It was one of those stats that wound up buried and buried and buried and buried, “Night Of The Living Dead” deep, what with The Charcandrick West Show, Chase Daniel channeling his inner Joe Montana, and Eric Berry rocking the free world (again).
But last Saturday night in the preseason opener for both squads, the Kansas City Chiefs limited the Arizona Cardinals to 75 rushing yards on 27 attempts — a clip of 2.8 yards per carry. Turns out that the lowest ground total for a Chiefs preseason opponent since August 29, 2013, when Green Bay managed only 61 rush yards at Arrowhead Stadium.
So, hey, in a roundabout way, welcome back, Mike Devito.
The home portion of the 2015 card gets underway tonight at Arrowhead Stadium with a visit from the Seattle Seahawks, and with it, a chance for some old ghosts to be laid to rest. The last time DeVito, the Chiefs’ 31-year-old defensive end, suited up on Lancer Lane, it was September 7 of last fall, Week 1 against the Titans. The rest is unfortunate history: A torn right Achilles tendon ended the veteran’s day — and, as it turned out, his season — in the third quarter, and, combined with the loss of inside linebacker Derrick Johnson, the whole rush defense started to go to fresh hell in several hand baskets.
Over their first 13 contests, the Andy Gang would wind up surrendering 110 rushing yards or more in nine of them, turning the likes of Oakland’s Latavius Murray and Denver’s C.J. Anderson into the stuff of fantasy legend in the process. In 2013, the Chiefs’ defense had allowed the opposition to reach the 110-yard mark only four times over their initial 13 games.
Photo Courtesy: Howard Smith USA Today Sports
And healthy DeVito had plenty to do with the latter — the former Maine product finished the ’13 regular season ranked fourth in the NFL by ProFootballFocus.com among 3-4 defensive ends in terms of run defense (+16.4 rating), trailing only J.J. Watt, Sheldon Richardson, and Cedric Thornton. Good company. Serious company.
Then again, No. 70 is a serious grinder, a glue guy, a name that often gets lost in the shuffle — and the box score — after four quarters of helping to sort out the trash. And cleaning up has proven to be good business early: According to PFF.com’s game chart from the preseason opener, DeVito and his repaired Achilles appeared on 10 plays in Glendale before calling it a night, recording a solo tackle and a solo stop — a “stop” being a play which the site considers an “offensive failure” — while grading a +0.4 on run defense, +0.1 overall. In fact, it proved to be a fairly decent, if brief, show for the Poe-less defensive line as a whole, with understudy nose tackle Jaye Howard scoring a +1.2 grade on seven plays and underrated end Allen Bailey scoring a +1.1 on 10 snaps.
On the opening possession of the contest, the Cardinals’ first-team offense netted just three rushing yards on three carries, although the final shot was a 2-yard jaunt into the end zone by Andre Ellington. On the hosts’ second drive, following an Alex Smith interception, Kerwynn Williams took a handoff for three yards on the initial play, where he was met, in tandem, by The Rehab Brothers — Johnson and DeVito. Because in the trenches, you’ll never know just how much you’ll miss a glue guy. Until they’re gone.
Photos: Denny Medley & Geoff Burke USA Today Sports Images