KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Chiefs have yielded some big games and big plays to opposing wide receivers, but overall, they've played great pass defense. One reason for that is that they've done a nice job of containing the opposing tight ends.
Their ability to cover the tight end will get tested on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs will try to contain Jordan Cameron, who leads NFL tight ends in catches (45), is second in yards (515) and is tied for second in touchdowns (6).
The Chiefs this season haven't quite played against a tight end like Cameron, a former college basketball player like Gates, Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons, Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints and so many of the top pass-catching tight ends.
But the Chiefs paid for their ability to shut down Witten by allowing wide Dez Bryant to catch nine passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. The Chiefs mostly used cornerback Brandon Flowers to cover Bryant without safety help.
“Sometimes [stopping the tight end is dependent] on other things that happen,'' defensive coordinator Bon Sutton said. “[Flowers] had the tough job in that game the way we were set up on defense. He was getting (Bryant) by himself. That allowed us to do some other things on the tight ends and other receivers. There are always trade-offs involved in it.''
The Chiefs have allowed 20 passes of at least 20 yards, but only one to a tight end, that being the 27-yard catch by Houston's Garrett Graham last week. No tight end has caught a touchdown pass against the Chiefs.
The best receiving day for a tight end against the Chiefs was had by Tennessee's Delanie Walker, who is more noted for his blocking than receiving. He had four receptions for 43 yards as the Chiefs spent more of their resources trying to stop running back Chris Johnson and the Titans wide receivers.
Cameron could easily top those numbers and score a touchdown or two against the Chiefs. But look for Kansas City to shift more of their coverage Cameron's way. The Chiefs are versatile enough defensively to present some problems to Cameron. Inside linebacker Derrick Johnson excels in coverage. Strong safety Eric Berry has improved greatly since struggling in coverage as a rookie.
“You've got to have some flexibility,'' Sutton said. “You can't do the same thing every play out there or they're eventually going to take advantage of you. So we try to mix those things up.''