The whole country just watched the Chiefs stifle the Bears to just 234 total yards and three points on Sunday Night Football.
The Chiefs have strung together five consecutive great defensive performances as they have rebounded beautifully from losing to the Titans in Week 10. However, is the hot stretch a by-factor of playing a run of shoddy offenses, or are the Chiefs for real?
Why you should believe Kansas City:
The Chiefs have been taking the ball away from their opponents. Buoyed by Philip Rivers tossing four interceptions in Mexico City, the Chiefs have forced nine turnovers in five games. Turnovers serve two distinct purposes for a good defense. First, they give the defense extra rest.
Instead of being forced to make a stop on a critical third or fourth down, the defense cuts off the offense immediately, reducing the number of important snaps in a game. Also, turnovers generally give the offense better field position. While Patrick Mahomes and co. do not need more help to be an elite offense, the propensity for the Chiefs to force turnovers makes life that much easier for the 2018 MVP.
The Chiefs have been getting better week-in and week-out. After allowing 438 yards to the Chargers in Week 11, the Chiefs have come out of the bye and allowed totals of 332, 278, 251, and 234 yards. Yards are not the only metric, but the Chiefs have been reducing yardage tallies and points allowed to a league-leading extent.
Since the bye, the Chiefs have allowed 31 points, a paltry 7.9 points allowed per game. By any test, the Chiefs have been fantastic defensively in recent weeks.
Raw yardage and raw point tallies are slightly misleading because the Chiefs have been in control for the majority of their last four games. They have gotten out to three-score leads in three of four games, and they were up 16 on the Patriots in the other game. The textbook example of empty stats is Oakland’s pair of scoring drives when down 31-0 and 38-3.
The Chiefs allowed 135 yards on those two drives, but the yards were as meaningless as any yards gained on the season. Empty stats hurt defensive stats, but in meaningful playtime, the Chiefs have been elite since their bye.
Why you should not believe Kansas City:
Over the last five games, the Chiefs have played Philip Rivers, Derek Carr, Tom Brady, Drew Lock, and Mitch Trubisky. In 2019, that is a comically easy stretch of quarterbacks. Rivers and Brady are future Hall of Famers, but they have slipped massively in 2019.
Carr has had some quality moments on the season, but the Chiefs have bottled him and the Raiders up twice. Trubisky has been a mess for most of the season, and Lock was a rookie making his third career start. The Chiefs played a weak stretch, and they capitalized.
Is it fair to hype up the defense for locking down subpar opponents?
The Steve Spagnuolo Effect:
The architect of the Super Bowl-winning 2007 Giants defense, Spagnuolo’s defenses have been historically streaky, especially late in the season. Spagnuolo’s defenses are heavily schematic, and it often takes the personnel several months to properly implement the defense.
Whether these trends are real or not, the possibility exists that the Chiefs could keep this hot stretch into the playoffs and win a Super Bowl like the 2007 Giants.
So is Kansas City’s defense for real? We do not know now, but the answer could be the difference in losing in Foxboro in three weeks or lifting Kansas City’s second Super Bowl.
Time will tell.