Chiefs Identity Starts With Defense

The Chiefs are hoping to come out of their bye week with a better understanding of how they plan to play football for the rest of the season, because judging by the first two games, they are a team right now that doesn't have an identity.

In their opening week loss, the Chiefs came out aggressively, throwing more than they ran and opening up the playbook with reverses, slow-developing run plays and even a fake punt. In many ways, the offense looked similar to last year's offense, with the exception of the final score. But the offensive game plan failed, as the Chiefs got too cute, too often. They went three straight series without giving Larry Johnson a carry. Whether you are ahead or behind, that's unacceptable. Johnson is the franchise player and is one of just a few offensive playmakers on an aging roster.

Last week in Denver, the Chiefs came out looking like a completely different team. They pounded the run, controlled the clock and abused a Bronco defense that has played extremely well so far this year. The Chiefs were successful running up the middle and to the outside, overpowering Denver's front seven. That was Kansas City's game plan coming in, to beat the Broncos on the ground -- a stark contrast to the opener, where they decided they would try to beat the Bengals through the air. The Chiefs, however, played too conservatively at times, especially when they crossed midfield, and never found the endzone. They settled for two field goals, six points and their sixth straight loss at Invesco Field.

Now they need to find their identity. Are they a run-first, conservative offense or are they a pass-happy offense that is willing to air it out and take chances down the field? Or are they balanced? Nobody really knows. Quarterback Trent Green is out, probably for another few weeks. That means Damon Huard will get coddled into "game management." And that's fine. Maybe that's the best way for the Chiefs to win. It sure looked like it last week in Denver, when they revived "Marty Ball."

But aren't we forgetting something? The Chiefs have a defense now. And that, more than anything, should give the Chiefs hope for the rest of the season.

Like it or not, the future of this team is on defense. Sure, the majority of the salary cap dollars are tied up in offensive stars - Brian Waters, Will Shields, Tony Gonzalez, Green and Johnson - but all of the youth and rising talent is clearly on the other side of the ball. Defensive end Tamba Hali has showed promise with his non-stop motor and his constant, every-down energy. Linebackers Kawika Mitchell and Derrick Johnson are two of the quickest linebackers the Chiefs have had since Derrick Thomas. Kendrell Bell even got into the mix last game, recording six tackles, the most he's had in a game as a Chief.

In the secondary, the Chiefs have a pair of young safeties, Bernard Pollard and Jarrad Page, who are pushing safety Sammy Knight into an early retirement and forcing Greg Wesley to play at a new level. There is competition everywhere on defense, and thus far coordinator Gunther Cunningham is pushing all the right buttons. The best part about all of this is that we haven't seen the best out of the defense. The Chiefs have yet to allow cornerbacks Patrick Surtain and Ty Law do what they do best, which is to play press man-to-man coverage on the outside. Expect that to change in the coming weeks. The Chiefs will start to give their speedy linebackers opportunities to get after the quarterback, because they finally have corners they can put on an island and trust.

The Chiefs no longer have to rely on their offense to score 30 points to win. This team needs to shift toward a ball-control, "Marty Ball"-type offense where they play field position and wear down the opponents. That's not to say they can't take chances, because they can. We learned that last week, and that's the exception.

If the occasional aggressive play call backfires, the Chiefs have a defense that can work damage control. That's the mentality the Chiefs need coming out of the bye week. They need to play to their defense.

For the first time in years, the play of the defense will dictate the offensive playcalling. And for the first time in years, it should be an advantage.

So much for the Chiefs "finding" their identity. It's already there, and it's crystal clear.

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