If the Chiefs can do it . . .
What a difference a coach makes could very well be the theme song for the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine the Chiefs are the most improved team in the National Football League this season. From making the first selecion in the college draft to the only unbeaten team in the league in six quick months is nothing short of remarkable.
Might as well give Andy Reid the coach-of-the-year award right now. What he has accomplished in such a short period of time has to make Philadelphia Eagles fans wonder why their team let him go. Probably, they’ll say, because he wore out his welcome there. And they would be correct.
Well, they certainly welcomed him in Kansas City, but even the fans there have to admit they never expected anything like this so soon. The lovefest for their comeback Chiefs is beginning to reach the fever stage. The quest for season perfection continues Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium when the Browns invade.
The Chiefs don’t beat you with offense. More on that later. They do it with defense. Big-time defense, the kind that hasn’t been seen around the NFL in a very long time.
All you need to do is look at the comparative statistics, last season to this season, to understand how the Chiefs quickly escaped have-not status and won their first seven games. They are all on defense.
For example, they have produced 35 sacks in those seven victories, 10 more than runner-up Baltimore. Yes, they had an amazing 10 in one game. So what. You can’t take that away from them. Five sacks a game on the average. Stunning. And scary if you’re the offensive coordinator trying to game plan against that defense.
Last year, the Chiefs racked up 27 sacks . . . for the entire season. They are on a pace to wind up with 80 for this season, eight better than the all-time record of 72 set by the 1984 Chicago Bears.
To put that in perspective from a Cleveland standpoint, the Browns’ record for sacks in one season is 48, shared by the 1992 and 1993 teams that featured Anthony Pleasant, Rob Burnett, Michael Dean Perry and James Jones on the defensive line.
More fun Chiefs stats with last season’s total in parentheses: This season, they have 10 interceptions (seven); nine recovered fumbles (eight); four defensive touchdowns (one); eight touchdowns allowed (47); and a +11 turnover ratio (-24). This is one defensive juggernaut.
New defensive coordinator Bob Sutton was fortunate to inherit eight returning starters, including two-thirds of the defensive line, three-fourths of the secondary and three-fourths of the linebackers. From an experience standpoint, the Chiefs were set. All they needed was the proper coordinator.
Linebackers Justin Howard, Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson and nose tackle Dontari Poe have combined for 27 sacks. Outside linebackers Houston and Hali have 19 of them. Now take into consideration that the Browns’ offensive line has permitted nearly four sacks a game. Yikes!
If the Chiefs have a weakness on defense, it’s stopping the run. They give up 110 yards on the ground on the average. But since the Browns’ running game is virtually AWOL, that very well could be a wash.
The Chiefs’ offense, which will not blow anyone away from a statistical standpoint, feeds off that defense in terms of field position. Reid has, in practically no time, put together the formula that ultimately wins Super Bowls.
Down through the years, with a few exceptions, the team that wins the Super Bowl has a great and opportunistic defense, solid special teams, a strong running game and a quarterback who makes few mistakes. In other words, the Chiefs do not beat themselves, which is somewhat inappropriate to say now since they are unbeaten.
A classic example of that is what the Baltimore Ravens did in the 2001 Super Bowl. Trent Dilfer was the quarterback on that team and no one will associate him with greatness. He kept mistakes at a minimum, though, while the defense, special teams and the running of Jamal Lewis took center stage. Dilfer just stayed out of the way.
And that’s exactly what Alex Smith does with the Chiefs, who run the ball 47% of the time. His numbers won’t make you go out and draft him early for your fantasy team. He throws for just 225 yards a game on the average with a meager touchdown total of seven and four interceptions.
The Chiefs rely mainly on the strong running of Jamaal Charles, who has scored eight of the club’s 14 offensive touchdowns. (The Chiefs have also scored four times on defense and twice on special teams). Charles leads the team in rushing with 561 yards and receiving with 36 catches for 337 yards. That’s 898 yards on 171 touches. Shut down Charles and that puts the pressure on Smith.
When he’s not getting Charles the ball, the brainy Smith has distributed his passes to 12 other receivers with Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery among his favorites, although Bowe is listed as questionable for the game.
The stats show the Chiefs, who average a respectable 24 points a game, are not a fun team to watch on offense. In fact, they’re rather dull and methodical. And yet, all they do is win. It’s not always pretty, but it doesn’t have to be. Not with a defense that permits just 11½ points a game.
There’s an old expression in the NFL. Offense wins games; defense wins championships. And right now, the Chiefs are the embodiment of that type of thinking.
When scanning at the Browns’ schedule at the beginning of the season, most fans undoubtedly took one look at game eight and automatically chalked it up as a victory. Little did they, or anyone else in the NFL for that matter, know what was in store.
Jason Campbell will be under center for the Browns against the Chiefs, a cruel present for his starting debut in the wake of Brandon Weeden’s ineptitude. Given the manner in which the Chiefs’ defense plays the game and the Browns’ line protects its quarterback, Campbell will be fortunate to be vertical by game’s end.
So that’s what awaits the Browns’ arrival in K.C. The best Browns fans can hope for is that Weeden will not have a need to strap on his helmet. This one will not be close. Make it:
Chiefs 30, Browns 3