The 2018 season was a big success in many ways for the Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes won the MVP award. Kansas City won the AFC West division for the third consecutive season. Most importantly, the Chiefs were victorious in a home playoff game for the first time in 25 years. The ultimate detriment to their exciting season? A defense that was unable to iron out their mistakes.

First, the Chiefs finished 31st in total defense. Meanwhile, it was a good surprise to see how they performed in the Divisional Round playoff win over the Colts. In the victory, Kansas City did not allow a third down conversion. Also, the struggling run defense allowed less than 100 rushing yards. This was big for them. The Chiefs defense got after it in the pressure game, too. Kansas City racked up three sacks. And in addition, they forced a fumble. However, when matching up against Tom Brady you must play mistake free defense. There’s the head scratcher where Dee Ford lined up offsides on a play where the Chiefs intercepted a Brady pass off of a deflection. Above all, the ultimate killer was in overtime. New England converted on three straight 3rd and 10 plays to win the game and advance to the Super Bowl.

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Making Changes

As a result, the Chiefs did not reach their ultimate goal. KC felt like they needed to take a risk. The chance they took meant finally moving on from the insanity and failure to make adjustments from defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. Therefore, it meant saying goodbye to longtime Chiefs Eric Berry and Justin Houston. Ford was traded to the 49ers. Sometimes change can be a good thing. That’s just what it seems to look like as the offseason continues to roll on.

The Fundamentals

New defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has brought a fiery new passion to the Chiefs in his reunion with Andy Reid. In videos of Spagnuolo from OTAs, we have seen a more hands-on, simple approach. That is to say, the energy that exudes from Spagnuolo has been missing from that side of the ball during the years under Reid. For example, Spagnuolo believes the one-on-one conversations with players are important. After this week’s OTAs Spagnuolo talked about that. “I think if you have a teaching moment, somebody makes a mistake and you have an opportunity to teach them something.” Additionally, “it just sinks in a little bit more if it’s one-on-one rather than trying to yell over all the music. I’ve kind of always done that.”

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The players noticed this energy quickly. Draft pick Rashad Fenton mentioned how being able to “receive that energy, you’ve got to kind of match it. It’s a player-coach relationship.” Even Frank Clark reveled in the time the team was taking to work on the little things of playing defense. Spagnuolo went on to say how much the team has focused on the fundamentals. “It doesn’t take a lot of talent to communicate or to call out a route or get aligned. Finally, those little things we need to get taken care of. Otherwise, it creates holes.”

New Players, New Style

Not just any player can execute this new regime. The goal in free agency was to get a new leader of the defense. Ultimately, the acquisition of Tyrann Mathieu is being described as the “catalyst” for this Chiefs defense. Consequently, the front office and coaches got their guy. The Chiefs hope Mathieu’s do-it-all, playmaking type of play provides a nastier style to the defense. This can be backed up by the additions of Clark, Bashaud Breeland, Alex Okafor, Emmanuel Ogbah among others.

This largely new Chiefs defensive cast of players knows they must be willing to invest in taking big risks. They look to be competitive and energetic to hold their own and help out the offense. They’re ready to take on a larger leadership role.

– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on // // and Facebook.

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