Welcome to the second half of the season. After a resurgent week eight that extended the Kansas City Chiefs winning streak, all should have been well. On paper, facing the Jacksonville Jaguars should have been a walk in the park. However, reality held a trap game. Alex Smith and Spencer Ware were both out with concussions, limiting a game management offense to one trying to simply move forward. While the backups proved to be efficient against the Indianapolis Colts a week ago, the Jaguars had a week to prepare and get their young defense focused on weak targets. However, the Jaguars still had to find a way past a Chiefs defense that was playing tighter and more aggressive. By the end of the game, the Kansas City Chiefs defense had capitalized on four turnovers while never exposing their game plan. The defense did more than shut down Blake Bortles, they made the entire Jaguars offense run into traps and make mistakes.
Kansas City Chiefs Defense Preys on Mistakes – Week 9 Retrospect
Seven Sighs for Seven Punts
Make no mistake, for Kansas City Chiefs fans, the first half was filled with sighs toward the offense and anticipation for the defense. Opposed to the usual excitement for offense and nervous anticipation toward defense, this was a week where the Chiefs were limping more than usual on offense.
After the opening drive ended in a six-play bottling of the Jaguars, the Chiefs capitalized as backup quarterback Nick Foles completed a 23-yard pass to Travis Kelce. Pushing their momentum further, Charcandrick West scampered for a one-yard fourth down conversion. However, a false start from offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz killed the drive, and the Chiefs were forced to punt.
The Jaguars looked to take the momentum with a pass to their own tight end Julius Thomas for 12 yards. Chris Ivory followed up by hitting the A gap hard for two consecutive first downs. But as the Chiefs defense does best, they reorganized in the middle of the drive and bottled Ivory up. The effort was not flashy, but the defense was winning by out-scheming and playing consistent fundamentals.
Tyreek Hill flashed his agility and speed as he ran for a 16-yard gain to start the next Chiefs drive. However, wide receiver Albert Wilson set the drive back on another false start. While the offense was down and out, the elite special teams was ready to change the game’s flow.
On the following punt, D.J. Alexander hustled down the field and put a textbook tackle on returner Bryan Walters, forcing a fumble. James O’Shaughnessy finished the play by recovering the ball. With the ball on the 23-yard line, Foles put up a beautiful pass to Albert Wilson for the first score of the game.
Non-existent pressure was mounting on the Jaguars coaching staff, but not running back Chris Ivory. Ivory powered his way for 42 yards, exposing a major hole in the Chiefs run defense. T.J. Yeldon surfaced for a seven and 11-yard run. Even Blake Bortles got in on the running by dashing for a 12-yard third down gain. However, at the Chiefs 30-yard line, the pressure was pushed onto head coach Gus Bradley; instead of opting for a field goal, he ran a deep pass play on fourth and one. Everything went wrong, and the Chiefs got the ball back, evading a quick loss of momentum.
Momentum was still not enough to spark the offense. Mitch Morse received a holding penalty on the first play, and after two minutes the Chiefs limped a depressing two yards, only to punt.
The only way the Chiefs offense would be able to score was with excellent field position. As if the defense knew this, Ramik Wilson intercepted Bortles second pass attempt of the drive. The Chiefs were not capitalizing on errors, but creating the turnovers with fundamental football.
However, the Chiefs offense would gain a net of five yards and managed only a field goal; all despite starting on the Jaguars 13-yard line. A score is good, but the Chiefs needed a touchdown to garnish a confident lead.
The two subsequent drives featured more punting, then the Jaguars offense finally came through. With three minutes left in the first half, Bortles finally gave the Jags offense sense of urgency, hustling them up field by scrambling and completing passes to Allen Robinson. While Dee Ford counted another sack on the drive, the Chiefs hurt themselves with two stupid penalties.
Daniel Sorensen received an unnecessary roughness penalty and Steve Nelson was caught getting touchy with wide receivers for a pass interference. A free 15-yards later, Robinson caught a one-yard pass to tighten the score to a 10-7 Chiefs lead going into the second half.
The second half was a little different than the first, save more mistakes from the Jaguars. The Chiefs began with another defunct drive and punt. The defense ought to have been playing offense as they were alive and ready to make plays. Dee Ford landed his second sack of the game, and a play later the fumble drill began. On the end of a long run by Yeldon, Phillip Gaines put his head on the ball and forced it free in the open field. Steve Nelson was right there for the recovery.
With the ball on the Jaguars 38-yard line and momentum on their side, the Chiefs offense had the chance to put the game away. But it wasn’t to be as the offense was again abysmally boring, putting Cairo Santos to a 51-yard field goal test. And he nailed it.
The Jaguars next drive featured nothing enthralling – effectively they looked like sleepwalkers against the electric Chiefs defense. On the punt return, the special teams unit paved a path for Tyreek Hill to burst for a 36-yard return.
With the ball in excellent position, again, the Chiefs should have blown the game wide open. But again, they puttered out after five plays. Santos only needed to nail a 24-yard field goal this time and he did just that, showing his value.
As important as the Chiefs special teams were, the Jaguars special teams now attempted to make their offense come alive. Marquis Lee wound his way through incoming players for a 45-yard return. Bortles worked his way through Robinson and Lee on the following plays, and Ivory continued to expose the Chiefs run defense. But, the Jaguars did not have Cairo Santos as their drive ended the third quarter with a 54-yard shank.
Foles followed up the great field position by nailing Albert Wilson and Travis Kelce. But again, stupid penalties set the Chiefs back. In a very memorable moment, Kelce mocked the ref by throwing his towel at the referee after not receiving a pass interference penalty. Santos ended the drive, and the Chiefs scoring, with a 36-yard drive through the uprights.
Despite looking dead on the previous drive, the Jaguars came alive as Bortles completed a deep pass over Marcus Peters to the Chiefs three-yard line. With the score 19-7, the game was in reach for the Jaguars. However, Jaye Howard forced an Ivory fumble on the one-yard line and Peters redeemed himself by falling on the ball for a touchback.
Naturally, the Chiefs offense sputtered and gave the ball right back to the Jaguars two minutes later. After that, Ivory, Robinson, and Yeldon all confused the Chiefs defense as they netted a plethora of ten-yard gains up the field. Yeldon then caught a 13-yard pass for the touchdown.
The Chiefs defense appeared tired, and with the offense punting only a minute later, the Jaguars could win a game in which their play was largely abysmal. With 65 yards to go and a minute left, the game was in reach. Dontari Poe stuffed Yeldon on a third down run, and forced a fourth and three. With the game on the line, the Jaguars opted to pass instead of running the ball. As the Jaguars had been running successfully most of the day, the decision to pass was puzzling to say the least and left Jags fans bitter. As Bortles pass fell incomplete over Steve Nelson, the Chiefs were able to leave with an ugly 19-14 victory.
Against a 2-6 Jacksonville Jaguars squad that was mistake-prone and consistently called questionable plays, the Kansas City Chiefs should have blown this game wide-open. There is no excuse for the offensive handling of the game. Whether due to a contingent of backups playing, or the mediocrity of the opponent, the play-calling was stale, and the ball was rarely pushed down field.
Add on stupid penalties, and this game could have been a very dark spot on the Chiefs season. With two false-starts, two defensive penalties in the secondary, a holding call, and Kelce getting ejected, stupid penalties abounded all game. The Chiefs have to be better than this. No excuses. In 2017, if the Chiefs see a game filled with lack of discipline like this, they will not be a playoff team. There is no room for giving up games via stupid and preventable penalties.
On a more positive note, however, the Chiefs defense won this game. Consistent fundamentals kept the Jaguars from ever finishing their drive, and constant leadership kept the unit attentive even with their backs against the wall. In 2017, this can be a squad that forces teams to make mistakes. The special teams and defense showed why textbook tackling and fundamentals are so essential.
Doing the little things with excellence, is intrinsic to winning football matchups.
But, the run defense must do the little things better. For 60 minutes, the Chiefs front seven were looking backward at either Ivory or Yeldon. They had effectively put the Chiefs defense in a daze and could not be stopped. Injuries were a concern, but edge rushers Chris Jones, Dee Ford, and Tamba Hali need to seal the edge and fight through offensive tackles on all runs in 2017.
In a nutshell, that is what this game revealed the Kansas City Chiefs need to do better – the little things through and through.