Chiefs de­fense can’t rest vs. Rodgers, Pack

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NFL - By Dave Skretta

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The prospects of the Chiefs slow­ing down the Pack­ers, fresh off their blowout win over the Raiders, prob­a­bly feel a whole lot bet­ter af­ter the way they played last week.

The Chiefs de­fense, so ma­ligned for years un­der co­or­di­na­tor Bob Sutton and not a whole lot bet­ter un­der re­place­ment Steve Spag­n­uolo, fi­nally clicked in what turned into a 30-6 rout of the Bron­cos.

The Chiefs held the Bron­cos to 205 yards. They sacked Joe Flacco six times in the first half and nine over­all. They stuffed run­ning backs Phillip Lind­say and Royce Free­man, mauled their of­fen­sive line and pitched a shutout for about 55 min­utes.

The rea­son their dom­i­nance didn’t raise more eye­brows? The Chiefs lost quar­ter­back Pa­trick Ma­homes to a dis­lo­cated patella, and the fo­cus of the football world was on the league MVP’s right knee.

“We felt like it was close,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of his de­fense. “I know some­times it didn’t look that way for peo­ple. You talk about all those stats like the red zone and quar­ter­back rat­ings and all the things that go with it, but it doesn’t mean much un­til it all comes to­gether.

“Now it’s im­por­tant to con­tinue build­ing on that,” Reid con­tin­ued, “and that will be a chal­lenge as we go for­ward.

“This isn’t the end of the sea­son, so we have to keep go­ing.”

In­deed, the chal­lenge grows ex­po­nen­tially with Aaron Rodgers and Co. rolling into town.

Rodgers threw for 429 yards and five touch­downs while run­ning for an­other in the Pack­ers’ 42-24 win over the Raiders. And he did it all with­out top re­ceiver Da­vante Adams, who missed an­other game with turf toe and likely will be out again when the NFC North lead­ers visit Ar­row­head Sta­dium on Sun­day night.

“They’re play­ing real good football. We know that,” Reid said. “We’re start­ing the process here of get­ting ready and we’ll con­tinue that through Satur­day.

“But all three phases are go­ing well for them.”

There are rea­sons to be­lieve the Chiefs will be up to the chal­lenge, though.

First of all, de­spite de­fen­sive tackle Chris Jones and end Frank Clark still out with in­juries, they’re start­ing to get healthy on de­fense. Mid­dle linebacker An­thony Hitchens came back last week to get a cou­ple of sacks and force a fum­ble. An ill­ness put de­fen­sive end Tanoh Kpas­sagnon and linebacker Dar­ron Lee on the side­line. But they could be back against the Pack­ers, giv­ing the Chiefs nearly all their starters on that side of the ball.

The sec­ond rea­son the Chiefs could be up to the chal­lenge? They are fi­nally pick­ing up Spag­n­uolo’s de­fense. The Chiefs had run a 3-4 sys­tem the last six sea­sons un­der Sutton, and Spag­n­uolo junked that in fa­vor of a 4-3 set, and it took a while for play­ers to ad­just to new align­ments and as­sign­ments.

“We’re just do­ing what got us here, what got us in this sit­u­a­tion and what got us into the league,” Chiefs linebacker Reg­gie Ragland said. “Just play­ing football and hav­ing fun, that’s the main thing. You can’t do too much. Just have fun with it.”

It’s a lot more fun when teams aren’t run­ning roughshod over you.

The Chiefs had al­lowed at least 400 yards in four of their first six games, and the other two weren’t a whole lot bet­ter.

And they had been equal op­por­tu­nity sieves, giv­ing up 347 yards pass­ing to the Jaguars and cough­ing up more than 200 yards rush­ing to the Ravens.

Have the Chiefs fi­nally turned the cor­ner?

Or was their per­for­mance against the Bron­cos sim­ply a fluke, a spe­cial night when ev­ery­thing came to­gether against a strug­gling of­fense?

“I’m hop­ing it sus­tains a long way,” Spag­n­uolo said. “The only com­ment I made to our guys, our hope is that when this is all done, that’s not the best game we played. That would be the hope.”

TAMMY LJUNGBLAD/KANSAS CITY STAR

In his re­turn from in­jury last week, An­thony Hitchens sacked Bron­cos QB Joe Flacco twice and forced a fum­ble.

JACK DEMPSEY/AP

The Chiefs de­fense must help off­set the ab­sence of QB Pa­trick Ma­homes.

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