Ford needs to recover from recent blunder

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If you're one of the 10 or so fans of the Kansas City Chiefs who missed the highlight of rookie linebacker Dee Ford retreating from ball-carrying San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore, do yourself a favor and take a look.

Ford, understandably, is more than a little embarrassed and responded on Twitter.

Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton's explanation: Ford just lost track of the ball.

"He didn't read the play right," Sutton said. "It was kind of a fake run-looking play to him. Then he went to his pass [coverage] responsibility. Obviously, it was a bad read on his part. He needed to come up and be part of the force there."

That's an understandable explanation. Still, the play makes it look as if Ford, the Chiefs' first-round draft pick, is afraid of contact. The Chiefs say that's not true and that, too, is believable. It's difficult to think Ford could survive a college career in the SEC at Auburn and become a first-round NFL draft pick if he lived in fear of opposing blockers and ball carriers.

But for now, at least, that's the image people will have of Ford. He won't get much of a chance to change that image any time soon, either. The Chiefs are on their bye and won't play again until Oct. 19, when they meet the Chargers in San Diego.

Even then, Ford doesn't figure to play a lot. He hasn't been on the field much during the Chiefs' first five games and it has been mostly on passing downs.

"His strength is rushing the quarterback and he's done a good job for us through the first five games as a pass-rusher," linebackers coach Gary Gibbs said. "He's still developing his skill set as far as being a first- and second-down run-stopper and playing play-action passes and that kind of stuff. It's a process.

"Anytime you take someone that's been a defensive end his entire career and try to stand him up to play a different position, there's a learning process he has to go through. He works hard and he wants to be a good player. As a pass-rusher, he's been a good player for us."

Pro Football Focus has given Ford through five games negative grades for his run defense and pass coverage and a positive grade for his pass rushing.

"I think he'll be fine," Sutton said. "We need him to keep going right now. We've got a lot of football left. We don't want to wait for next year for him to develop."