Chiefs win by staying true to identity
October, 13, 2013
By Adam Teicher | ESPN.com
David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/Getty ImagesThe Chiefs sacked Terrelle Pryor 10 times, including six times in the fourth quarter.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Though the situation might have called for it, the Kansas City Chiefs refused to panic. They rummaged through their substantial bag of defensive tricks and threw them all at young Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor, but he simply wouldn’t break.
As a result, the Chiefs couldn’t shake the Raiders. The undefeated Chiefs were tied with the Raiders late in the third quarter and one play away from the unthinkable: a seventh straight home loss to Oakland.
The safe thing might have been to dial back the pressure on Pryor and keep him from using his considerable running ability to make a big play. But this is what belief in a defensive system and the players in it will do for a team.
The Chiefs served up more heat and eventually broke Pryor. Under pressure late in the third quarter, he heaved one up off his back foot that was intercepted by safety Quintin Demps.
Soon, the Chiefs scored the go-ahead touchdown and that was the catalyst for more. The Chiefs sacked Pryor six times in the fourth period and intercepted him twice, returning one for their third pick-six of the season.
When it was over, they had beaten the Raiders 24-7 merely by staying true to what they do.
"It was only a matter of time," veteran nickelback Dunta Robinson said. "We just had to stay patient. We knew the plays were going to come. We knew what kind of quarterback we were facing. Things were going to happen. In the second half, things started happening. We smelled blood and we went for it.
"We just did what we do."
Explaining the late defensive dominance is as simple as that. The Chiefs just didn’t veer from the plan.
The Chiefs had a couple of other factors working in their favor. The Raiders were playing with a patchwork offensive line because of injuries, and the noise at Arrowhead Stadium in the fourth quarter was at Guinness Book of World Record levels, which made communication nearly impossible.
But it’s too simple to believe that’s all that emboldened defensive coordinator Bob Sutton to dial up the pressure on Pryor. His decision had more to do with the fact the Chiefs, against a healthy offensive line and without the benefit of crowd noise, had two interceptions in the fourth quarter of last week’s win in Tennessee.
It had to do with the fact the Chiefs own the fourth quarter. They’ve allowed just two final-period touchdowns this season and none in three games at Arrowhead Stadium.
"We did what we always do," Robinson said. "We didn’t make any adjustments. We stuck to what we do. We stuck to the game plan. We didn’t give any new looks."
In the case of the Chiefs and their defense, success is breeding success. After the Chiefs went ahead 14-7 because of favorable field position provided by the Demps interception, Pryor tried a short pass intended for wide receiver Denarius Moore.
The safe thing for rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper to do under the circumstances was let Moore make the catch and tackle him for a short gain. But, playing for a team overflowing with defensive confidence, Cooper made a quick break on the ball and cut in front of Moore for the interception.
Soon, again using favorable field position, the Chiefs had a 17-7 lead.
"You know the pressure is eventually going to start to affect him," Cooper said. "It’s hard when you have people coming after you like we were coming after him."
Sutton has many tools at his disposal and he’s not afraid to use them, particularly in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs sacked Pryor 10 times and have league-high 31 in their six games.
Linebacker Tamba Hali led the way with 3.5 sacks, but six other players had a hand in dragging down the Oakland quarterback.
"Everybody’s trying to eat around here," said linebacker Derrick Johnson, who had two sacks. "Everybody’s hungry. Everybody’s thirsty."
Sutton is able to call whatever he pleases in the fourth quarter because most of the time, the Chiefs are protecting a lead. They’ve trailed in the final period just once, last week against Tennessee.
"Teams have been in a situation where they had to throw in the fourth quarter," coach Andy Reid said. "With our pass rush, that’s a tough thing to do."
The Chiefs have made a habit of allowing at least one big play early in the game. That continued Sunday when Pryor threw 39 yards to Moore for a touchdown and the game’s first points.
As always at home, the damage stopped there.
"The best thing about us is when we get hit in the mouth early, we don’t fold," said Demps, who also had an interception in the fourth quarter last week and leads the Chiefs with three.
It didn’t work for Tennessee, but maybe the only way to beat the Chiefs is to take a lead into the fourth quarter. Otherwise, they’re going to make life miserable for whatever quarterback might be standing in their way.