Red Zone

The Chiefs and NFL by beat writer Terez Paylor

Chiefs mailbag: Questions about the secondary abound after Broncos loss

12/02/2013 9:23 AM

01/02/2014 3:51 PM

Chiefs fans were not happy after the Chiefs' 35-28 loss to the Broncos on Sunday, and really, who could blame them? It's no fun seeing Peyton Manning go “Robo QB” on your team while scoring 28 unanswered points, especially after you take a 21-7 lead at home. That said, it's no surprise that most of the questions I fielded in a fairly random postgame Twitter Q&A centered around the secondary’s regression. Questions about Eric Berry, Marcus Cooper, Brandon Flowers and the general scheme were abound, and really, it makes sense. The Chiefs’ defense has been shredded three games in a row — four if you count the Buffalo win — and if the secondary’s “swag” was at “a high level” earlier in the season, as Sean Smith said it was, it’s probably not anymore, as they all took turns getting dissected by Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. Even still, Chiefs safeties Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis were defiant, like any good leaders need to be after a loss (at least with the media). “We still believe,” Lewis said. “It’s a couple games. We come back, we correct our mistakes, and we’re right back in the playing field. We control our own destiny. We take care of business from here on out and everything is back to normal.” Berry agreed while also praising Manning, who completed 22 of 35 passes for 403 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions on Sunday. “He’s played a lot of football,” Berry said. “You have guys that play football and you have football players. He’s a football player. When it’s down to it, he’s going to make plays. You just have to try to set yourself up in the end to where you can compete with him and compete in the fourth quarter. That’s what we did. We just have to keep pushing; it’s a sense of urgency tomorrow. We’re going to try to get these things corrected.” Indeed, the Chiefs remain 9-3 and are still on pace to make the playoffs, so there’s that. But there’s little doubt the three straight losses have zapped the momentum of their 9-0 start, and they better get it back before this streak turns really ugly. With that said, let's get to the good stuff. It’s hard to tell what coverages these guys are using sometimes ― for instance, Cover 1 man often looks a lot like Cover 3 zone — but I'd think more zone stuff would be in order, though the wannabe coach in me tells me there’s a reason defensive coordinator Bob Sutton probably isn’t going to it more. I suspect he’d go to some different looks if he really thought his players could execute it better than what they’re doing now. The thing to remember with coaches is this: unless they're totally incompetent (and yes, there are some guys like that out there), they know their own team's strengths and weaknesses better than anybody. If they're not calling something, there's typically a reason for it. Not sure I feel comfortable judging Sutton's coaching acumen in this manner (the guy has forgotten more football than I'll ever know) and I'm not gonna B.S. you by assigning a number to his ability to make adjustments. I’d need to see more and hear more from people I trust to do so. I do know the guy is respected throughout the league as a football mind, so that means something to me, but I will admit I am concerned about the way the Chiefs have been getting torched by some of the same concepts and routes for the better part of five weeks. I still wonder how much of that has to do with the limitations of the talent he's been handed, but I don't think the Chiefs have been terribly inventive or creative over that span, either. Conventional wisdom says it's only a matter of time before the Chiefs get all those phases clicking at the same time . my gut tells me it just might come this week at Washington, which is struggling. This is a very winnable game. Maybe, but I think they like the physical component Cooper gives them out there. After the game, Cooper said he needs to work on his press-man technique, though, and he's right. They've given him a pretty long leash thus far; I'll be interested to see how long they keep trotting him out there if he keeps struggling. The Chiefs don't play press man all the time, and without checking the film, I don't think he's really doing it all that much. The fact Flowers has the lowest grade of any Chiefs player on defense (negative-5.8, according to Pro Football Focus) is a concern, but I (strangely) don't worry about him. He's dealt with some injuries this season and is adjusting to being a nickel guy for the first time in his career. Plus, some of the times he's been beaten have come on ridiculous throws by Peyton Manning. I thought about that, but here's the thing: I'm not sure how good Berry is at playing deep safety. He's best used as a versatile in-the-box linebacker, a guy who can cover tight ends adequately and be physical enough in the running game to keep you from being killed. Lewis has been getting killed for his play lately but he's widely regarded as the smartest guy back there, someone they rely on to make calls and get guys lined up correctly. I've gotten the impression that Berry — while respected as a leader — isn't on Lewis' level in that regard. I think it's a good fit. Andy Reid obviously drafted Maclin so he knows what he brings to the table. The question is whether he can stay healthy. Maclin has been fairly injury-prone, so I'm not sure whether the Chiefs are willing to risk it. It's something I plan to dig into a little more as the season goes on. Doubt it. I think A.J. Jenkins and Junior Hemingway need to show more before they make a move like that. Donnie Avery had a rough day Sunday with the drops, there's no doubt about that. But remember, he caught a gorgeous touchdown pass against San Diego, the product of a fantastic route (and his matchup with a below-average corner). But yes, I do think Sunday's game was a nice confidence booster for Hemingway and Jenkins, two young players with some upside. No doubt. There's a reason I've written about him so much the last month or so. With a still-youngish Jamaal Charles as your featured back, you don't draft a running back in the third round unless you think he can really play. He's slowly been adjusting to the advanced blocking schemes and is beginning to see more playing time. The physical gifts are there; it’s up to him to master the mental side of the game and learn how to hold onto the ball. If he never makes it, those will be the only reasons why. I thought they could win nine or ten games and maybe win a playoff game if they got lucky. They're in line to surpass that win total, though I still don't know if they have enough juice to win a playoff game. But I absolutely think it's fair for fans to realign their expectations; you're the consumer, and Lord knows the team (and this league) is going to squeeze all the money they can out of you. That means you guys, as fans, have the right to demand whatever you want, in my opinion. Not sure it's necessary. He's under contract for $7.5 million in 2014, which is a fair number. He’s in the midst of a nice season, but I'd be surprised if the Chiefs didn't want to see him do it again next season before handing him more money (unless he keeps up the torrid pace of the last two weeks). If he does, he'll only be 31 in 2015 and will be well worth whatever they have to pay him. But by waiting until next season, it also gives them plenty of time to develop a younger player at the position, if they so choose. Yes! A draft question. If I were the Chiefs, I'd have my eyes on a speedy or beastly receiver (A&M's Mike Evans?), a free safety with some range and cover ability (Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix?) and a physical, press-man cornerback (Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert?) just in case Marcus Cooper doesn't pan out. Those positions would top my wish list, but good players often fall to the latter part of the first round so I'd encourage the Chiefs to take the best player.


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