In what was a mostly encouraging first month of the season, the Kansas City Chiefs defense crashed and burned last week. The issues against both the run and pass were not necessarily new problems, however. Andy Reid was blunt after the loss to the Raiders, saying the defense gave up too many big plays. Kansas City defenders have vowed to clean things up this week. Meanwhile, they could see a somewhat similar offensive style in the Buffalo Bills, next game.
Quarterback Josh Allen is coming off his worst performance of the season. But like Derek Carr was last week, the Wyoming product is not afraid to sling it deep down the field. His heavy arm is always locked and loaded for bombs, while also having a quick trigger. On the other hand, the Bills running game is successful because of a largely underappreciated offensive line. Led by former Chief Mitch Morse and former second round picks Dion Dawkins and Cody Ford, Buffalo has stingy maulers up front.
The Chiefs have a list of specific things to improve on defensively before they travel to Orchard Park. Today, we will hit on the main aspects that hurt Kansas City on Sunday, and how these will be paramount this upcoming week.
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Too Many Missed Tackles
In the two wins against the Ravens and Patriots, the Kansas City Chiefs defense were exceptional in how sound they were with their tackling. That seemed to fade away last game. In fact, the Chiefs defense has the fifth most missed tackles in the NFL (46). Only the New York Jets, Las Vegas Raiders, Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons have more.
What may be most disappointing about this, is the fact that many missed tackles occur within five yards of the line of scrimmage or closer. One play in particular that stood out last week, was when Chris Jones whiffed on a play up the middle against running back Josh Jacobs. This play resulted in a touchdown run, giving Vegas a 30-24 lead at the time. If that is not cleaned up against the Bills, Devin Singletary or even Allen can bounce plays to the outside and make you look silly. Other instances, like passes to tight ends or receivers on short crossing routes, must be better prepared for.
Filling The Correct Gaps
When struggling against the run, the Kansas City defense has had the same mental errors when they lose. Dating back to 2018 or even last season, there are too many times where multiple players get stuck trying to fill the same gap. How does this help the opposition? For one, unchallenged blockers are left free to reach up the field to the second or even third levels. And the running backs are able to cut back into the open side of the field with ease.
If it’s not one mistake like that over aggressiveness, it could be another with failing to fill. Linebackers or even cornerbacks have shown a tendency to become passive or flat footed. Combine that with horribly taken angles by the weakside defenders, and you have failed to contain runs out on the edge. Kansas City must understand that Buffalo will not hesitate to use misdirection and speed to best their glaring holes. Getting the unit to corral plays inside, and sharpening up angles will be important this game and going forward.
Set Players Up For Success
Too many times last week, there were head scratching moments for where certain defenders were lined up or matched up. For instance, Ben Niemann matched up against fullback Alec Ingold in coverage was a disadvantage. Niemann has continued to disappoint in coverage. As a result, it would be nice to see rookie Willie Gay Jr join the mix. He was rated as one of the best coverage linebackers, while at Mississippi State. That appeared to be a major key in selecting Gay Jr in the second round of the 2020 Draft.
Furthermore, Daniel Sorensen was caught out of position as the single high safety on Henry Ruggs III‘s long touchdown catch. He got baited into jumping on the shorter route right in front of him, while it looked like Charvarius Ward was expecting help over the top. Part of that is the players needing to communicate better. Nonetheless, Sorensen has proved to be more comfortable in that buck linebacker role. Tedric Thompson is the more trustworthy safety for staying on top of routes as a single high. In Buffalo, the Kansas City Chiefs’ depth must receive the belief to rotate in when necessary. Crucial situations could also be perfect for more advantageous or comfortable matchups one on one.
Be on the lookout for more Kansas City Chiefs articles in the leadup to Monday’s game. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.