Chiefs Pass Rush Has Been Key 3-0 Start and is Key to Their Future


Sep 19, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback

Michael Vick

(7) is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs players

Derrick Johnson


Justin Houston

(50) and

Kendrick Lewis

(23) at Lincoln Financial Field. The Chiefs defeated the Eagles 26-16. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Turnarounds are never simple to explain.

The Chiefs are 3-0 entering Sunday’s game against the New York Giants for a host of reasons. Coaching, better players, modern schemes, and a sense of a fresh start. But if there was one thing to point at on the field for why the Chiefs are a significantly better team so far this season, it is the pass rush.

While Alex Smith has been a significant improvement at the quarterback position, the real turnaround for this team has come from what Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, and Dontari Poe have been able to do in the passing game.

The Chiefs totaled just 27 sacks in 2013, but already have 15 through three games this season even though most of last season’s defense has returned. The difference has been the scheme and the play of Dontari Poe.

Greg Bedard quotes Justin Houston in his “Pressure Points” column:

"“He’s played a major role,” Houston said of [Dontari] Poe. “Any time you can get a big guy up there to push the center back into the quarterback’s face and not allow the quarterback to step up, it’s a whole lot easier to bring pressure off the edge. It’s very important that he get credit because he deserves it. Without him, I wouldn’t have gotten at least a couple of those sacks.”"

The sudden appearance of an inside pass rush, in addition to a more aggressive scheme, has helped the Chiefs stifle offenses and force more turnovers.

This leads us to a subject that is full of dreams: Beating the Denver Broncos.

To have a chance against the Broncos, a defense must have at least three above average corners, a safety who can run with a tight end, and a strong edge pass rush.

Well, according to the Bedard’s rankings, the Chiefs have two top 10 edge pass rushers (Houston, 1; Hali, 10) and a top 10 interior pass rusher (Poe, 7).

KC’s pass rush has been the foundation of the Chiefs defense, and allowed the Chiefs secondary to play to a higher level. As a whole, the cornerbacks have played very well. Flowers had a much better game defending DeSean Jackson, Sean Smith has been excellent all season, and Dunta Robinson hasn’t had an issue with an opponent’s third wide receiver offering.

Safeties Eric Berry, Kendrick Lewis, and Quintin Demps have been able to fill their roles very well as a result. Demps has been key in covering tight ends, which has allowed Berry to roam the field and play in different positions. Lewis has been an asset in covering receiver heavy formations by playing a disciplined centerfield.

The three safeties were all useful in beating the Eagles last Thursday as the Chiefs employed a 2-4-5 scheme.

But the constant in all of this is the pressure they can create with Houston, Hali, and Poe. Because those three were able to force pressure on Vick – remember there were only TWO down lineman for the Chiefs and Poe still was incredibly active – KC’s secondary was able to eat up space.

The lack of space to roam for the Eagles playmakers and the pass rush forced Vick into bad decisions. (NFLosophy’s tweets capture this.) KC was as responsible for the Eagles’ turnovers as the Eagles were themselves.

This brings us to the Broncos.

Peyton Manning is a million times (estimate) more accurate than Vick, but Manning is also a million times (not an estimate) less mobile than Vick. If the Chiefs can continue to put pressure on the quarterback with only Houston, Hali, and Poe, then it will allow the Chiefs to eat up space in the secondary they way they did in Philadelphia.

In short, the Chiefs may have one of the few defensive personnel groups to “slow down” the Broncos offense. Again, it is only three games. But the early returns suggest the Chiefs’ defense for real as opposed to being a product of luck.

Now if the Chiefs can fix the offense…