KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Judging from the yards they’re allowing, the Kansas City Chiefs have one of the NFL’s worst defensive teams. The Chiefs have allowed more yards, 360 per game on average, than all but six other NFL teams.
Judging from the points they’re allowing, the Chiefs have one of the NFL’s best defensive teams. They’re allowing just more than 19 points per game, which is tied for 10th.
Just like last season, when the Chiefs yielded plenty of yards but a relatively small number of points, Kansas City is developing a bend-but-don’t break defensive personality. Here are some of the factors that can explain why the defense has helped the Chiefs to a 4-0 start:
1. The Chiefs have allowed 31 explosive plays, defined as a pass of 20 yards or more or a run of at least 10 yards. That’s tied for second most in the league. But few of those plays go for touchdowns. The Chiefs gave up an 11-yard touchdown run against the Los Angeles Chargers and a 44-yard scoring pass against the Washington Redskins. Otherwise, they’re giving themselves a chance by stopping these plays short of the end zone.
“It’s always a battle to keep the explosive plays down,’’ defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “They’re going to happen but you want to keep that number down as much as you possibly can. If you look at scoring drives, there are usually two common ingredients in almost every one, whether it’s a field goal drive or a touchdown drive. Those are an explosive play and/or a penalty. Very seldom does a scoring drive happen without one of those things. The most important thing is you don’t want to give up an explosive play for a touchdown. You still want to have a chance to stop them and hold them to a field goal.’’
2. The Chiefs don’t lead the league in forcing turnovers, as they did in 2016. But they do have six takeaways, which puts them in the top half of the league. They allowed more than 200 yards in the first half two weeks ago against the Chargers, a number that would have been much higher had they not intercepted quarterback Philip Rivers three times.
3. The Chiefs are playing well on defense when the opponent gets inside the 20. Opponents have made 16 trips inside the 20 but have just 7 touchdowns. That rate of less than 44 percent is one of the best in the league.
“We don’t like to give up seven [points],’’ linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “We will give up three. We can give up three all day. You will [still] always be in the game.’’