Tamba Hali's 14.5 sacks on the season may earn him a share of the sack title, but as a whole the defense did nothing but regress after clinching the AFC West last week. And it's good that they did, because if the Chiefs had not been dealt a late Christmas present from the Cincinnati Bengals, the Chiefs would have ended the 2010 season with a beatdown.
Luckily for Kansas City, they get one more shot at finishing the season on a high note next week when they host the Baltimore Ravens. But if this team is going to put up a fight next weekend, this Chiefs' secondary is going to have to take some more chances and play closer to the line of scrimmage.
Too many times on Sunday the secondary looked slow and out of position. It really is incredible how sporadic the two corners have played this season. Both Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers have put up Pro Bowl caliber performances this season, but on Sunday both looked mediocre at best.
Oakland QB Jason Campbell didn't resemble the one that was in and out of the starting lineup all season long. Aided by the 10-15 yard cushion that both Flowers and Carr consistently gave Oakland's wide receivers, Campbell was able to put together a 100.3 quarterback rating, good for one of his best performances of the season.
If the Chiefs ever expect to be a contender in the playoffs, their defense needs to take a page from the team they are set to host next weekend. There is no denying that Romeo Crennel has improved this defense way past expectations, but they lack the consistent aggressiveness that we will see from Baltimore next week.
Obviously, having a heart and sole linebacker like Ray Lewis helps set the tone for a defense like that, and the Chiefs seem to be lacking in that department.
As the season has worn on, the linebacker unit has become the top position to improve on the defensive side of the ball once the offseason starts in February. Today, though, Jovan Belcher took his game to the next level and made sure the defensive coaches and Chiefs brass took notice.
Unfortunately, it was a tough day for the man that the Chiefs front office pegged as their future leader of the linebacker unit. Derrick Johnson again regressed, which is very disappointing. Sure, Johnson had five tackles, but that is simply not enough for a guy that is supposed to be "the guy". I know players like Lewis are few and far between, but this defense needs an emotional leader in the middle. Time and time again, Johnson has proven he is not going to consistently make plays on this defense.
Linebacker Derrick Johnson needs to improve his pass de-fense.
We see a interception for a touchdown a couple of times per season, but more often than not its a missed interception opportunity that slips through his hands or a whiff on an opposing QB in the backfield. If D.J. is not a perfect example of what Haley refers to as a "yo-yo" player, I don't know who is on this team.
At this point Hali is probably the Chiefs' most consistent defensive player. But for as much of a motor as he has, he lacks in vocal leadership skills. At this point the Chiefs have already invested in Johnson and Andy Studebaker. It will be very interesting to see how much of a push the front office will make at Hali considering he is looking for a big contract that will make him one of the highest paid linebackers in the league. After what he has accomplished over the past two seasons, it would be hard to argue with his agent.
But next season is next season and regardless of how much they whiffed on Sunday, they are going to have to step up their game and it is going to have to start up front.
It seems as though Crennel has little faith in the front seven's ability to get consistent pressure on the QB. More often than not, the secondary is playing soft, and on many occasions the defensive line consists of just Glenn Dorsey and Wallace Gilberry.
Although these guys may be the Chiefs' two most productive defensive linemen, Crennel is going to need to be more aggressive than what we have seen thus far. If not, this Chiefs playoff run will end much similar to the way their previous playoff appearances have: with a disappointing home loss.
WARPAINT ILLUSTRATED MESSAGE BOARDS:
Hali is the teams defensive star but he can't do it alone.