Throughout the season, the Chiefs defense experienced ups and downs. Kansas City has seen rookie defensemen rise. At the same time, new leaders have emerged on the defense, hoping to fill the shoes left open by recent departures. The Chiefs will rarely be seen as having the best defense in most matchups. However, 2022 has been one of their best years, in terms of results and different production areas.
There are several questions facing the Chiefs defense during these ongoing playoffs. This can vary, depending on which area of the defense you are looking towards. However, there is one aspect of Kansas City’s defense that will face a huge test in the AFC Championship Game. That would be the center of the Chiefs defense.
This doesn’t just include the second tier of the defending unit. KC is ready for a tremendous battle from the defensive tackles and linebackers, all the way down to the safety group. Those points weren’t able to hinder the Cincinnati Bengals in any way in this year’s regular season game, to put it nicely. How will they try to adjust this time? Also, can the Chiefs build enough momentum on defense and outrun the best of the best? Let’s kick off.
Revisit recent mistakes against Bengals offense
If you look back at some of the defensive mistakes from the last game against the Bengals, there were a lot of fundamental gaffes and mental mistakes. Kansas City has been caught out of position in coverage on multiple occasions. The boss safety duo of Justin Reid and Juan Thornhill displayed poor eye and foot discipline. Additionally, the two defenders struggled to maintain proper body positioning, leverage, and failed to recognize patterns of play. That didn’t help when Kansas City couldn’t build any pressure against Joe Burrow. Finally, the missed tackles in space spoke for themselves.
Kansas City also appeared to be overwhelmed by the linebacker. Nick Bolton and Willie Gay have both blossomed into above average players. However, there are still some learning curves and bumps that come in crucial situations. Bolton was caught in no man’s land on multiple occasions in their regular season game against Cincinnati. Particularly on the passing game, the Missouri product struggled to gain adequate depth and sometimes scrambled in an attempt to find a man or the ball. Gay had a couple of good plays late in that previous contest, including a pass deflection when the Chiefs were inside their own territory. However, it is important for Gay to remain calm and disciplined throughout all four quarters. Honing his instincts in the open field is getting better. But he has to be strong against the Bengals in this upcoming AFC championship game.
How can bosses adapt in the midst of defense?
There may not be a perfect answer to defending the Bengals and Burrow in the middle of the field. Still, there are a few possible ideas that could get Kansas City spinning and keep them within reach of Cincinnati throughout the game. First, you may see bosses increase their blitz calls early and often. We saw them do just that in last week’s Divisional Round win against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Multiple pressures on Trevor Lawrence forced a three-and-out on Jacksonville’s first drive. Most importantly, Kansas City could be looking to build up the pressure up center in gaps A or B. Burrow can escape the pressure if needed. But if he manages to cut the guard down the center, Kansas City forces him to immediately take the ball off.
Elsewhere, it wouldn’t be appropriate for bosses to move to their defensive backs, especially the safeties. Reid has really found the rhythm of him towards the end of the season when he utilizes more of a downhill attack role. If the former Houston Texan can offer looks like a stealer or a shadow in the middle of the field and closer to the line of scrimmage, that could force Cincinnati to go deep into the air. The lair can still be dangerous at depth. However, this Bengali group is used to working fast hitters in the short to intermediate passing game.
Perhaps, the Chiefs look to increase their speed on defense, playing in the dime package. By fielding six defenders, Kansas City can rotate and shuffle covers. It could also lead to bosses throwing different disguises at Burrow from shot to shot. Essentially, Kansas City can’t stay in the same base defense all game long, like they did in this year’s regular season matchup in Cincinnati.
Can Kansas City make defensive splash plays, again?
He showed up last week in the Divisional Round against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Turnovers, sacks, and pressure were all major sticking points for the Chiefs defense in that playoff win. Kansas City may have given up its fair share of big money in the air or on the ground between the 2020s. Overall, this defense stepped up when it mattered most. This is especially true for home turf stops, as well as the occasional third down stand.
We know that Kansas City finished second in the league in sacks during the regular season, with a total of 55. There were many plays early in the season where the Chiefs created a rush or pressure. For whatever reason, it took this unit a while to consistently complete those opportunities at the quarterback. As mentioned above, they didn’t generate an ounce of pressure on Burrow in this year’s regular season matchup. That was one of the few times that happened for Kansas City in a single game this season. While Burrow may lack the dynamic movement capabilities and elusiveness of other passers, his pocket awareness and maneuvers within him are elite.
Finally, turnovers are an element that seemed rare to obtain during periods of the season. Kansas City really went through a drought along these lines during the central portion of the year. On the other hand, it’s not easy to generate many takeaways against the Bengals’ offence. Cincinnati has had just 18 giveaways this season, the fourth-lowest amount in the entire NFL. If the Chiefs have opportunities to create takeaways, they will need to take it immediately.