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Chiefs solidifying their status as an elite NFL team

Connor Jones, Sports Editor

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The Kansas City Chiefs have started 3-0 for just the ninth time in franchise history. They are one of only two undefeated teams left in the NFL. Though the Chiefs were by no means expected to be a pushover, ranked ninth in the NFL.com preseason power rankings, their start has been a welcome surprise to even the most optimistic fans.

Offense

Through three games, the Chiefs have the third highest scoring offense, averaging 31 points per game. They also rank third in yards per game and have the most lethal rushing attack in the league, averaging 162 yards on the ground. This has been the most explosive start for the Chiefs offense since 2003, when the team averaged 37 points per game through three games using the 23rd highest scoring offense in NFL history.

The Chiefs have been able to rack up these gaudy and uncharacteristic numbers for multiple reasons, the most surprising of which might be the emergence of rookie running back Kareem Hunt. Through his first three career games, Hunt is the No. 1 back in the league according to Pro Football Focus (PFF) and is on pace to break the NFL rushing record. The Chiefs’ offensive line has aided in Hunt’s historic start, grading out as the top rushing offensive line by Football Outsiders. Even fullback Anthony Sherman, tasked with opening running holes for Hunt, is graded as the top FB by PFF.

Along with the rushing attack, the Chiefs’ passing game has also exceeded expectations. Alex Smith is enjoying the best start of his career. So far this season, he’s thrown for the second most touchdowns (7), has the highest completion percentage (77.4), and owns the league’s best QB rating (132.7). Surprisingly, Smith has done this with an offensive line ranked second to last in pass protection by Football Outsiders.

This offensive explosion couldn’t be possible without the playbook and scheme created by Andy Reid and the coaching staff. The Chiefs run an incredibly unique offense forged in west coast principles full of options, motions and shovel passes.

The Chiefs’ lack of pass protection is alarming and will almost certainly hurt them down the stretch if it doesn’t improve; however, the Chiefs have shown to have enough offensive firepower to make up for the offensive line’s pass protection pitfalls.

Defense

The offensive efficiency has been a pleasant surprise in Kansas City; and while the defensive performance has been equally as pleasant, it comes as no surprise. Since 2013 the Chiefs have finished no worse than seventh in the NFL in points allowed per game, allowing an average of 18.5 points per game over four seasons. This year’s defense has continued the trend, ranking as the seventh best scoring defense with 19 points allowed per game.

The Chiefs have one of the best scoring defenses because of their ability to pressure the quarterback and create turnovers. The Chiefs struggled to pressure opposing QB’s last year, finishing 28th in the NFL in sacks.

This year, however, a healthy Justin Houston has made a difference. Houston has the fourth highest sack total in the young NFL season and is ranked as the sixth best edge rusher in the league by PFF. In the interior line, Chris Jones is just behind Houston. Jones has the seventh most sacks in the NFL and is ranked as a top 10 interior linemen by PFF. Even players with a lower sack total, like Dee Ford and Bennie Logan, have had success pressuring opposing QB’s.

This ability to make QB’s uncomfortable leads to forced throws and poor decisions, allowing the Chiefs’ corners and safeties to be ultra-aggressive in coverage. Marcus Peters has already racked up 15 interceptions through just 34 games and is rarely targeted nowadays, thanks to his elite ball-hawking skills.

Opposing teams instead focus of the corner opposite Peters, which has been Terrence Mitchell. Mitchell was torched repeatedly early in week one, but had two critical pass breakups late in the game and has been improving every game since, culminating in his two-interception performance in week three.

Bob Sutton’s defenses will always give up chunks of yards to opposing teams because of his man-coverage, blitz heavy packages. But the Chiefs have been able to put superstar caliber talent where it matters most, like Justin Houston on the edge or Marcus Peters in the secondary. They utilize veteran players, like Derrick Johnson in the middle, to create the ultimate bend, but don’t break defense. Even if the offense regresses slightly, their defense gives the Chiefs the ability to beat any team in the NFL.

 

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Student newspaper of Park University
Chiefs solidifying their status as an elite NFL team