Chiefs

Top priority for Chiefs’ defense should be stopping the run

Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Allen Bailey (right) and linebacker Reggie Ragland stopped Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon on this play in the Chiefs’ win on Oct. 21 at Arrowhead Stadium.
Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Allen Bailey (right) and linebacker Reggie Ragland stopped Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon on this play in the Chiefs’ win on Oct. 21 at Arrowhead Stadium. jsleezer@kcstar.com

The Chiefs go on the road looking to improve to 8-1 on Sunday and maintain the best record in the AFC. They’ll need to defeat the Cleveland Browns (2-5-1) at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Keys to victory

1. Stop that run.

The Browns come in with a rookie quarterback already on his second offensive coordinator of his rookie season. The running game is his best friend, and the Browns rank ninth in the league in rushing yards per game (127.4). If the Chiefs shut down the ground attack, they can force Baker Mayfield to have to carry the offense by himself. He’s had just two more touchdowns (eight) than interceptions (six), and he’s been sacked 20 times in six games (five starts) while posting a quarterback rating of 78.9.

2. Protect the ball.

Despite the poor record and the changes made to the coaching staff this week, the Browns’ defense has enjoyed a lot of success as far as forcing turnovers. The Browns enter the weekend having forced an NFL-best 22 turnovers in eight games, including 12 interceptions. They also lead the league in turnover margin (+11). They forced six turnovers (three fumble recoveries, three interceptions) in the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

3. Start fast.

The Chiefs have outscored opponents 75-26 in the first quarter this season. The Browns have scored a grand total of 14 first-quarter points all season. The Chiefs scored 14 points in their first quarter of the season against the Chargers. Playing at home in the aftermath of a coaching change, the Browns could receive an emotional boost from a strong start and may only gain confidence the longer the score remains close. A fast start keeps that from happening.

4. Make a big play in kicking/return game.

The Browns need every advantage they can get, and a big play that either gives the Chiefs points or drastically changes field position might serve as a back-breaker. One area to keep an eye on is the Chiefs punt return unit, ranked second in the NFL, against the Browns punt unit. The Browns rank 29th in average punt-return yards allowed.



Scheme

Head coach

Gregg Williams, a graduate of Excelsior Springs High School and Truman State University, took over the Browns as interim head coach following the firing of Hue Jackson on Monday. He previously held the position of head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 2001-2003. He’s spent 17 seasons as an NFL defensive coordinator as part of a football coaching career which began in 1980 as an assistant coach at Excelsior Springs and included a stint as head coach at Belton High. He served as defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints that won Super Bowl XLIV, but he also served a one-year suspension from the NFL for putting bounties on opposing players.

Offense

Freddie Kitchens became offensive coordinator this week after the firing of Todd Haley, a former Chiefs head coach (2009-11), on Monday. Kitchens spent 11 seasons on the Arizona Cardinals coaching staff prior to becoming Browns running backs coach in 2017. He stated he’ll run the same system as Todd Haley. During his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers as offensive coordinator (2012-17), Haley’s offenses were known for spreading the field with multiple wide receivers and taking chances with vertical pass routes. His offense utilized running back Le’Veon Bell heavily as a receiver.

Defense

Williams served as defensive coordinator prior to being named interim head coach on Monday. He’s coached an aggressive 4-3 defense. Only one team rushed just four defenders fewer times than the Browns in 2017, and they blitzed defensive backs more than any other team (16 percent). He’s also been known for using multiple fronts and a variety of blitzes, particularly in passing situations. He’ll also mix up coverages throughout the course of a game.

Lynn Worthy

Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Chiefs and NFL for The Star.

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