Upside down world in Kansas City: That’s why defense is suddenly the chiefs’ strength

The Kansas City Chiefs have won their last four games, especially the defense of the team was able to convince. Why is the unit suddenly playing so hard? And do the Chiefs count among the Super Bowl favorites again?

Four wins from the last four games, at the weekend the Chiefs even defeated the Dallas Cowboys, who were treated as the top team around their MVP candidate Dak Prescott. The shape curve of the franchise clearly points in the right direction in the recent past.

Kansas City is back at the top of their own division, with a 7-4 record the team leads the AFC West, as almost all experts had expected before the season. Even the first place in the AFC and thus a bye week in the first playoff round seems within reach. Only the Ravens and the Titans currently have a better record in the Conference – and they recently lost to the Dolphins and the Texans, so they are anything but unbeatable.

Are the Chiefs the favorites again in an AFC that is ailing at the top? Are they possibly even one of the Super Bowl favorites again?

NFL: The old chiefs aren’t back yet

Caution still seems appropriate before the team around quarterback Patrick Mahomes is again associated with such superlatives. Because even if the results over the last few weeks could hardly be better, the “old” Chiefs are not back yet.

The offense has caught up a little and the absurd turnover figures have been reduced a little, but there is still a lot missing to the offensive dominance of previous years. In the last five games, the Chiefs have only scored more than 20 points once. For comparison: the Jaguars managed to do this just as often in the same period, the Jets and Giants even more often.

However: The Chiefs defense is now clearly playing better than it was at the start of the season. Over the past few weeks, the defense has even presented itself on a higher level than in any of the previous years, including the 2019 Super Bowl season.

During its winning streak, the franchise never allowed more than 17 points. In four games Kansas City took a total of 47 points, less than 12 points per game.

Kansas City Chiefs: Defense as a strength

And the services of the Chiefs Defense go beyond the pure box score statistics. The so-called Advanced Metrics also prove the defensive success of the team in November.

In the meaningful EPA / Play statistics, the Chiefs have been in sixth place in the league since week 8. Only one team is clearly better over this period: the New England Patriots. Kansas City ranks better than the NFL average against both run and pass. A fact that just a few weeks ago seemed almost impossible.

But where does the upswing in the defense of Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, which was so scolded at the beginning of the season, come from? One of the explanations for the unit’s recently improving performance is its own staff.

The Chiefs have been particularly dependent on the performance of their top stars for years – probably more than any other team. The focus in putting the squad together was primarily on getting the best possible performers in important positions, who were paid accordingly. The breadth and depth have been neglected in favor of these stars.

This explains both the problems in the offense, in which Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill all went through minor and major form crises, as well as the significant improvement in defense. One player in particular has to be in focus: Chris Jones.

Chiefs: Chris Jones dominates in a new, old role

Jones, one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL for years, was put in a new role at the beginning of this season: The 27-year-old played increasingly as an edge defender, attacking the opposing offensive line and the quarterback from one of the outer positions in the Defensive line, no longer from the inside. The impact that Jones had in this role was, however, significantly less than in previous years.

Over the past few weeks, Jones has been used again as an interior rusher and immediately played stronger again. This was particularly evident against the Cowboys: Jones dominated his direct opponents and usurped the game. He booked 3.5 sacks and 7 pressures, forced and secured a fumble and forged a pass in such a way that it ended up in the hands of teammate L’Jarius Sneed – an absolute monster game!

Over the last four games of the Chiefs, Jones had 4.5 sacks and 8 quarterback hits. Previously, he had only been able to collect four 4 quarterback hits in the entire season. The two-time all-pro not only played in an unfamiliar position in the first half of the season, but also suffered from a wrist injury and missed two games due to heel problems.

Kansas City Chiefs mit beeindruckendem Pass-Rush

The clear increase in Jones’s performance took what had been a toothless pass rush to a new level: The Sacks first set themselves against the Cowboys, but in previous games the Kansas City’s line also exerted significantly more pressure on the opposing quarterback.

Jones plays a central role in this, but is not the sole reason. Three weeks ago, the Chiefs brought Melvin Ingram from Pittsburgh via trade. The 32-year-old has not yet been able to book a sack. However, according to his own coaches, his presence on the line of scrimmage is clearly noticeable.

With Jones, Ingram, Jarran Reed and Frank Clark, the Chiefs can now muster a four-men rush that is more than impressive on paper. The players also benefit from this individually: Clark, who has been largely a disappointment since his signing from Seattle, also made his best game of the season so far against the Cowboys.

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