Level heads could fix defensive woes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A once-feared defensive unit has sprung a leak in the past three games.

Of course, facing quarterback Peyton Manning twice in that span and quarterback Philip Rivers played a large role.

Dec 1, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Quintin Demps (35) celebrates with cornerback Sean Smith (27) and linebacker Derrick Johnson (56) after intercepting a pass against the Denver Broncos in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 1, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Quintin Demps (35) celebrates with cornerback Sean Smith (27) and linebacker Derrick Johnson (56) after intercepting a pass against the Denver Broncos in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

But the damage inflicted on the Chiefs defense commands attention.

Coming off a bye for Week 11’s first meeting against the Denver Broncos, the Chiefs ranked first in points allowed per game (12.3), first in sacks (36) and sixth against the pass (208.3 yards allowed).

Just three games later, the Chiefs rank fourth in points per game (17.8), dropped to fifth in sacks (37) and 21st against the pass (249 yards allowed), the latter a result of allowing 1,118 yards passing in that span.

When it comes to the opponent’s scoring, the Chiefs surrendered 111 total points during a 9-0 start.

They’ve surrendered 103 in the past three games.

In a copycat league, can the Chiefs address the defensive problems uncovered during the current three-game losing streak that opposing offenses seek to exploit?

“You’re always making adjustments, so we’ll do what we need to do, what we feel is right to do as we move forward here,” coach Andy Reid said about his defense during Wednesday’s media session. “As coaches, you try to put players in the best position. That’s the direction we’ll work.”

Whatever the coaching staff has in mind will soon face a test down the stretch, as the Chiefs square off against quarterbacks currently ranked among the top 15 passers in the league.

On deck Sunday is Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, the league’s 12th ranked passer, and the Chiefs get Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (15th) in Week 16 and Rivers (4th) in the season finale.

For his part, Griffin complimented the Chiefs defense during Wednesday’s media conference call.

“They are one of the top defenses in the league,” Griffin said. “Of course, they’ve gone against the Broncos twice recently and that skews rankings, but I don’t really pay attention to all that stuff.”

Meanwhile, Chiefs defensive back Ron Parker said the team isn’t looking down the road, instead preferring to prepare for the weekly opponent.

Parker adds there’s optimism the Chiefs will turn it around with four regular season games remaining.

“The last three weeks when we’ve been losing, we’ve played some good quarterbacks, no question,” Parker said. “I really think it’s just an up and down thing as the season goes and I think we’re ready to make our progress to be ranked as a top defense again.”

Parker’s confidence potentially defies the statistics.

But what gives his sureness validity is what other players, especially opponents, also see beyond the numbers.

Griffin said what jumps out to him is Kansas City’s aggressiveness and how the defense challenges virtually every play. And he came away impressed knowing the Redskins have to equal the Chiefs’ intensity.

“When you turn on the tape, you see that they play extremely hard, extremely fast and extremely physical,” Griffin said. “We have to match that physicality on the field and go out there and execute our plays.”

In the meantime, whatever adjustments the coaching staff makes in addition to the character of the Chiefs will factor in how the team gets back on the winning track.

“I think all the guys seen it and they know the last couple of weeks we were kind of off,” Parker said of his defensive teammates. “So now, everybody is just kind of ready to get back that standard how we had it when we first started off 9-0.”

Inside linebacker Derrick Johnson said having a short-term memory will help.

“We say that every week, win or lose,” Johnson said. “More importantly, this week we’ve dropped three in a row, so it is so much more important for us to go back to the basics.”

Johnson’s point of returning to the roots of what led to success is echoed by one of his Pro Bowl defensive teammates.

“Just work harder in practice,” safety Eric Berry said on how to address issues.

The defensive unit’s mentality allows for a level head.

And while they’re not in desperation, the Chiefs understand the importance of finishing strong.

“We’re under no pressure right now,” Parker said. “We just played Peyton Manning (twice) the last three weeks; that’s one of the best teams in the NFL. We lost to some good teams, so I think we’ll be ready to bounce back this week.”

Johnson echoed Parker.

“We’re not in panic mode at all,” Johnson said. “But a sense of urgency is definitely required during this time to get on the right track.”

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