Sunday, September 8, 2013
Chiefs' defense looks to have staying power
By Adam Teicher
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Kansas City Chiefs played one of their better defensive games in recent memory, a performance even their head coach called dominant. They suffocated the Jacksonville Jaguars from start to finish in a 28-2 victory that was highlighted by six sacks, two interceptions and a defensive touchdown.
Maybe the most impressive thing about it was their attitude afterward. Nobody raised an eye; nobody acted surprised. The Chiefs acted like they play like this every week.
"We were prepared," linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "It’s not like we didn’t expect to do this."
Tamba Hali's interception return for a TD was just one reason the Chiefs' defense could celebrate Sunday in Jacksonville.
The Chiefs have been building toward this kind of game for months. They put in good work during offseason practice, training camp and the preseason. The defense frequently dominated the offense in practice.
The Chiefs were also no doubt helped by playing against the feeble Jaguars, who looked like strong contenders for next year’s overall No. 1 draft pick. They will get a much stronger test next Sunday when Tony Romo and the Cowboys come to Arrowhead Stadium.
Still, despite the dubious quality of their opponent in Jacksonville, there were signs that the Chiefs were doing more than just picking on some hapless foe and that their defense has some staying power. A large number of their defensive players had great games.
Outside linebacker Justin Houston had three sacks, continuing his ascent to becoming one of the league’s elite pass-rushers. Nose tackle Dontari Poe was at times unblockable against both the pass and run. Outside linebacker Tamba Hali, historically a strong pass-rusher but average at best in coverage, made a brilliant play for an interception that he returned 10 yards for a touchdown.
Most of all, the Chiefs didn’t let up once they built a comfortable lead. Jacksonville’s best drive of the game was its last. The Jaguars had a first-and-goal at the Kansas City 3 with just more than a minute left, but the Chiefs successfully fought to keep them out of the end zone.
"They were dominant at times," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "They played with emotion. I thought they carried that for four quarters, which was impressive.
"There were some highs and there were some lows. They fought through the lows. They didn’t get too high after the highs. They kept playing aggressive football."
In Houston, Poe, Johnson, Hali and several others, the Chiefs have the pieces to have one of the league’s best defenses. Although the Chiefs were 2-14 last season, four defensive players were invited to the Pro Bowl, and a fifth, cornerback Brandon Flowers, had a strong case.
Still, last season the sum of the parts was unimpressive. The Chiefs allowed a lot of big plays and created few turnovers, a combination for losing football.
Johnson was the Chiefs’ first-round draft pick in 2005. He’s been a member of some forgettable defensive teams, so he didn’t have to wade too far into the memory bank to recognize that this was one of the most impressive games he’s been a part of. There was a six-interception game in a shutout win over Oakland two years ago, and then this.
“It’s right up there," he said.
The Chiefs now have some defensive momentum, something they’ve worked toward for years without success. Maybe now they don’t just have a collection of good defensive players, but a good defense, too.
“We wanted to get some stuff on film to let everybody know the Chiefs’ defense is for real," Johnson said. “We ought to do this week in and week out. We should just keep getting better and better.
“We’ve got Romo coming in next week in Arrowhead. It’s going to be rocking."