Kansas City Chiefs: Bob Sutton

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs allowed two long pass plays, one for a touchdown, on the Minnesota Vikings’ opening drive of last week’s preseason game. It was that drive that told defensive coordinator Bob Sutton the Chiefs are close to being ready for the start of the regular season.

Not that drive, exactly, but how the Chiefs responded to it. After the Vikings went down the field for that opening score, they managed just 74 yards and a field goal against the starting Chiefs defense over the next two quarters.

The Chiefs also scored a safety when Jaye Howard knocked the ball away from Minnesota quarterback Matt Cassel and out of the end zone.

“One of the things you’re looking for that’s always a dynamic you’re never quite sure of is, what are we going to do when things go bad?’’ Sutton said. “How are we going to respond?

“This is the NFL. Things aren’t going to go the way you want them to every play, every quarter, every game. If you want to be good on defense, you have to be able to handle those swings and not lose your focus, not lose your confidence, not stay back on your heels.

The Chiefs’ defense is having its share of issues. The Chiefs have allowed several big pass plays, which was a problem for them last season. They’re trying to identify a starting inside linebacker to replace the injured Joe Mays. Two starters, safety Eric Berry and end Mike DeVito, have yet to play in the preseason because of injuries.

But the defense appears much closer than the offense to being regular-season game ready. Sutton is hopeful the defense will play well in the Sept. 7 regular-season opener against Tennessee at Arrowhead Stadium, but acknowledged he isn’t certain.

“If you’re going to be honest and frank about it, you’ll probably not know what your team is going to be like until you play [in the regular season],’’ he said.

Then he rattled off a list of players who have done well in the preseason, including Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson, Allen Bailey, Dontari Poe and Howard.

That made him feel better.

“Those are things we’ve been watching over the last 10 days to where we can say, ‘We’re finally inching forward to where we want to be,’ ’’ Sutton said.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Alex Smith doesn't throw many interceptions. He had one of the lowest interceptions percentages in the NFL last season and even in practice generally takes good care of the ball.

So when free safety Husain Abdullah came away with an interception at practice on Wednesday, it was news. The interception was one of many plays made by Abdullah this offseason that give the Chiefs reason to believe they made the right decision to install him as their starter, though Sanders Commings could also still win the job.

Free safety was a huge problem for the Chiefs down the stretch last season. They allowed starter Kendrick Lewis to leave in free agency and he eventually signed with the Houston Texans.

Abdullah was a backup safety for the Chiefs last year.

"He’s done a good job," defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. "He did a really good job for us last year, played a lot of different roles for us. He’s a guy that has very good instincts, has really good knowledge of the whole defense so he gives us some great flexibility. He can play back, he can play up and I just think he’s going to get better and better."

The Chiefs' other safety, Eric Berry, is a Pro Bowler. The Chiefs have used him more lined up closer to the line of scrimmage but occasionally will mix things up.

"We try to play both safeties equally," Sutton said. "We don’t really have a strong and a free, so both guys have to know both jobs. But you’re really looking for guys that have a lot of range. Free safeties can do a lot of things, a lot of it goes unnoticed but you can cap off a play. A play that maybe was run or caught for 20 yards but that guy is there to stop it at 20 yards. That's a big part of being successful. Anytime you can limit the explosive players and keep them down, the better off you are.

"You're asking a lot. You've got to be a centerfielder, you've got to have good knowledge of the defense, like every team is asking out of their safeties. Those would be the main things that we'd be looking for.”
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's looking like the Kansas City Chiefs will bring back their coaching staff from 2013 largely intact for next season. The Chiefs lost assistant special teams coach Kevin O'Dea to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he will be the special teams coordinator.

O'Dea worked with kicker Ryan Succop and punter Dustin Colquitt. Both players are veterans and can survive without O'Dea.

There could be another defection or two but Andy Reid won't be making any changes on his own. Though it's tempting to look at how the season ended for the defense and want to make some changes involving coordinator Bob Sutton or other assistants, the Chiefs need to stay the course there.

They're trying to build something for the long term here and while the way the Chiefs finished the season on defense was disappointing, they can benefit from continuity on the coaching staff. This was just Season 1 of the Reid era and the expectation is that things will get better next season and beyond.

If it doesn't, that's a better time for Reid to shuffle the staff. But this is a time for cooler heads to prevail and it's a good thing Reid isn't acting emotionally.

"The one advantage I have is I'm with these guys all day every day," Reid said this week on Kansas City radio station 810 WHB this week. "I get to evaluate them every day and watch them work every day.

"Do we need to improve? Absolutely. We've got to get better, starting with me. We're not shooting for just making the playoffs. We're trying to be the best."
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This fact surely won't escape Andy Reid and his coaching staff as they do their autopsy of the Kansas City Chiefs' 2013 season. It better not, because figuring it out could hold the key to their 2014 season.

Here it is: The Chiefs were 11-0 against quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert, Tony Romo, Michael Vick, Eli Manning, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Terrelle Pryor, Case Keenum, Jason Campbell, Jeff Tuel, Robert Griffin III and Matt McGloin. They were 0-6 against Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Andrew Luck.

There's no shame in losing to those guys if you don't lose to them all the time. But an 0-6 record against those quarterbacks, all of whom are still playing this weekend, says a lot about where the Chiefs are right now.

They're good enough to get to the playoffs, but not good enough to do anything once they get there.

Go ahead, if you want, and toss out one of the San Diego games, the woulda-shoulda-coulda game at the end of the regular season when the Chiefs sat many of their starters. Even counting that game, the Chiefs turned four of those games into high-scoring affairs, scoring 38 and 24 against the Chargers, 28 against the Broncos in Kansas City and 44 against the Colts in Indianapolis on Sunday.

They got the job done in none of those games. The Chiefs have far too many good defensive players to lose games when they're scoring like that, no matter the opposing quarterback.

Something stinks here and it isn't easy to trace the smell. It is too simple to blame defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. This thing has to run deeper than that.

But it's incumbent on Reid, Sutton and rest of the staff to figure it out. The menu of quarterbacks on Kansas City's schedule next year includes Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Rivers and Peyton Manning twice each.

If they can't beat any of those quarterbacks next season, the Chiefs will be sitting out the postseason.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- According to figures compiled by Pro Football Focus, the Kansas City Chiefs had one of the NFL’s better tackling teams. The Chiefs missed 100 tackles, according to PFF, and only nine teams had better numbers.

The Chiefs would have ranked even higher had they not missed an astounding 17 tackles in their 23-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 22. The tackling was extremely sloppy that day and the Chiefs will have a difficult time winning Saturday’s rematch in the wild-card round in Indianapolis if it doesn’t improve greatly.

The Chiefs were able to keep eight defensive starters out of last week’s final regular-season game in San Diego and that should help improve their tackling against the Colts. The Chiefs, after a torrid start to the season, looked fatigued on defense toward the end of the season and that can be reflected in sloppy tackling.

To illustrate the point, the Chiefs had one of their better tackling games against the Chargers last week. Using mostly fresh players who had spent much of the season as backups, the Chiefs missed only three tackles.

“A lot of it is technique,’’ defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “A lot of it is anticipation. You have to be moving. I think that’s a big part of tackling. You need that and you need multiple people. If you’re making a lot of just single tackles out there, it’s going to be hard. That’s one of the objectives of offensive football is to get guys in space and we need to get as many guys out there as possible to help secure those tackles that are missed right now.

“That’s what you’re looking for because there probably are a few more missed tackles than you realize. Usually there is someone else close by that’s coming to clean it up. That’s what you really want. If you want to be good on defense, that’s what you have to have.”
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It’s the year of the pick-six in the NFL, with 44 interceptions being returned for touchdowns so far around the league. In that light, maybe it’s not so remarkable that the Kansas City Chiefs have five such scores this season.

[+] EnlargeChiefs
Rob Carr/Getty ImagesIn their Week 14 game at Washington, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson intercepts the Redskins in the first quarter.
It’s difficult to deny the impact those plays are having for the Chiefs. Safety Eric Berry is the latest Chiefs player to score off an interception, bringing one back 47 yards in the first quarter last week of what would become a 56-31 win against the Oakland Raiders.

The Chiefs are returning one in every four of their interceptions for a touchdown and it’s getting to the point where they’re upset when one of their interceptions doesn’t go back the other way for a score. This week, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and at least a couple of players bemoaned the fact that Berry’s second interception against the Raiders should have gone for six points, but didn’t.

Some of the interception touchdown returns are luck -- or at least the result of a nice individual play. In Jacksonville in the season-opener, Tamba Hali was in the passing lane when quarterback Blaine Gabbert threw the ball right to him.

He made the catch, had nobody in front of him after he did and made it the 10 yards to the end zone. Likewise, Berry had an open field in front of him for his touchdown last week.

Plays like that are going to happen, but for every one of those, there’s the 100-yard interception for Sean Smith against the Bills in Buffalo last month.

For those situations, the Chiefs, and all teams, work on their returns in practice. The returns are even critiqued by coaches in meetings later, just like any other play.

“You have to kind of establish the mindset that you’re not satisfied with just getting the ball, but you want to score, you want to think score,’’ Sutton said. “One of the things you have to do is get people running toward the ball when it is thrown because ultimately those are going to be your blockers. It’s really like setting up a punt return. We’re going to try to get the ball to the nearest sideline. All of the other defenders are going to build a wall. They’re going to look inside for anybody that’s pursuing the ball.

“The two most dangerous guys to get the defender is the intended receiver because he’s behind him. Then of course the last guy is the quarterback, so you want to make sure you take care of those two players as you go forward and then just keep pursuing the ball. When we intercept in practice we try to return it for a touchdown. We don’t want to just catch it and stop. You have to get up that sideline. The guys have to be hustling to build the wall and it’s like it turns into an offensive play.”
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs should play outside linebacker Justin Houston on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts at Arrowhead Stadium if he’s ready to go. By all appearances at practice on Thursday, Houston is preparing to play.

Houston, wearing a brace on his injured right elbow, hit the sled during an individual drill at practice, something the injury wouldn’t allow him to do last week. Houston has been getting work with the starters, also something that didn’t happen last week.

“He’s practicing,’’ defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “He’s in a lot of the drills. He’s worked with the first group. It’s really day to day and drill to drill, kind of.

“It’s great to see him back out there. The thing I really appreciate about Justin is that he’s practicing like he’s trying to play. That’s what we need him to do. We’ll just see where it goes. Hopefully we can get him [back]. He would be a great boost for us.’’

The Chiefs led the San Diego Chargers 14-3 in the second quarter on Nov. 24 when they lost Houston, then tied for third in the NFL with 11 sacks. For the rest of that game and for two of the three games since, the Chiefs haven’t been the same without him.

If Houston is physically ready to play, he needs to play both on Sunday against the Colts and in the final regular-season game against the Chargers in San Diego on Dec. 29. The Chiefs, at 11-3, have much to play for. They have clinched a playoff spot but can still win the AFC West and the first-round bye that would likely go along with that.

Houston also could use the work after missing 3 1/2 games.

“The first priority obviously is that we want him healthy,’’ Sutton said. “That’s not earth-shattering or anything. Obviously it’s advantageous for him if he can get back out there. It’s a benefit. The first priority is getting him 100 percent healthy. The second is getting him out there and getting him used to it. He’s got to get used to playing with a brace a little bit.’’

Have Chiefs' CBs lost their confidence?

November, 27, 2013
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The shell-shocked looks on the faces of their defensive backs from the weekend were gone Wednesday as the Kansas City Chiefs began preparations for Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium.

But whether their confidence has returned is another matter. A once-punishing defense has lost its swagger, and it's fair to wonder if the cornerbacks are finally buckling under the pressure of playing constant man-to-man coverage.

"I don't think so," defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. "To play cornerback in the National Football League ... you have to have a lot of things. You have to have ability, you have to have great technique and probably the most important quality is you've got to be a tough-minded individual. Every play that happens to you, you want to learn something from and then you want to move on quickly whether it's good, bad or indifferent.

"I don't see them cracking. They're interested in going out there and challenging again."

The Chiefs allowed six pass plays of 20 yards or more in last week's 41-38 loss to the San Diego Chargers. Perhaps more disturbing was that they allowed San Diego receivers a cumulative 228 yards after making a catch.

The Chiefs in particular had trouble covering San Diego's liberal use of shallow crossing routes.

"We play man coverage," said one of the cornerbacks, Sean Smith. "You're going to lose some battles. There are certain schemes and certain routes that are tough to cover in man coverage."

The Broncos are the league's highest scoring teams and ran their share of crossing routes in their 27-17 win over the Chiefs two weeks ago. They undoubtedly noticed Kansas City's problems in covering them against the Chargers and will try those routes Sunday until the Chiefs stop them.

It will certainly help the Chiefs and their cornerbacks if they can get some pressure on Denver quarterback Peyton Manning. They didn't sack him at all two weeks ago. They got to San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers just once last week.

They played much of last week's game without their top two pass rushers, injured outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Hali didn't practice but looks as if he could play Sunday. Houston's availability Sunday is unlikely.

"You have to be able to contest the throws of these players, especially these guys like Peyton and Rivers," Sutton said. "If you don't challenge those throws and you don't challenge those receivers a good portion of the time, it's too easy for them. They're too good, they're too skilled."

Chiefs might need to play some zone

November, 27, 2013
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.

Have opponents caught up to KC's D?

November, 21, 2013
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said the Kansas City Chiefs have "enough things in the cupboard" and opponents haven't figured out his game plans.

That may eventually prove to be true. For now, opposing passing games are finding a way to neutralize the Chiefs' pass rush. According to ESPN Stats and Info, the average time of a dropback for an opponent pass attempt over the past two games is 2.55 seconds. That's compared to 3.81 seconds over the first eight games.

The Chiefs didn't have a sack in either game, against Denver and Buffalo.

Kansas City's ability to win the AFC West championship may depend on Sutton's ability to figure out how to force opponents into turnovers. The Chiefs thrived early in the season when they were doing so, but they have only two interceptions in their last four games.

Sutton's response to the quick passing has so far been to back off the blitz. The Chiefs sent five or more pass rushers to the quarterback on about 34 percent of opponent pass plays in the season's first seven games.

They've done so on just 26 percent of passes since.

"Sometimes you have to play tighter coverage, sometimes you have to go the opposite way and put more people in coverage," Sutton said. "Sometimes you just have to say, well, we're not going to get there so . . . then instead of having normal rushes or any kind of max rushes, you say we'll have limited rushes and put more people in coverage. It's just a game like that.

"If [the opposing quarterback] wants to throw it [quickly], it really doesn't matter if five [pass-rushers] are coming or six are coming or four are coming. If he just wants to get rid of the ball, he can do that. Obviously the more people we put in coverage, the [more] we can affect who he can throw to."

Now, KC can match up with Denver WRs

November, 15, 2013
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The last time the Chiefs played against the Broncos, Kansas City tried to cover big Denver receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker with a pair of 5-foot-9 cornerbacks.

Brandon Flowers and Javier Arenas were often in position, but because they are a half-foot shorter than Thomas and Decker, they couldn't stop the Denver receivers. The pair combined for 14 catches, 198 yards and three touchdowns on Dec. 30, 2012, in a lopsided Chiefs defeat, 38-8.

[+] EnlargeSean Smith
AP Photo/Gary WiepertSean Smith, a 6-3 receiver who is in his first season with Kansas City, returns an interception 100 yards for a touchdown against Buffalo in Week 9.
When new general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid joined the Chiefs in January, one of their first priorities was to look for corners who could not only look players such as Thomas and Decker in the eye, but get physical with them as well.

"The No. 1 thing in corners is coverage," Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. "It's just like receivers. The No. 1 thing is the ability to get open. But if you're bigger and can get open, that's even better. With corners that are bigger and can cover, that's even better."

The Chiefs signed Sean Smith as a free agent, and at 6-3, he's one of the league's tallest cornerbacks. They also claimed off waivers 6-2 rookie Marcus Cooper, who has been a find. Flowers also plays and will likely cover Denver slot receiver Wes Welker who, at 5-9, is Flowers' size.

The Chiefs are confident what happened last year against Decker and Thomas won't be repeated in Denver on Sunday night when they play against the Broncos again.

"It's going to be a tough challenge, but I feel like we've got the players to get it done," Flowers said.

Smith has been a key figure for the Chiefs all season. He has allowed them to play the press man-to-man coverage that Sutton prefers, and Smith's 100-yard interception return was the crucial play in the win against the Bills in Buffalo two weeks ago.

But it's not an oversimplification to say that when boiled to its essence, Smith was signed with the matchups against Thomas, Decker and the Broncos in mind. The teams are fighting for first place in the AFC West and meet again on Dec. 1 in Kansas City.

And there could be a third game between the teams in the postseason.

"I can see how you can look at it that way," Smith said. "But I think it's more that the Chiefs wanted to bring in some big, physical cornerbacks, some guys who can play well in all the games. It's not just about the Broncos. This team was trying to win some more games and do some big things. I'm just a small piece of that."

More accurately, he's a big piece of it.

"Sean is a huge man," Reid said. "He's the size of a linebacker, really."

Smith's length, as well as that of Cooper, could make a big difference. Given the accuracy of Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, who can often put the ball exactly where he wants it, having a tall cornerback could make the window very small in which he needs to fit the ball.

"It gets down to a game of contested throws," Sutton said. "You have to contest those plays. You have to challenge them."

The Chiefs pulled Cooper off waivers from the 49ers days before the start of the regular season. A former wide receiver at Rutgers, Cooper almost immediately claimed playing time by showing strong instincts, good ball awareness and excellent ball skills.

Smith and Flowers are the starters, but Cooper plays when opponents send an extra receiver on the field.

"He'll be all right," Smith said when asked how Cooper will fare against Decker and Thomas. "He's come in and worked hard and gotten better every day, so his confidence is very high right now. He's playing some good ball. This week shouldn't be any different for him. We definitely hold him to the same standards as everybody else on the defense."

It doesn't hurt Cooper that he's tall, at least in the minds of the Chiefs. Dorsey prefers bigger, taller cornerbacks. It's not a coincidence that Arenas, one of last year's starting cornerbacks, was traded to the Arizona Cardinals in the spring.

The Chiefs knew how he matched up with bigger receivers in general and Decker and Thomas in particular. Even over in Denver, Manning has noticed the change in Kansas City's secondary.

"I don't know how much height comes into play," Manning said. "Either the guys can cover or they can't cover, and these guys can cover. They're good players and they're playing well."
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There's much talk surrounding the offense of the Kansas City Chiefs and how it needs to be more productive if the Chiefs are to remain undefeated much longer or win the AFC West.

Bob Sutton hasn't given up on the Chiefs improving on defense. The Chiefs are at or near the top of the league defensively in several key statistical categories. Most importantly, they have allowed fewer points than any other team.

Sutton, the defensive coordinator, said he believes the Chiefs can give him even more.

“I don't think you ever start out thinking you're going to be this or you're going to be that,'' Sutton said. “It's a process where you're trying to stack these bricks. It's about finding some way to improve just a little bit (every day).

“It's a long, hard process, but I think if you can do that ... we can put all those small improvements together and that allows you to keep ascending. You're not going to make these quantum leaps, but we can edge forward.''

He's right. There's no realistic way the Chiefs can be better on defense in the fourth quarter, when they've routinely strangled opponents. They probably won't continue on their current pace for sacks. With 36, they are on pace to tie the NFL's single-season record. After facing a steady diet of backup quarterbacks, the season's final seven weeks will have them going up against, among others, Peyton Manning twice, Philip Rivers twice, Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck.

But there are some areas where the Chiefs can be better. They have allowed 24 pass plays of 20 or more yards. A few of those are byproducts of the aggressive manner in which the Chiefs play defense and are unavoidable, but some can be traced to bad matchups or individual breakdowns.

The Chiefs are allowing exactly 5 yards per first-down play, an average that certainly can improve. The Chiefs also allow a generous 4.7 yards per rushing attempt, though that figure is bloated by some long runs by the opposing quarterback.

So, yeah, we're being picky here. But there is room for growth defensively and it's reasonable to think the Chiefs can get there.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs have been facing a steady menu of backup quarterbacks. Beginning with their Oct. 6 game at Tennessee, the Chiefs are in the midst of a stretch of five games where they will face a quarterback who was a backup when training camp started.

For the second straight week, Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton had to amend a game plan because the opponent during the work week changed quarterbacks on him.

Sunday’s opponent, the Cleveland Browns, announced on Wednesday they would replace their struggling starter, Brandon Weeden, with veteran journeyman Jason Campbell.

Plenty of videotape exists on Campbell, a former starter for the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders. But little exists from the past couple of seasons. He played in two games for the Chicago Bears last season and has thrown four passes for the Browns this year.

“You don’t have it in the context of who’s playing right now and a lot of times it’s not real situations,’’ Sutton said. “It might be the end of preseason games. He played in a Chicago-San Francisco game a year ago as the starting quarterback. We’ve looked at that, but that’s in a different system. So we don’t have as much (video) as you’d like with these receivers, with this offensive system. But that’s just the way it is. We’ve got to drill down as much as we can to understand his habits.

“You feel like you’re behind because you don’t have as much information as you’d like.’’

The Chiefs and Sutton went through the same drill last week when they played against the Houston Texans. Then, the Chiefs were scrambling to prepare for quarterback Case Keenum, who was playing in his first NFL game.

Sutton and the other Chiefs defensive coaches have prepared a game plan for Campbell at some point in the past, giving them an advantage.

“And the players have played against him so they know Jason," Sutton said. "They’ve been on the field with him. They know how fast the ball comes out, they know the velocity of the ball. Last week, I don’t think anyone had ever seen Keenum before. Until you get used to a guy like that and you know how quickly he releases the ball and what he can do, it makes it a little more challenging."

Chiefs have many pass-rush options

October, 15, 2013
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If you're a fan of what now seems like ancient history, the Kansas City Chiefs had 10 sacks in all of 2008. If you prefer your history more recent, the Chiefs sacked the opposing quarterback 27 times last season.

Either way, it's a long way to 2013. The Chiefs lead the league in sacks with 31 and they are on a pace to break the NFL record of 72 set by the Chicago Bears in 1984.

[+] EnlargeMichael Vick
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliJustin Houston is tied for the NFL lead with 9.5 sacks and the Chiefs lead the league with 31.
The Chiefs have a lot of ground to cover if they're to catch those Bears. Whether they get there or not, it's already been a dramatic turnaround in pass-rush fortunes.

Maybe the most interesting thing about this pass rush is that all of the key components (linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston and linemen Dontari Poe and Tyson Jackson) were in place before this season. Among the 31 sacks, all but 2.5 have been delivered by players who were with the Chiefs last season.

That speaks to the schemes brought to the Chiefs by new defensive coordinator Bob Sutton.

"I knew about those two (Hali and Houston)," said coach Andy Reid, who joined the Chiefs in January. "I knew they could rush the passer. Now, Dontari added into that? Somebody that can play as stout as he plays in a two-gap scheme inside and then be able to pass rush? That was another dimension I didn't expect. The push that (Tyson) Jackson gets, I didn't necessarily see that."

Houston and Hali are the engines that make the pass rush go. Houston is tied for the league lead with 9.5 and Hali is fourth with 7.5.

But even taking those two players out of the equation, the Chiefs have 14 sacks, more than many of the other NFL teams. Those sacks have been spread among eight different players. Seven different players were involved in Sunday's 10-sack game against the Oakland Raiders.

That says Sutton has a lot to choose from. Among his better options are linebacker Derrick Johnson and strong safety Eric Berry.

"I would tell you (Sutton) has a good menu to draw from," Reid said. "He had (Berry) in there. He's got a knack for that, like we had with (former Eagles safety Brian) Dawkins before. Eric Berry does the same type of thing. He's just got a nice feel for that. When you start adding in the secondary players, Akeem (Jordan) has a good feel, (Johnson) has a good feel. That's one of the better things that (Brandon) Flowers does."
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs are thriving with a defense that has made life difficult for opposing quarterbacks. They lead the league in sacks, and almost always play tight coverage in the secondary.

There’s often a downside to that type of system: penalties. Strong pass-rushing teams generally jump offside a lot in trying to guess the snap count while those who play plenty of man-press coverage tend to pile up the holding, illegal contact and pass-interference penalties.

So maybe the most remarkable thing about Kansas City’s defense is the Chiefs, while playing with abandon, are also playing with discipline. The 4-0 Chiefs have been penalized on defense just four times. They’ve had two games with no penalties and, not coincidentally, they allowed no points to the opposing offense in one of those games and seven in the other.

The Chiefs aren’t beating themselves. In the NFL, that goes a long way.

“I can’t give you an exact percentage, but when you have a defensive penalty on a drive, the percentages of scoring go up dramatically, especially if it’s a major penalty," defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “So those are big for us."

That’s all well and good, but putting it into practice is much more difficult. The Chiefs have done it. They’ve had a handful of defensive penalties, which helped their overall number.

Still, they haven’t jumped offside once. They have two holding penalties, one for illegal contact and one for grabbing the facemask of an opponent.

“We try to coach them up a little bit on who’s the officiating crew each week and what (penalties it often calls)," Sutton said. “You have to adapt to how a game is being called. If it’s tight, you’d better adjust to what’s happening."

Those are tactics all teams try. The Chiefs are successfully making them work. Discipline usually comes down to strong coaching, and this is yet another indication the Chiefs are being coached well.