Le’Veon Bell will help and other Chiefs lessons learned in Week 7

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 25: Drew Lock #3 of the Denver Broncos passes against the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth quarter of a game at Empower Field at Mile High on October 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 25: Drew Lock #3 of the Denver Broncos passes against the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth quarter of a game at Empower Field at Mile High on October 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /
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Dec 15, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (30) runs the ball as Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward (35) makes the tackle during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 15, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (30) runs the ball as Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward (35) makes the tackle during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports /

Should we worry about the run defense?

A lot of Chiefs games start off the same way—or at least it seems that way. The opposing team runs the ball for 7 yards. Then 4. Then 13. Then 9. And you lift your head up to the heavens and shout, “Can you just tackle him sooner?” Your eye scans the familiar names: Ben Niemann, Anthony Hitchens, Damien Wilson, Dan Sorensen. You angrily tweet, “WE ARE A LINEBACKER AWAY!”, which is a ridiculous thing to tweet considering the Chiefs won the Super Bowl last year. We aren’t, as a collective fan base, “away” from anything.

Alas, watching the run defense struggle is frustrating and, at least from the perspective of a viewer, it feels like a problem.

Consider this: the Broncos ran 33 times for 177 yards. That’s an extremely efficient 5.4 yards per carry. There were times when Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon were gashing the Chiefs for gobs of yards, practically at will. Back in Week 2, the Chargers rushed for 183 yards against the Chiefs. DVOA ranks the Chiefs run defense as 27th in the league, 26th last year.

That means that the Chiefs have had a sub-optimal rushing defense for the last 26 games, including the postseason. They are 21-5 in those 26 games. Those losses came against the Colts, Texans Packers, Titans, (last season) and Raiders (this season).

If pressed, I would say that Week 10 loss in 2019 to the Titans is the only one of these that we lost because of the run defense. Derrick Henry absolutely gashed the Chiefs. Even with their best weapon firing, the Chiefs still came short, as Mahomes went for 446 and 3 touchdowns in defeat. The run defense was bad in that Colts loss, but the Chiefs only scored 13 and still held the opposition under 20.

Of those losses, the 2019 Titans game is the only one where the run defense jumps out as the obvious reason for the loss. Now, my brief mention of these losses is far from a comprehensive analysis. I only want to show that, while the rush defense is a persistent issue, it is not something that will seriously threaten the Chiefs’ success. And I’d welcome any counterpoints. It just seems like the Chiefs’ aerial offense can overcome the occasional defensive lapses.

The Chiefs won a game 43-16 while allowing 5.4 yards/carry on average. Translation: The Chiefs destroyed another team while struggling to stop the run. So, while the run defense has been a sore spot for a while, if you had to “pick” a weakness, run defense is the least problematic. It’s still a weakness, but, hey, just imagine if the Chiefs’ issue was at quarterback! Not all weaknesses are made the same, I suppose.