Updated 1 hour ago
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Chiefs' only defense for most of this season was, well, in defense of their own defense, which allowed so many yards and points to become a joke in the league.
Yes, the bosses scored in bushels. They also allowed points in clusters.
The fact that they spent most of the season with 30 points and more than 400 yards per game occurred despite the fact that they excelled in the sacking of the quarterback. They finished with 52 sacks, tied for the NFL lead, thanks mainly to the trio of Chris Jones, Dee Ford and Justin Houston.
However, things started to change in Week 17, when the Chiefs closed the Oakland Raiders in a game they needed to win to secure the first seed in the AFC. And when critics claimed that the Raiders were playing for nothing, the Chiefs backed him with a defensive gem in the divisional round against the Colts.
Now, that suddenly stinging defense gets its biggest test on Sunday against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
At stake: a trip to the Super Bowl, the first for the Chiefs in 49 years.
So, what changed? How a Swiss cheese defense that was set on fire by the Patriots by 43 points in a Week 6 loss at Foxborough suddenly became a steel curtain and just in time?
"In the last two games, the three things that we have done is that we have limited the explosive plays, we have done an excellent boarding job and we have had a defensive penalty in two weeks," said the defensive coordinator of the Chiefs. Bob Sutton said. "Those three things allow you to function and leave."
Take each one in order.
In the Chiefs' four losses this season, they allowed four plays of more than 40 yards and 21 plays of at least 20 yards. Seven of them had a particularly depressing defensive performance against the Rams, who ultimately won a 53-50 shootout at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
But the Chiefs did not allow a single play of more than 15 yards against Oakland and did not allow the Colts to play more than 30 yards. In fact, Indianapolis did not score in attack until the end of the fourth quarter.
Its success in limiting major plays is, at least in part, a byproduct of improving the boarding.
Then there are the penalties. After leading the league in total and defensive penalties this season, their defense has been scored only once in the last two games.
"Most points that occur in a unit are usually the result of an explosive game and / or a penalty in the unit," Sutton said. "Common when you look back and say:" How did you go to the field? "Usually, you have a (pbad interference) here or you left a 20-yard run here or whatever. So, if you can manage them and do relatively good work on those things, you put yourself in a good position to play in. I think the guys who have played have done a good job. "
Oh, there is a warning: the guys who have played have done a good job.
The Chiefs have been losing pieces in defense throughout the season and, often, they have been decisive players. Highly paid linebacker Justin Houston, who had a pair of sacks against the Colts, missed four games with a thigh injury. Cornerback Kendall Fuller missed a game with a broken hand. Safety starter Daniel Sorensen missed half of the season with a broken leg.
Only those injuries are enough to derail any defense, but the Chiefs have also played most of the season without Eric Berry, their safety star and possibly the emotional leader of the team.
He played in only two games because of his heel, but he is ready to play on Sunday.
"That's my boy, Eric Berry has taken me under his wing since I got here," Chiefs cornerback Steven Nelson said. "We call him 'Coach'. in our room because he is very knowledgeable. It means a lot to our team and our defense, so every time we can have him out there, it's a great thing. "
The Patriots have no preconceived ideas, the defense against which they marched up and down the field in Week 6 will be shown on Sunday. Bill Belichick said this week that there is little to be drawn from that victory, and Brady hastened to applaud a defense that played its best throughout the year.
"We've played them pretty well over the years," said the Patriots quarterback. "They have had some incredible units that we have played against, they have game creators in each level, obviously a good scheme, they make you work for it, it's a very hard and tough team, they compete in every snap. This year, it's a big challenge for us, I do not think you can take anything for granted. "