Resurgence of the Chiefs Defense Makes Them the Best Team in the AFC

The Kansas City Chiefs are coming off of a 19-9 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.  The Chiefs have witnessed their defense go from one of the worst in the NFL to one that is feared by opposing offenses. If this defense was a Pokemon, then it has evolved into its fearsome final stage. According to NFL Research, “The Chiefs defense has allowed fewer than 20 points in 4 straight games (all wins). The last time they did that was a 5-game streak from Weeks 11-16, 2019, and just over a month after that streak, they won Super Bowl LIV.”

The Chiefs Acquire Melvin Ingram via Trade

On November 2nd, 2021, the Pittsburg Steelers would trade defensive end, Melvin Ingram, to the Kansas City Chiefs for a conditional 2022 pick (6th round). This trade was the key that would unlock the Chiefs’ defense. For context, this defense has allowed a measly 11.8 points per game in the last four contests.  According to Chiefs Reporter Matt McMullen, this is the second-best mark in the NFL-and they’re the only team in the league this season to hold the opposition to 17 points or fewer in four straight games.

Melvin Ingram created flexibility on the defensive line for the Chiefs. Chris Jones has been able to kick back inside to defensive tackle. He has proven to be a force at the position when he posted 15.5 sacks in 2018. So far in 2021, Jones has 6.5 sacks, with 3.5 coming against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 11. This trade has also elevated the play of Jarran Reed and Frank Clark. Both players have seen their sack totals rise. The acquisition of Ingram has also allowed defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo the opportunity to throw different blitz packages.

 

The Chiefs Secondary Has Performed at an Elite Level

With the Chiefs’ defensive line applying pressure on opposing quarterbacks, the secondary has elevated their play. For example, according to Next Gen Stats, on 10+ air-yard passes in Weeks 1-8, the Chiefs allowed a completion percentage of 51.3%. Since Week 9, the completion percentage has dropped to 37%. Another noticeable stat on 10+ air-yard passes is in Weeks 1-8, they allowed nine touchdowns and only intercepted two passes. Since Week 9, they have only allowed two touchdowns and have intercepted four passes.

The Chiefs’ secondary has intercepted opposing quarterbacks seven times. The average passing yards have diminished for opposing quarterbacks as well. In Week 11, the Chiefs allowed 194 passing yards and zero touchdowns to Dak Prescott. According to Pro Football Reference, the opponent has attempted 126 3rd down conversions, only completing 50 for a 39.7% conversion rate. All these stats are a result of forcing the opposition to act quicker and adjust play calling.

Chiefs Rookie Linebacker Nick Bolton Is Impressive

The Chiefs have had two young linebackers step up and aid this defense. Rookie Nick Bolton leads the team in combined tackles and is in the top 20 in the NFL. He received Defensive Rookie of the Month in October.  According to Chiefs Reporter Matt McMullen,

“Bolton recorded 32 total tackles during that four-game stretch – which ranked second among all rookies – while racking up the second-most tackles-for-loss (7) of any player in the league in that time. He was particularly productive over the last two weeks, tallying 26 total tackles (the third-most in the NFL) and four tackles-for-loss.”

Nick Bolton has breathed life into the linebacker room along with Willie Gay. Since returning from injury, Gay has been an intricate part of this defense. He has 25 total tackles, two interceptions, and two pass deflections. Gay brings much more than stats. His ability to cover is noticeable, and his hustle does not go unnoticed.

Chiefs Use Bye Week to Recover

In the end, this defense has gone from one of the worst to one of the best. A renewed excitement has been injected into this team and the fan base. With the defense playing at an elite level, it is hard to say there is a better team in the AFC than the Kansas City. The offense has sputtered in numerous games but has seen some progress which only makes this team scarier. Look for this team to recharge during the bye week and prepare for the remainder of the season.