Yes the team had a hard time tackling running backs the last three games. Yes they gave up huge chunks of yards between the 20's each and every game this season. Yes it's even true that over the past two weeks against the Broncos and Packers, they've yielded nearly 1000 yards. But they won both games.
How can it be? How can a team give up nearly 1000 yards in two games against high quality opponents and remain undefeated on the season?
It's simple. This defense is vastly improved. They are built on one main principle. Keep the ball in front of you and wait to make the spectacular play.
Still you don't believe the numbers? Here are some alarming number comparisons from the first six games of this year and last year.
2003 Record: 6-0 2002 Record: 3-3
2003 Defensive Rank: 27 2002 Defensive Rank: 32
2003 Defensive Sacks: 14 2002 Defensive Sacks: 11
2003 Points Given Up: 116 2002 Points Given Up: 194
2003 Points Per Game: 19.3 2002 Points Per Game: 32.3
2003 Defensive Turnovers: 11 2002 Defensive Turnovers: 6
2003 Touchdowns Allowed: 13 2002 Touchdowns Allowed: 27
2003 First Downs Allowed: 117 2002 First Downs Allowed: 148
2003 Yards Per Game Allowed: 2162 2002 Yards Per Game Allowed: 2319
Throw all the stats out the window because the first stat is the most impressive; number of victories. Still the defense has its doubters but let's look at their first six games.
Game #1 – Vonnie Holliday records three sacks against the San Diego Chargers. The Chiefs have not had anyone record three sacks since Derrick Thomas played. Chiefs win 23-14. Record 1-0.
Game #2 – The Chiefs defense held the Pittsburgh Steelers two seven points after the offense turned the ball over twice that resulted in ten Steelers points. The defense returned its first touchdown of the year on an interception by Jerome Woods. Chiefs win 41-20. Record 2-0.
Game #3 – With the offense struggling, the defense holds the Houston Texans to one touchdown in the first half. In the second half, the defense scores again on an interception by Shaunard Harts. Chiefs win 42-14. Record 3-0.
Game #4 – Though the Chiefs were battered by Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis, they intercepted quarterback Kyle Boller three times. Two of those were by cornerback Dexter McCleon. Chiefs win 17-10. Record 4-0.
Game #5 – Other than two big plays that netted the Denver Broncos 150 yards, the defense made a stand late in the fourth quarter. With Denver leading by three points, the Chiefs stopped the Broncos on three straight running plays inside the five-yard line. They settled for a field goal. After Dante Hall's sizzling return, the defense shut down the comeback kid Jake Plummer and preserved the victory. Chiefs Win 24-23. Record 5-0.
Game #6 – The Packers moved at will against the Chiefs. But as they were driving for what would have been the game clincher in the fourth quarter, Jerome Woods intercepted an errant pass from Brett Favre and returned it 79 yards. In overtime, after missing a potential game winning field goal, Woods was the man again as he forced a fumble by Ahman Green that gave the offense the ball back. The Chiefs scored on the next play. Chiefs win 40-34 OT.
Are the Chiefs satisfied? Of course not but they know that. They aren't resting on their accomplishments and understand games in the post season could be determined by how many yards they give up.
But if the defense can stay on their current course, they'll improve statistically based on their next six opponents, who all have a difficult time scoring points on below average teams. Kansas City should be fine.
Now if the offense improves and the team follows the blueprint of the Chargers and Steelers victories then their opponents will be forced to play catch up football. If that happens, the Chiefs defense will be more aggressive and create more turnovers and make big plays.
Like their counterpart on offense, the defense is a big play defense. Don't give them up and make them when you have the opportunity. The next six games the Chiefs quite likely won't be tested much. They can work on getting players like R-Kal Truluck, Jimmy Wilkerson and Eddie Freeman back into their defensive line rotation.
The Chiefs like to rotate bodies to keep them fresh and they have a luxury the next several weeks to mold some players who can contribute in December, January and hopefully for one game in February.