A growing trend among the Chiefs’ defense: Allowing opponents to have huge fourth quarters.
The last four games have showcased exceptional performances from the Kansas City Chiefs defense, but in three of those four games, the defensive performance has fallen off in the fourth quarter.
Starting in Week 12, the Chiefs defense gave up 24 points to Tampa Bay, 14 of which came in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs went into the final quarter leading 27-10, but only ended up winning 27-24. The 14 points that the Buccaneers scored in the fourth quarter were more than they had in the first three combined.
In Week 13, the defense only gave up 16 points to the Broncos and were a key factor in getting the win when the offense was struggling. This was an outstanding performance from the Chiefs’ defense and was the one game in this four game stretch in which they didn’t allow a massive fourth quarter to the opponent (they shut out the Broncos in the fourth).
In Week 14, the Dolphins finished the game with 27 points, 17 of which came in the fourth quarter. This was yet another exceptional performance from the defense through three quarters, but they fell flat in the fourth, allowing the Dolphins to score more points in 15 minutes than they had in the previous 45.
Finally, in the most recent game, the Saints finished the game with 29 points, with 14 coming in the fourth quarter. It was another tough, gritty first half performance from the defense, as they only gave up 7 points and 123 yards through 7 drives from the Saints.
Nonetheless, lackluster fourth quarter performances seem to be a recurring theme, in that three of the last four games the Chiefs’ defense has given up over 14 points in the fourth quarter.
Why does this keep happening?
Kansas City has had major leads heading into the fourth quarter in each of these three games that featured high-scoring fourth quarters from opposing teams. They entered the final 15 minutes up 17 against Tampa Bay, up 20 against the Dolphins, and taking a 14 point lead one-minute into the quarter against the Saints.
Because of these larger leads, the Chiefs’ offense tends to become more conservative and take their foot off the gas. This seems to lead to the defense following suit and playing with less intensity as well.
Another factor into these fourth quarters could simply just be stamina. Looking at these three games we can see some of the best performances from the Chiefs’ defense through three quarters. It is just the final quarter that their performance always seems to dwindle. While this is a simple answer, stamina could play a major factor into why teams are having so much more success against the Chiefs in the fourth quarter.
Whatever the reason may be, the fourth quarter defensive struggles mixed with a conservative offense are creating a lot of close games. They always get the job done in the end, but it would be amazing to see them finish games as strong as they oftentimes start them.
The defense is completely capable of holding down explosive offenses for large portions of games. They have had some of their best performances in the last few weeks, but they just struggle to finish the game at a high level. Their next step will be to maintain that high level of energy throughout the whole game, so they can show the rest of the NFL just how good they are.