NFL Nation: Dontari Poe
2. Pierre Garcon has had an impressive season and his 84 receptions are the most in franchise history after 12 games. Next highest: Art Monk with 71 catches and Gary Clark with 66. Garcon has done a terrific job, but the problem here is the total yards. Despite having 13 and 18 more catches, respectively, than the Monk and Clark, Garcon does not have more receiving yards than at the same point. He has 980 yards compared to Monk (1,007) and Clark (1,126).
3. Garcon’s yards after the catch (491) rank fourth in the NFL, but that stems in part from how many screen passes and smoke routes he’s run -- plays designed for yards after the catch. He has not been a big threat downfield. It’s why he’s averaging just 11.7 yards per catch, tying his career low (for the five seasons in which he’s been a regular).
5. In fact, no Redskin with at least 10 catches is averaging more than 12.5 yards per catch, which is a major problem. Every other team in the NFL has at least one player averaging more yards per catch than 12.5. Last season, the Redskin had four players who finished with at least 20 catches who averaged at least 13.5 yards per reception. This also speaks to the lack of explosiveness at this position. Aldrick Robinson has speed, but I wouldn’t consider him explosive (though on his six catches he averages 25.3 yards. The problem? Six catches. He’s just not that good). Leonard Hankerson (obviously now hurt) runs good routes, but after the catch doesn’t make anyone miss. All of this is a function of how teams are defending the Redskins, the line not giving quarterback Robert Griffin III enough time to always throw deep, Griffin’s accuracy being off and receivers who don’t get open. That about sums it up.
6. This is the time of the year when the media starts voting on its Good Guy award winner, the player who helps the media best do its job. Despite a 3-9 record, the Redskins have players who routinely do this. It’s not easy getting asked all the time about bad performances or about whether or not a coach should be fired (it’s a bit rare when players publicly say yes) or about what might happen to them. They all know if there’s a regime change it puts them on notice, too. One player who has been largely absent during the week? Second-year back Alfred Morris. Not quite sure why; the press he gets is almost always good. But he does talk after games. He was terrific to talk to last season and even early in the year. He still seems jovial when seen around the facility.
7. Oh, yeah, the game. The Redskins’ defense will be challenged by Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles. He’s averaging 4.6 yards per carry and has scored nine touchdowns. Charles is a big-time threat in the pass game, too, with a team-best 55 receptions. Charles hits holes fast, but he’s not going to lower his shoulder and drive through defenders. It’s not his running style.
8. Another thing: He and fellow back Dexter McCluster are used on a lot of screens. The Chiefs will use both players on the field at the same time and will get them the ball on a variety of routes. They’ll even have them run crossing routes underneath, trying to get them the ball in space in one-on-one situations. McCluster has 42 receptions.
9. The Chiefs haven’t applied a lot of pressure in recent games, but consider that two of their last three games have come against Denver and that’s a bit understandable. Few if any quarterbacks get rid of the ball faster than Denver’s Peyton Manning. With leading sacker Justin Houston (11 sacks) out Sunday, the Chiefs’ rush will take a hit. Outside linebacker Tamba Hali has nine sacks. While he’s fast, it’s his always-active hands that create issues. But they will try to manufacture pressure with a variety of looks. They had one blitz, for example, against New York earlier this season in which they stunted the end and the tackle on the nose on the left side with the inside linebackers executing the same move right behind them. Yes, it led to major pressure. That also came with a blitz. “They have a ton of stuff like that,” Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen said. “Usually we have a meeting on Thursday and go over the blitz and what they like to do and it’s a short meeting. But this one was like 15 minutes because they do a lot of stuff we’re not used to.”
10. The key? Running the ball well, especially on early downs. Kansas City allows a hefty 4.6 yards per rush and any pass rush is negated by a team able to put itself in third-and-shorts. But going inside the numbers, I’m not sure the Chiefs are that bad. Some backs have had strong games (Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller, Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy, Denver's Montee Ball). But, for the most part, they’ve done well against a team’s top back. One reason: nose tackle Dontari Poe, who is strong and quick and occupies double teams. He’ll be a handful Sunday.
Both have since been released.
“Jerrell is a pure nose guard,’’ coach Andy Reid said. “That’s kind of his deal. We have had some guys in here that I thought were good football players [but they] were probably more [defensive ends] than pure nose. He gives you the flexibility of giving Dontari in our base look a rest. [General manager John Dorsey] thought that was important and we’re on board with that. We understand.
“He’s somebody the coaches feel comfortable with.’’
The Chiefs on Sunday are facing the Redskins in Washington. The Redskins lead the league in rushing, so the Chiefs could be spending more time in their base defense on Sunday than they normally do.
That base defense could include some of Powe and less of Poe than usual.
“We’ll see how it goes,’’ Reid said. “That base unit is going to play a little bit this week. Their run game is the best in the National Football League, so they’re going to play a little bit.’’
The Chiefs changed their mind on Powe Tuesday when he was re-signed. They released defensive tackle Kyle Love, who had only joined the Chiefs last month. Love was a healthy scratch for last week's game against the Denver Broncos.
The Chiefs can't have big plans for Powe, not the way they use Poe. He rarely comes out of the game, so Powe may have little or nothing to do unless Poe is injured. Powe could even be inactive for Sunday's game against the Redskins in Washington.
Poe has been in the lineup for 95 percent of Kansas City's defensive plays.
"I can't imagine that there's that many players of his size that don't come out of the game very often," defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said.
Poe is probably the only one, in fact. It says two things about Poe, one being his superb physical conditioning. Poe said he has greatly improved his diet, something he credits for his iron man defensive status.
But it also speaks to Poe's value to the Chiefs. He's still playing well, as are a couple of his defensive teammates, linebacker Derrick Johnson and safety Eric Berry. But as the play of Kansas City's cornerbacks have declined and their pass rush has stalled, it's becoming obvious that Poe is their most valuable player, at least on the defensive side.
"He has played a lot of snaps," coach Andy Reid said. "He's a tough one to substitute (for) because he wants to be out there every snap. He doesn't want to come out of the game. He enjoys playing.
"I don't see anything where he's fatigued at this point. He's maintained his play level and he's been healthy and he enjoys the role he's been in."
The player right in the middle of the action.
"You just can't play it with without the nose tackle," Collier has said. "Until you get that guy you're not going to be able to do all of the things you're going to need to do to stop people."
The NFL's No. 1 scoring defense at the moment, the Kansas City Chiefs, have that guy and the Broncos are going to see Dontari Poe up close and personal Sunday night. And after a rookie season in 2012 when Poe occasionally flashed his immense talent, he has arrived this season and helped power the Chiefs through their 9-0 start.
"(I) noticed him last year, know he was still kind of learning that system as an NFL player," said Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase. "He's really made some strides, he's a tough matchup for our offensive line."
For a team that currently leads the league in scoring defense (12.3) and sacks (36) Poe has been one of the most disruptive, hard-to-handle players for opposing offenses because of his size/speed/quickness combination. He has five tackles for loss on the interior to go with 4.5 sacks. During his final season at the University of Memphis, people saw Poe's athleticism, his potential. But they also saw a player who had just one sack in 2011 and was 11th on his team in tackles.
But then Poe, at 6-4, 346 pounds went to the NFL's scouting combine in the week leading up to the 2012 draft and uncorked a 40-yard dash in 4.98 seconds on the electronic clock -- a run that was hand-timed by more than one scout at 4.99. He also powered up 225 pounds in the bench-press stop 44 times.
Now he is the anchor in the middle of the Chiefs' 3-4, the guy who demands attention in the heart of the formation so Kansas City's edge rushers can find more room to work. And work they have as outside linebacker Justin Houston leads the team with 11 sacks and outside linebacker Tamba Hali has 9.0 sacks to go with an interception return for a touchdown and a fumble return for a touchdown.
That consistent pressure up the middle, the kind Poe and the rest of the Chiefs three-man defensive front provides, is always a way to create turnovers and on the to-do list for a team like the Chiefs with five touchdowns on defense already this season.
Broncos center Manny Ramirez, who has played through a sore left knee of late, will battle Poe much of the time. Ramirez is a tough player who thrives in the power game. But to get anything going in the run game and to give quarterback Peyton Manning the room he needs to step up and throw, Ramirez will have to handle Poe.
The more help -- especially when the Broncos are in a three-wide receiver look with tight end Julius Thomas lined up in the slot or outside -- the Broncos have to give to Ramirez means the less help available against the Chiefs' edge rushers.
It will be a key tipping point in the game.
The other 12 players on their report were listed as probable. That includes cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee) and tight end Anthony Fasano (ankle/knee). Both were listed as being limited practice participants on Friday.
Everyone else on their injury report was listed as a full practice participant: wide receiver Donnie Avery (shoulder), offensive linemen Branden Albert (knee/elbow), Jon Asamoah (knee) and Jeff Allen (groin/hand), nose tackle Dontari Poe (ankle), fullback Anthony Sherman (knee), punter Dustin Colquitt (knee), tight end Kevin Brock (shoulder), linebacker Dezman Moses (toe) and defensive lineman Jaye Howard (non-injury related).
The promotion of Commings, a fifth-round draft pick from Georgia, to the active roster, appears inevitable, with the only question being the timing of the move. Commings was a nickel safety for the Chiefs during offseason practice and would have challenged for playing time had he not broken his collarbone during the first practice at training camp.
The Chiefs are deep in the secondary, with the emergence of rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper and veteran safeties Quintin Demps and Husain Abdullah, but the return of Commings would provide even more security at the back end of their defense.
Starting tight end Anthony Fasano, who has missed the last four games because of knee and ankle injuries, returned to practice on a limited basis and said that barring a setback he would play Sunday against the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium.
The only player who did not practice was starting free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle). The only other player who was limited in practice was cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee).
The Chiefs listed nine players as full practice participants: tackle Branden Albert (knee/elbow), nose tackle Dontari Poe (ankle), guard Jeff Allen (groin/hand), guard Jon Asamoah (knee), wide receiver Donnie Avery (shoulder), tight end Kevin Brock (shoulder), fullback Anthony Sherman (knee), punter Dustin Colquitt (knee) and linebacker Dezman Moses (toe).
Some years later, Kubiak as coach of the Houston Texans is preparing a team to play against a Chiefs pass rush that also features premier edge pass rushers, but other key components as well.
“It’s impressive,’’ said Kubiak, who brings the Texans to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. “When you get 10 [sacks] in one game, it’s kind of hard to say, ‘We’ve got to block that guy.’ That’s what’s so impressive. Andy (Reid) has got such a quality team thing going on right now. That’s what good teams do. Production comes from everywhere, not one or two places. You could just see the energy they’re (playing with).’’
The Chiefs, taking advantage of a tattered opposing offensive line, sacked Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor 10 times in last week’s victory. Seven different players had at least a half-sack.
The edge pass rushers, Justin Houston (9.5 sacks) and Tamba Hali (7.5), are among the league leaders. But even taking them out of the equation, the Chiefs have 14 sacks from eight players, so they come at opposing quarterbacks from a lot of different places and angles. Nose tackle Dontari Poe has 4.5 sacks and is generating consistent push up the middle.
When the Chiefs set the club record of 60 sacks in 1990, 29.5 came from Thomas and Smith. Those Chiefs had nine other players with at least one sack.
“They’re special because they’re so balanced as a defense,’’ Kubiak said. “Both edge (pass rushers) and the nose guard (are) just playing huge for them. They’re very aggressive in their approach. You get yourself in tough third-down situations and you’re going to have a tough time holding up, not only with the things they do defensively but with the noise putting an added burden on you as a football team.’’
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.
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."
“If we're going to win,” Munchak said then, “it's going to be because our offensive line is a lot better than it was last year, and we're physical, and we're relentless, and we're going to move people around on both sides of the ball. And if we do that, which we're very capable of doing with the guys that we have, then we're going to win a lot of football games. If we don't do that, then it doesn't matter."
The Titans are a determined run team. But a determined run team with three new line starters and a couple new backs behind the starter should be better than this by Week 5.
And through Week 5 the Titans have a pricy running back who's average is down to a paltry 3.1 yards a carry.
The Titans are supposed to be a team that can get a tough yard. But facing first-and-1 from the Kansas City 1-yard line in the second quarter, this was the sequence:
- First down: Jackie Battle up the middle, no gain, tackle by defensive end Anthony Toribio and inside linebacker Akeem Jordan
- Second down: Fitzpatrick pass batted at line, caught by Fitpatrick, no gain
- Third down: Fitzpatrick scrambles, sacked for no yards
- Fourth down: Battle up the middle, no gain, tackle by defensive tackle Dontari Poe and Toribio
On the second down play Fitzpatrick got tripped up as he backed out, and had Delanie Walker open but could not deliver it.
“Once we see it on tape, there are probably a lot of reasons why that isn't in the end zone,” left tackle Michael Roos said. “It's terrible on our part, to start with. As an offensive line being revamped like that, we have to get that in. You can't make excuses. …I'm sure there were multiple guys that had issues in it. We've just got to get it in.”
Part of the Titans talk about their run game at this stage has been about the difficult fronts they have faced. But five games should be a pretty reasonable simply on defense in general, and five games should be more than enough time to figure out runs that can work.
“Third-and-1, fourth-and-1 from the 1, you've got to punch that in, that's unacceptable,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “Right now my concern is fixing the problem. We've got to figure that out ASAP. We've played some good defenses, but that's no excuse. We have a lot of talent up front. We need to do a better job."
I've credited this staff for not being stubborn with game plans and determined to prove it was right in planning. But I think Loggains was guilty of some of that here.
The Titans ran it mostly inside, and Poe is an immovable force in there. They hardly tested the edge, though Battle had they team's big run to the outside late, a 37-yarder.
“We didn't have anything in the game plan going outside,” Roos said.
Said Loggains: “The strength of that defense is definitely the edge rushers and the linebackers are sideline to sideline players, (Derrick Johnson) can run, all those guys can run. The thing is we didn't do a good job inside getting those guys covered up. It's something we've got to continue to work on.”
Taking the ball inside to where center Rob Turner, the line's weakest link, was struggling with Poe even with help seems like an idea to work on as well.
Meanwhile the Chiefs had personnel issues with right tackle Eric Foster out.
Kansas City was, nevertheless, what the Titans talk of being: A reliably effective run team riding a top back. Jamaal Charles took 22 carries 108 yards and scored a touchdown from, you guessed it, a yard out.
PHILADELPHIA -- The world will no doubt find fault with the fast-paced, no-huddle offense of Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles now that it has proven to have a few flaws.
A better idea might be to give credit to the Kansas City Chiefs, who left town after a 26-16 victory Thursday over the Eagles, for having one of the league’s best defensive teams. Burdened with a sputtering offense that settled for field goals to end four drives, the Chiefs controlled the game with a defense that scored a touchdown on Eric Berry’s 38-yard interception return, forced three other turnovers and sacked Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick five times.
The Eagles had 431 yards of offense -- including 260 rushing -- and inflicted some damage. But it added up to little. The Chiefs were the clear winners in that battle.
“They are an explosive offense," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “They have a great scheme and they have a great guy, a great coach, calling the plays, so I knew it was going to be a challenge. They’re going to get a big play here and there. You’ve got to try to limit that as best you can, and I thought our guys did that. Our defense is coming together each week."
The 3-0 Chiefs were actually excellent defensively right from the start. They strangled the Jacksonville Jaguars in the regular-season opener, then held off the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2. The Chiefs headed to Philadelphia having allowed just 18 total points, second-lowest in the league to Seattle's 10.
So it should have been no secret the Chiefs had something good going on defense. But the Eagles had something special going on offense, having scored at least 30 points in each of their first two games.
Something had to give. The Eagles had four plays of at least 40 yards Thursday, but the Chiefs made the plays that determined the result.
Kansas City had a short week to prepare for Philadelphia’s unorthodox offense, and conventional wisdom held that would give the Eagles an advantage. But the Chiefs have been preparing for some time, either directly or indirectly, for Philadelphia’s fast pace.
“We’ve been working on the no-huddle since [offseason practice]," linebacker Justin Houston said. “They’re not the only team that’s going to do it. We know Denver is going to do this, too. We were prepared for this."
With both Vick and LeSean McCoy having big nights rushing, the Chiefs were often embarrassed when the Eagles ran. McCoy in particular was able to make the Chiefs look bad on a number of tackles, showing that in one regard, at least, Kansas City has some work to do.
But the Chiefs probably won’t face another team with a combination of skilled runners like the Eagles have in McCoy and Vick.
The passing game was another matter entirely. Vick entered the game as the NFL’s third-leading passer. DeSean Jackson entered the game as its leader in receiving yardage.
The Chiefs battered Vick early and often, intercepting him twice and sacking him five times. Jackson had one big catch, a 40-yarder, but otherwise accounted for 22 yards.
Houston took advantage of his matchup with Philadelphia rookie tackle Lane Johnson by getting to Vick 4.5 times. Houston leads the NFL with 7.5 sacks and could wind up challenging the Chiefs single-season record of 20, set by Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas in 1990.
“There is no limit for him," nose tackle Dontari Poe said. “You can tell he wants it."
Otherwise, pass-rushers credited good coverage for the consistent pressure on Vick, while the defensive backs credited the rushers. There’s enough credit to go around, though the Chiefs don’t seem to have much interest in it.
“We don’t need anyone else outside of our group telling us how good we are," said cornerback Sean Smith, who had an interception. “We know how hard we practice, how hard we work and how well our talents complement each other."
The upcoming schedule could set up the Chiefs for a nice defensive run.
Their next game is against Eli Manning and the Giants. After that, though, they face this succession of quarterbacks: Jake Locker, Terrelle Pryor, Matt Schaub, whoever the Browns use and rookie EJ Manuel. They’ll face some of the better quarterbacks in the league over the season’s second half, including Peyton Manning twice, Philip Rivers twice, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.
By then, the world might indeed know what the Chiefs already do about their defense.
“It doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks," Houston said. “We’re just going to keep rolling. We’re on a mission. We have a bigger goal in mind."
Fast-forward: In the Kansas City Chiefs, Vick faces two obstacles. The Chiefs defense was able to stop the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, especially once coordinator Bob Sutton adjusted his approach to Dez Bryant. Beginning with nose tackle Dontari Poe, who can produce the inside pressure that disrupts a quarterback's timing, the Chiefs have a lot of talent on defense.
The other twist is the presence of Andy Reid, who coached Vick for four up-and-down seasons. Reid may not have special insight into Chip Kelly's offensive scheme, but he knows all too well what sort of blitzes and coverages created problems for Vick. Should be an interesting chess match.
Going deep: Vick's longest completion of the season was a 70-yard pickup by LeSean McCoy that traveled about 10 yards in the air. It was all McCoy for the rest. But Sunday's game did mark the return of Jackson as a deep threat. That should help loosen up defenses, but only if Vick and Jackson can get their timing down a bit better. Vick missed Jackson on four deep routes before hitting on a 61-yard touchdown.
Prediction: With Vick, every great performance brings you closer to the (perceived) inevitable clunker. He has avoided sacks and turnovers superbly this season. Reid's insight and the Chiefs' talent create the perfect formula for a choppy Vick performance.
There are eight teams in the NFL with 2-0 records, and the Watch thought it would be nice to pick one candidate from each of them for this week’s list. That wasn’t easy, since they don’t all have quarterbacks lighting up the stat sheets and most of them don’t have dominating running backs either and those are the positions players play who tend to win MVP awards.
So while you’ll find some obvious candidates (including the most obvious at the very top), you’ll also find some reaches -- some guys who could never realistically win this award in a million years but deserve recognition for the way they’ve played to help their teams start 2-0. The Watch is circumspect like that. The Watch digs, researches, asks around. The Watch wouldn’t mind living in a world in which a nose tackle could get MVP votes. But the Watch isn’t crazy. Eight of these guys play the MVPosition.
With apologies to the creators of "Breaking Bad," Manning isn't in the football business or the money business. He's in the empire business. Manning is the Heisenberg of the MVP Watch, ruthless and driven in pursuit of a 100 percent-pure sky-blue game plan. Uniquely mentally equipped and sufficiently armed to win this award, he'd take out his own brother to get where he and the Broncos need to go. He's got seven huge barrels of excess touchdown passes buried in a secluded spot miles from downtown Denver. He is the danger. He is the one who knocks.
For a brief second, the Watch thought about Jimmy Graham. But Brees could sense the wavering, and he fired a pinpoint, 1,300-mile pass from New Orleans to North Jersey that whacked the Watch in the side of the head at high velocity. There was a note stapled to the ball. "From the desk of Drew Brees" it read, "Just curious who you think made Jimmy Graham?" Good point, the Watch thought, then went and got an ice pack. Thursday morning there'll be another ball nestled perfectly on the Watch's pillow and the note will say, "That's right."
And the Emmy for Best Performance in an Effort to Let a National Audience Know You're Convinced You're the Only Player on Your Team Who Can Play Football at All goes to ... "Wow! This is so unexpected! I'd like to thank my beautiful wife, Gisele, my agent, the folks at UGGs ..." Seriously, by Week 6, Tommy Boy's just going to say forget it and start throwing passes high and far enough that he can get downfield and catch them himself.
The Watch is so happy the Packers won Sunday. Would have felt dirty, or like an idiot, if they'd been 0-2 and Rodgers had to spend a second straight week off this list. Mrs. Watch read last week's column and she said she understood the point about MVP candidates needing to come from winning teams, but then she was like, "Aaron Rodgers, though," and she totally had a point. Welcome back, Aaron. Let's never fight again.
You drafted him too high in fantasy and the numbers aren't fantasy matchup-winning numbers, so you're out there yelling, "What is Russell Wilson doing on this list?" Just because the Watch isn't called "the Listen" doesn't mean it can't hear you. But the quarterback on the best team in the league always makes the list. And anyway, it's not Wilson's fault you drafted him too high. Heck, even the Seahawks waited until the third round. Wilson's a whip-smart leader-type who cares less for numbers than for knowing the right play in the right spot, and by the way is averaging 8.89 yards per pass attempt. Maybe you just need to play in fantasy leagues that award points for yards per pass attempt. Ever think of that?
This guy's sideline demeanor makes Brady look like Mr. Rogers (Fred, that is), but the Bears are keeping him upright for the first time and he's rewarding them with cotton-candy-sweet, game-winning touchdown passes to Martellus Bennett in the corner of the end zone. Cutler has the fifth-best completion percentage in the league, a 2-0 record and a coach he appears to actually like. This is no small thing, because, as has been well established, Cutler doesn't like anyone.
You know it's early in the year when Tannehill's on this list and Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III aren't. ("Who's the king of the 2012 first round now?!?!?") But Luck and RG III aren't 2-0. Together they're not even 2-2. And Tannehill's playing tough as skunk jerky. Kid's taken nine sacks in two games and is still completing better than 65 percent with only one interception. Eli Manning is currently averaging one interception per quarter, if you round up.
J.J. Watt is a beast and was brilliant in the first two episodes of the current season of "The League." But Houston's defense was one of the best in the NFL last year until Cushing got hurt, and ... well, less so after. In the Texans' two wins so far, Cushing has two sacks, 15 tackles and an interception he returned for a touchdown. A dark-horse defensive MVP candidate says Watt? Party on, Garth.
The only one on here besides Rodgers who's not 2-0, which means he had to beat out several others for this spot. Candidates included Matt Ryan and three different Eagles. The Watch thought about putting Michael Vick here while there's still a chance, since Chip Kelly seems to have designed an offense whose specific purpose is to destroy him. But Rivers beat Vick head-to-head Sunday in a 10 a.m. PT game, coming off a late Monday nighter and with Eddie Royal as his top receiver. He gets the spot.
The Watch was thinking Alex Smith but fell asleep writing the blurb and then woke up and emailed ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher to ask what he thought. Teicher threw out Poe. "Three-and-a-half sacks and excellent against the run," Teicher said. Pro Football Focus has Poe rated top seven in the league against the run and tied for second in "stops," which seems like pretty much the essential category for a nose tackle. He goes 6-foot-3, 346 pounds, and the Watch welcomes your suggestions for jokes about Poe and his new coach celebrating their 2-0 record by ransacking the barbecue joints in the greater Kansas City area.
- The Chiefs unveiled the pressure scheme of new defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and showed they have the personnel to make it work. The Chiefs had six sacks, at times overwhelming the Jaguars not with numbers but plain force. Outside linebacker Justin Houston, who brought down Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert three times, served notice that he will be among the league leaders in sacks this season. The Chiefs also received considerable push up the middle, much of it from nose tackle Dontari Poe. On the back end, coverage held up nicely. A bigger challenge awaits Sunday when the Chiefs play against Tony Romo and the Cowboys in Kansas City.
- The Chiefs were last in the NFL in turnover differential last season at minus-24 but got off to a good start in Jacksonville, where they were plus-2. The Chiefs not only scored a defensive touchdown on linebacker Tamba Hali’s 10-yard interception return, but also set up the offense with favorable field position after a Brandon Flowers' interception. Such help will be key for an offense that doesn’t figure to get a lot of big plays and will struggle if it has to go 80 yards each time it takes possession. The Chiefs committed zero turnovers, no small factor in the victory. The Chiefs led 21-2 at halftime, and it was evident at that point the only way the Jaguars would rally was if Kansas City provided some help. While the offense didn’t score in the second half, it also didn’t make any mistakes that would have given Jacksonville a chance to get back into the game.
- The running game was sluggish in the preseason, but Jamaal Charles found plenty of running room in Jacksonville. Charles averaged a healthy 4.8 yards on his 16 carries. Run blocking was far superior to that in the preseason, when the Chiefs were occasionally overwhelmed at the point of attack. Backup right guard Geoff Schwartz, subbing for injured starter Jon Asamoah, was one of Kansas City’s best linemen. Charles left the game in the second half with a quad injury but should be ready to play against Dallas.
- The Chiefs were outstanding in the kicking game in the preseason, but special teams allowed Jacksonville to score its only points when assignments were missed on the first punt of the game. The kick was blocked and went out of the end zone for a safety. The special teams recovered nicely. Dexter McCluster returned a punt 36 yards to set up the Chiefs’ first touchdown, which came after a drive of just 24 yards. The offense will succeed if it consistently gets help like that from the return game.
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."
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."
Final Indianapolis 28 Cincinnati 42 Final Atlanta 21 Green Bay 22 Final Cleveland 26 New England 27 Final Oakland 27 New York 37 Final Detroit 20 Philadelphia 34 Final Miami 34 Pittsburgh 28 Final Buffalo 6 Tampa Bay 27 Final Kansas City 45 Washington 10 Final Minnesota 26 Baltimore 29 Final Tennessee 28 Denver 51 Final St. Louis 10 Arizona 30 Final New York 14 San Diego 37 Final Seattle 17 San Francisco 19 Final Carolina 13 New Orleans 31