Chiefs Game Day: It's Now or Never for the Defense

After Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil bit off the head of a local radio reporter this week when he asked him about the players' apparent confusion to the defensive schemes, the Kansas City defense can shut up their critics with a strong performance against the Vikings.

Kansas City's defensive woes have been dissected by every Chiefs fans, writer, columnist, talk show host and their guests since the Denver loss. Everyone seems to have an answer. Well I'm no different.

During the week defensive end Eric Hicks made a comment that stuck in my head. After answering the umpteenth question about the defensive failures, he quipped back at the media and indicated his defensive mates were due for a good game. That was the most logical and accurate response we heard all week from a Chiefs defensive player.

For Hicks and his defensive line mates, today they have to get pressure in the Vikings backfield. I'm not talking about just bottling up the run and the Vikings three headed rushing monster, but penetrating a strong offensive line. The Vikings offensive line is one of the better lines in the NFL when they rush the ball. Their pass blocking skills are poor. In fact, one of the reasons that Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper runs out of the pocket so often is the fact that he's usually running for his life.

But Hicks, once a sack master under former Chiefs coach Gunther Cunningham has been bottled up in Greg Robinson's gap, scheme defense. Hicks, John Browning, Vonnie Holliday and especially Ryan Sims who has been a bitter disappointment the second half of the season, need to have the game of their lives. They can do it.

Now every Chiefs fan has referenced the 32 defense of a year ago. But the 2003 version despite the obvious comparisons really is not nearly as bad. Numbers are deceiving. The Chiefs with 12 wins this season have been forced to play a lot of prevent defense. In fact, outside of their two losses, the Chiefs have given up over 100 yards in Garbage time. If you take away those number the teams defense would be ranked near the top of all NFL categories.

But the most important stat is the fact the 2003 defense is giving up nearly ten points less per game than it did a year ago. They rank 12th best in the NFL as far as total points given up per game and they're opportunistic defense has helped the Chiefs lead the NFL in takeaways.

Still the ringing endorsements for Chiefs defensive coordinator Greg Robinson are not chiming in and it appears that some dissention is starting to rear it's ugly head from the Chiefs locker room.

The players are not turning a deaf ear to Robinson but his style of defense takes away the aggressiveness of the playmakers on defense. The one thing about the NFL in the year 2003 is the fact that ‘Read and React' defenses are not quick enough to respond to an evolving play. Defensive coordinators like Robinson thus devise schemes and gap assignments so players are in a position to make a play when the ball or ball carrier comes their direction. But that's not the strength of this defense.

The disadvantage to the schemes and assignment is the fact that the Chiefs can't use their team speed on defense. They don't go to the ball as much thus the ball comes to them and that has been a deadly double edged sword for the Chiefs defense.

However, the defense and its coordinator are not going anywhere and the players have to adjust to their roles and still are ultimately responsible for making plays. It's obvious when the Chiefs defense does not get turnovers, they generally struggle in games.

Robinson won two Super Bowls with the same defense, talent and execution of scheme when he was in Denver. Outside of hard hitting safety Steve Atwater, the comparisons of players are equal across the board at each position. The difference has been the production. I don't buy into the rankings theory because points allowed is all that matters in this millennium.

Kansas City can go along way to securing home field advantage with a win today. The offense is virtually unstoppable but the defense needs to come up with some big stops. This defense, despite its critics, has some very capable and talented players. The fact that injuries to Mike Maslowski and Monty Biesel have been a larger part of the teams failures the last four weeks than most people realize; the Chiefs still have the players on defense to defeat the up and down Vikings.

If Kansas City holds the Vikings to twenty points or less, can cause at least two or three turnovers, then this game will be over by halftime. If the Vikings run up and down the field, then the blame has to fall upon the players and not the coaches. It's time each member of the defense stands up and makes plays. No scheme can be executed without that.

Other Chiefs News

Dick Vermeil was on HBO's Insider the NFL on Wednesday evening and he for the first time admitted that he would need to make a decision on his coaching future with the next week or two. Vermeil who has an open invitation by Chiefs President Carl Peterson to coach the team another three years, must decide soon.

Vermeil has 17 assistant coaches plus the Chiefs face some critical free agent decisions. Safety Greg Wesley, right tackle John Tait and defensive end Eric Hicks to name a few can all leave the Chiefs after this season.

Vermeil said that's he given his future more thought recently but also admitted he was wearing down as the season progressed. Part of that might be the fact that he's under so much fire for his defense but after all he is 67-years young.

Deep down Vermeil probably already knows the answer but does not want to take away any of his teams focus for their playoff and Super Bowl run. But it's looking more and more likely that Vermeil will let the Chiefs know before the playoffs begins as to whether he's be back for another year or two.

One thing Vermeil made very clear is that he wants offensive coordinator Al Saunders to take over the team if he steps down. That decision will rest on Vermeils friend Carl Peterson who might have his own ideas about a possible replacement the man that revitalized the Chiefs back into winners.

Kansas City fans will be scoreboard watching tonight. The New England Patriots travel to New York to play the Jets. The Jets would like nothing more than to spoil the Patriots bid for their team record 11th straight win and even further tunnel their efforts for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. A Chiefs win and Patriots loss would put the Chiefs back in the drivers seat for the #1 seed in the AFC playoffs. Top Stories