The State of the Chiefs Defense

Recapping where Steve Spagnuolo's unit is situated after the first 5 weeks of the year

Every week on this day, I fill this space with thoughts about the Kansas City Chiefs defense. It includes a lot of the issues the Chiefs defense is struggling through, as well as some good elements and a hint of something you may have missed while watching the game. This week? Well, this week will be different.

See, instead of extolling some of the silver linings in this week’s matchup – hey, that third quarter was GREAT! – I’m going to speak broadly on the biggest obstacle to the Chiefs winning their third straight AFC Championship: their defense. Yes, the offense has had its struggles, and this is not meant to let them off the hook for any of their deficiencies, but this Chiefs defense is projected to be historically bad.

Chiefs are giving up 32.6 PPG this season through 5 games – an abysmal mark that would be the most for any defense since the turn of the century if it held (the NFL record is 35.8 points per game, set by the 1966 New York Giants). That allows next to no room for error out of an offense that is also running in uncharted territory with their efficiency – albeit in the opposite direction.

So where do the issues with this defense lie? Short of the default “everywhere” given by some Chiefs fans, the defense is especially troublesome in two areas: red zone and early down conversion rates. The Chiefs have given up 17 touchdowns on 22 red zone appearances (77.3%), good for the 5th worst red zone conversion rate in the league. Unfortunately, only 12 teams in the league have seen less than 17 red zone drives, and none of the four teams worse in conversion rate have seen higher than 13. The result is the league’s worse drive touchdown percentage and the highest allowed points per drive of any defense.

Part of the reason the Chiefs are allowing so many red zone drives lies in their inability to stop the oppositions on early downs. Through five weeks, the Chiefs defense is allowing an average of 7.74 yards per play on first down and 6.84 yards per play on second down. They are the league’s worst in the rate they allow first down yardage on early downs, and have seen just 52 third downs – which is 3rd fewest of any defense in the NFL.

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