Todd Haley and Romeo Crennel's defense faces its biggest test of a young season this Sunday when they try to stop Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota running game.
In three games this year, the Chiefs' run defense has been less than special, ranked No. 28 among 32 teams and allowing 123 rushing yards per game. They've faced Fred Jackson, Jahvid Best and Ryan Mathews, all good backs, but not in the same class as Peterson.
"He's the complete package," Haley said of Peterson. "Arm tackles aren't going to cut it with this guy. You need everybody doing their job and everybody getting to him because it generally takes more than one to get him down."
With Peterson ahead and three games into the season, Haley is more than willing to say that his defense is still a work in progress.
"We're trying to best figure out how we need to play to give us the best chance to succeed," Haley admitted. "Defensively, more than anything, with the (Eric) Berry situation, we've had to adjust more so just because of what an integral part of how we had gone into this year's thinking he was in the way we were going to play defense."
Losing strong safety Eric Berry to a knee injury for the rest of the season has put a crimp in Crennel's plans and has the Chiefs shuffling bodies and schemes. Nothing much has worked for their defense against the run, as they gave up 163 yards to Buffalo, 89 to Detroit and 117 yards last week to the Chargers.
"I think I've seen improvement each week with the run defense and the defense in general," Haley said. "San Diego is a good running team with a couple of really good backs, but we didn't do well enough. We've got to just do a better job of playing with technique, getting tackles made and not broken or missed, and that's what we're going to work on."
One of the factors that hurt the Chiefs' ability to stop the run is how much time they've spent in their sub-defense. The percentage of snaps between the base 3-4 defensive alignment and their 2-3-6 set for passing downs drops the front seven to just five bodies. That creates more opportunities for running lanes at the line of scrimmage.
"It can have a big effect, but that being said, we've got to play run defense whatever personnel group we're in, whether we're in base or sub because teams are going to run out of both sub and base-type formations," Haley said. "Whether it's because they think they have an advantage against us or it's just their best personnel group, we've happened to see a bunch of it.
"We've studied both (defenses) and it doesn't appear to be out of balance one way or the other too much. Some of those base-sub runs are coming on third-and-longs and things like that and you've got to factor in how much did you allow. We've just got to get better across the board, our whole team. We've just got to continue to make progress, our players need to understand how our coaches want it done and then we just need as coaches to continue to try to best put our guys in best position to succeed and play to their strengths."
Chiefs trying to figure how to stop Peterson
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