, something that’s slightly more difficult to do in press-man.
The receiver runs right to the sticks, plants, and turns back to the ball. Look how Smith is breaking towards the ball at the exact same time the receiver starts his break at the top of the route. I absolutely love what happens next:
You know how they say both the defender and receiver have equal right to the ball when it’s thrown? Well on this play, Sean Smith unapologetically enforced his right to the ball with his size and strength; the receiver couldn’t do anything about it.
Here’s another stellar example of Sean Smith playing with great technique and utilizing his size to perfection:
This time he’s playing closer to the line of scrimmage (top of the screen), but you see him open himself up towards the QB early on so he can keep tabs on him and the receiver. As soon as the ball is thrown, Smith does a fantastic job of tracking it while staying stride-for-stride with the receiver, and then utilizes his reach to tip the ball away. Textbook.
Not only was Sean Smith locking down his man, the rest of the guys were giving Peyton nowhere to go with the ball either.
Eric Berry is in man coverage on the tight end (who goes in motion pre-snap) and plays it perfectly. I love Berry’s footwork and positioning on this play, it allows him to change direction so fluidly. Just look at how he perfectly mirrors his man.
Not to be outdone is Ron Parker.
Here he is lined up second from the bottom in off-man coverage. Initially it looks like he overplays the route, thinking the receiver is going to run a post rather than an in. However, since he kept the play in front of him the whole time and has incredibly quick feet, he was able to see the ball being thrown behind him, breakdown, and knock the ball away. Pretty impressive.
And then there were the whole team efforts. This is a 1st & 10 in the second quarter:
Both of the outside receivers are well-covered, there’s two guys keeping an eye on the man who settled in the middle, and the check-downs are accounted for as well. The pass rush didn’t really affect Manning at all on this play, yet he can’t find anybody open.
Similar situation happened here when Osweiller was in the game; pass rush doesn’t really affect him and he has tons of time to find an option, yet nothing comes open. When our secondary can force incompletions (which is what this play resulted in) on plays where the QB has a clean pocket, this defense as a whole is a nightmare to play against.
Top to bottom, the Chiefs defensive backs had an outstanding game. Sean Smith was looking like his 2014 self, Marcus Peters more than held his own against Demaryius Thomas, Eric Berry continues to defy all logic and play at an incredible level, and Ron Parker just kept on making plays lining up as both a corner and safety. Even Sorensen got in on the action with what has to be the clubhouse leader for Chiefs hit of the year!
With this level of play behind our front seven, the Chiefs are back to having one of the most vaunted defensive units in the entire league. This is a legitimate playoff caliber defense, now let’s just hope that it can carry us there.
Chiefs GIF of the Week
Yep, that pretty much sums it up.