Eye on the Enemy: Kansas City Chiefs
TEMPE, Ariz. – Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians says there should be a sense of desperation in every game they play, especially being in the midst of a two-game losing streak. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has a different thought process when it comes to his team’s two-game losing streak, which could reach three-straight with a loss to Arizona on Sunday.
“Every week in this league, you come out and you’re in a position where you work hard to make sure you come out successful, and then you don’t go any further past that. You just take it one game at a time and you go with it,” Reid said. “I’m not very good at looking ahead. We’ve got the Cardinals, and that’s plenty, so we have to make sure we take care of business there.”
The Chiefs were riding a five-game winning streak into Thursday Night Football in Oakland, Calif., a few weeks ago. The Raiders rocked the Chiefs and the football world, getting their first win of the season that night. Kansas City followed up that crusher with a loss at home to the Broncos last Sunday.
This is where the Chiefs stand right now, needing a win in the biggest way over the Cardinals. It may be a low scoring affair in Glendale, Ariz. Both teams are giving up 19 points per game, so look to see two very stingy defenses on Sunday.
The Chiefs will be without safety Eric Berry, who was placed on the season-ending non-football illness list with lymphoma.
“We’re all hoping Eric Berry gets well soon, our prayers are out for him, as our organization to him, because he’s a great kid and a great player,” Arians said.
The Chiefs’ secondary, minus Berry, is THE stingiest in the NFL, giving up less than 200 yards passing per game.
“They’ll get up in your face, they’ll press you, and they’ll try and run with you,” quarterback Drew Stanton said. “They’re long too. You look at a guy like Sean Smith; he has the ability to turn and run and has the length as much as anybody out there.”
“We have to do a good job of communicating, do a good job getting open and try to beat man coverage,” Stanton said.
Arizona’s went 4-19 on third down on their recent two-game road swing. Before the trip, the offense had been moving the ball on third down at a pretty good clip. It’s going to be key for the offense to get that third-down train moving again against a stubborn Chiefs defense.
“The biggest issue is there’s some stuff of me just not making plays and doing that. Other times, we’re trying to take a shot or get an opportunity that we feel we have a good chance there,” Stanton said. “It’s one of those things that unfortunately haven’t been a strong suit for us that we need to flip around this week and try to get back on the right page.”
It doesn’t stop with Kansas City’s secondary. Their front seven is just as powerful, with players like nose tackle Dontari Poe and linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Houston is leading the league with 14 sacks, so pressure clearly is the name of the game with the Chiefs front seven.
“This is the best front,” Arians said. “I rate them right with Seattle [Seahawks as far as pass rushers. They probably have more because Dontari Poe is very underrated. This cat is very active in the middle. He disrupts the pocket and pushes things to those two speed guys [Hali and Houston] coming off the edge.”
Kansas City is just as adept on the offensive side of things, led by quarterback Alex Smith. Smith isn’t exactly lighting up scoreboards each and every week with his passing skills, but he quietly gets it done. He only has 15 touchdowns on the season, but more importantly than that, he’s thrown just five interceptions in 350 pass attempts.
There’s so much been said about Smith not completing a single touchdown pass to one of his wide receivers this year [all 15 of Smith’s touchdowns have gone to either a running back or a tight end].
Smith could care less about who catches a touchdown pass. As long as someone gets into the end zone for six, he’s good with that.
“There have been a lot of weird breaks and different things happening that have resulted in that,” Smith said. “Certainly our focus is about scoring points and not necessarily getting caught up in who’s scoring them.”
“We’d love to get everybody involved and everybody in the mix. I think it’s just one of those things that’s funny the way it’s worked out,” Smith said.
Reid joked a little bit, saying he talked to Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who told him he wouldn’t blitz Smith at all [which we all know isn’t going to happen]. Reid is secure in knowing Smith is adept at handling the kitchen sink that Bowles will throw at him.
“Todd’s got a bunch of them [blitzes], so you can’t work against all of them, you don’t have enough time in the day,” Reid said. “You have to make sure that you just stay with your fundamental rules and then go with it.”
Smith has one of the most deadly running backs in the league behind him in Jamaal Charles should things go awry with handling the Cardinals’ blitz.
“I always thought he was one of the best [running] backs in the league,” linebacker Larry Foote said. “He’s very fast. As a linebacker, you think you’ve got an angle on him in the hole and he can hit through it. There’s only a few backs that [have] that type of speed and he’s got a lot of power too being a little guy. We’ve got to watch him [on] every play.”
There’s a lot more heads on the Chiefs’ snake that Bowles and his defense will have to chop off.
“They got [Dwayne] Bowe out there, they got [Donnie] Avery coming back, the tight end [Travis Kelce] is very good, so we got our hands full,” Bowles said.
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