The Run Defense
Dating back to last season, the Chiefs have been statistically one of the worst teams in the NFL against the run. Last year, the Chiefs allowed almost 130 yards per game rushing and an even worse 4.9 yards per carry. If you look at the Chiefs’ overall numbers against the run this season, they are only marginally better, allowing 121.3 rushing yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry through 15 games.
However, if you look inside the Chiefs numbers this season, you’ll see an encouraging trend. Through the first 12 games of the season, the Chiefs rush defense numbers were about the same as last year with 132.4 yards rushing per game and 4.8 yards per carry. The last three weeks, however, it has been a different story. Over the last three games, the Chiefs have given up just 76.7 rushing yards per game and only 3.6 yards per carry.
Those numbers include facing the New Orleans Saints, one of the top rushing teams in the NFL. The Chiefs held them to 80 yards below their season average. While stopping the run in the NFL has definitely become secondary to stopping the pass, there is a connection here. When the Chiefs do a better job of stopping the run, it leads to more long third-and-long situations, which then allows the pass rush to be more aggressive. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Chiefs have had better pass rush production the past three weeks at the same time that the run defense has been much improved.
Which leads me to the last reason to be encouraged about this defense heading into the playoffs, the improved pass rush.