Chiefs might need to play some zone

November, 27, 2013
11/27/13
7:15
AM ET
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If you're looking for some statistics than portray just how bad the Kansas City Chiefs were in pass coverage last week against the San Diego Chargers, sink your teeth in these numbers: Their three top cornerbacks were targeted in coverage a total of 22 times, according to some great stats from Pro Football Focus.

Sean Smith, Brandon Flowers and Marcus Cooper allowed a total of 17 catches on those 22 passes for a total of 350 yards. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers was far less effective when he threw at Chiefs players supposedly less skilled in pass coverage.

The Chargers had an astounding 228 yards after their catches. The Denver Broncos had 187 yards after the catch the week before against the Chiefs.

Blame the loss of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, if you want. That certainly didn't help the Chiefs hold off the Chargers. Blame the officials for not doing a better job of policing the pick plays, if you want. Blame defensive coordinator Bob Sutton for not adjusting better to the loss of Hali and Houston, if you want.

The Chiefs can't play the press man-to-man coverage Sutton prefers if they don't do a better job than they have the past two weeks. Is better coverage on Sunday against the Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium a reasonable expectation?

The probable loss of Houston and possible loss of Hali complicates the answer. But that's something Sutton needs to take a hard look at.

Smith has been a good cover cornerback for the Chiefs this season. It seems reasonable to believe he will bounce back. Flowers was miserable against Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys in an early season game but until San Diego arrived had otherwise done a nice job. The Chiefs probably have little to worry about there.

Cooper might be a problem. The rookie, a seventh-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers, was claimed off waivers at the start of the regular season and had been a gem for the Chiefs. His play was no small factor as the Chiefs built a 9-0 record.

He has collapsed the past two weeks to the point where his confidence must be shot. Sutton has to be wary at this point of trusting Cooper after he had two dismal games.

It's not an easy decision because the Chiefs thrived much of the season playing man-to-man coverage. But it may be time on Sunday for Sutton to change things up and play more zone coverage.

The Chiefs can hardly do that much worse than the man they've played the last couple of weeks.

Adam Teicher

ESPN Kansas City Chiefs reporter

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