A mixture of young and old playmakers stole the show for Kansas City on Sunday, as the Chiefs forced eight turnovers en route to a 24-3 win over New York.
After a slow start in weeks one and two, the Chiefs defense appears to be back where they left off last year.
Derrick Johnson may be playing in his 12th season, but the 33-year old linebacker is showing no signs of slowing down. The seven-time pro bowler led the team with 11 total tackles, seven tackles for 3 yards or less, two pass deflections and one interception that ended with a KC touchdown.
Johnson easily led the team in tackles last year with 95, but this year he might have a shot at reaching triple digits for just the third time in his career. Through three games Johnson already has 27 tackles.
The Matt Forte led Jets running game struggled all day, partly because of Johnson, but the Chiefs defensive line and outside line backers did a great job filling gaps to let Johnson and others make tackles. Forte’s 65 yards rushing and four receiving yards are his lowest totals this year.
Tamba Hali was a factor in the run game this week, as Hali played far more snaps than in previous weeks.
Hali was unable to officially wrap up a sack, but he did have multiple quarterback pressures along with four solo tackles.
Despite Hali’s best efforts in limited playing time, the Chiefs struggled to put pressure on Jets’ quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Chiefs failed to record a single sack, which made the secondary’s performance even more impressive.
The last defense to bring in six interceptions and allow zero passing touchdowns without recording a single sack was the 1977 Pittsburgh Steelers.
This shows both the good and bad of their performance, but the good outweighs the bad when holding a team with the offensive firepower of the Jets to only three points.
Defensive Coordinator, Bob Sutton’s game plan was extremely effective as New York’s top weapons were neutralized for most of the game.
Receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker combined for just four catches and 58 yards, putting the game in the hands of Fitzpatrick.
Many individual performances combined to shut down the Jets passing attack, starting with the reigning defensive rookie of the year, Marcus Peters. The second-year cornerback reeled in two interceptions for the second week in a row, bringing his season total to an NFL-best four picks.
Peters continues to establish himself as one of the league’s best playmakers, with 12 interceptions in his last 19 regular season games.
Peters also played well in coverage and avoided costly penalties, something he failed to do in the first two weeks of the season.
The not so vocal cornerback, Phillip Gaines, continued his strong 2016 campaign with seven solo tackles, a forced fumble and consistently solid coverage on New York’s best receivers.
He has struggled with tackling in the past due to his slim frame, but he showed great strides on Sunday both in coverage and in helping the run.
Steven Nelson worked in the third and most crucial cornerback spot, as the 5 foot 11 inch Nelson often times had to guard the 6 foot 3 inch Eric Decker.
The second year corner proved more than capable as Nelson led both teams with three pass deflections in the game. The Chiefs totaled 15 pass deflections, compared to the Jets’ one.
The younger corners did not play as vital of a role but did make quick work of their limited playing time.
D.J. White recorded his first career interception in the final minutes of the 4th quarter, and Eric Murray recovered his first career fumble.
Both showed they have what it takes to play on an NFL field, and their positive performance on Sunday can only help their development going forward.
The safeties cannot be forgotten, as Ron Parker and Daniel Sorenson continued to quietly perform, while Eric Berry looked like the old Pro Bowl safety for the first time this year.
Sorenson and Berry both picked off Fitzpatrick in the 4th quarter, and Berry had stellar coverage on Marshall on a key 3rd and goal when the game was still in reach.
This cumulative effort from the secondary had the biggest impact because Sutton constantly rotated formations.
Whether it was Peters, Gaines and Nelson shifting assignments mid drive, Berry and Parker rotating box and deep safety or even going with just two down lineman in passing downs, Sutton kept Fitzpatrick and the Jets on their toes and it showed.
This is a big step forward for a defense that will need to be at their best if they want to compete for a division championship this year.
The good news for Chiefs fans is that the veterans look to still have a spring in their step and the young playmakers looked capable of taking KC to the next level.
Their next test comes on Sunday night football, as the Chiefs travel to Pittsburgh next week with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.
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