The 2015 NFL season is grinding towards its pinnacle and there have been tons of surprises. One of the biggest surprises of the year has been the resurgence of the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have turned around a dismal season and are two games away from the Super Bowl. They now face the task of destroying the Evil Empire.
Riding a 10-game winning streak, the Chiefs blasted the Houston Texans in the Wildcard round of the playoffs. If the 30-0 domination of Houston was an indication of what’s in store for the New England Patriots, Saturday’s Divisional Round game will be a true battle. Last year, the Chiefs were able to pressure Tom Brady & Co., resulting in a 41-14 victory.
The Monday night game was a turning point for both teams. The Patriots spiraled out of control but rebounded to make the Super Bowl. The Chiefs wound up missing the playoffs and started the 2015 season by losing five of their first six games. But they’ve won all 11 games since. They now face the Evil Empire.
The Chiefs are no slouches when it comes to defense. Per ESPN stats, the Chiefs ended the regular season ranked No. 7 in total yards allowed. That lofty position is two slots higher than the Patriots rank of No. 9. Kansas City was also able to flex their muscle when keeping teams out of the end zone. They were one of only three teams that allowed less than 18 points. Seattle and Cincinnati were the two other teams, respectively.
The Chiefs’ 47 sacks, which ranked fourth in the NFL, helped lead to 22 interceptions and seven fumble recoveries. The Patriots flipped the rankings and finished at No. 2. With that kind of defensive pressure, the Chiefs could be planning a busy day for Brady.
“Any time you can get to the quarterback and put pressure on him, or make him uncomfortable in the pocket, you can create turnovers,” linebacker Justin Houston explained, per the New York Times. “Every week, that’s our plan, that’s our goal: Dominate every snap.”
Brady, playing behind a patchwork offensive line that used 18 different players in combinations this season, was sacked 38 times but intercepted on only 1.1 percent of his pass attempts. That was good enough to be best in the league. There is no doubt that a defense as talented as the Chiefs’ will pressure him, but there is no guarantee that it will force the kind of offensive mistakes that have become routine.
That blowout on Monday Night Football will no doubt be used extensively by both teams. The Chiefs can use it as a reminder of what they’re capable of doing. New England will be trying to figure out how to stop the Chiefs’ hungry defense.
Chiefs’ cornerback Marcus Cooper is in favor of coming out fast.
“We just came out and attacked them in all phases. That’s what we plan to do this time.”
“Both sides are looking at it,” Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said. “It was a long time ago. A lot has happened between then. Some of the guys are the same, and some aren’t. I’m sure there’s the chess match of adjustments off of it from both sides.”
Defensively, the Chiefs showed the Patriots tons of blitzes they hadn’t previously unveiled. They pressured Brady and his backup, Jimmy Garoppolo, sacking them three times. They intercepted two of Brady’s passes, and safety Husain Abdullah returned one of them 39 yards for a touchdown.
There’s been a lot of football played since the two teams met. The Patriots have had two weeks to prepare for the game. Bill Belichick will undoubtedly have some major adjustments, for the Chiefs attack.
The Patriots’ defense will create similar pressure, especially with defensive end Chandler Jones expected to play, but Smith is capable of creating opportunities out of screen passes and handoffs and by scrambling, and he rarely turns the ball over. In order to destroy the Evil Empire, the Kansas City Chiefs will have to turn it up a notch.
[Feature Photo by Dilip Vishwinat/Getty Images]