Chiefs DL Chris Jones on how the defensive line can slow down Tom Brady and the Patriots
Midway into the New England Patriots’ onslaught of the Chargers last weekend, Los Angeles defensive end Joey Bosa couldn’t hide his frustration any longer. He had won his battle with an offensive tackle only to burst through and discover that quarterback Tom Brady had released the football a split-second earlier.
“Stop throwing the ball so fast, Tom,” Bosa said, as captured by NFL Films. Sitting on the sideline later in the game, he added. “He really is ridiculous. How quick he can get rid of the ball (and) what he sees ... Impressive.”
This is the challenge that awaits the Chiefs in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium.
Brady will never be confused for Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson or any other mobile quarterback. In 18 seasons, his career-best rush is 22 yards. That’s it. But he escapes pressure as well as any of them. He just uses other ways to do it. The quick releases. Elite pass protection.
Brady was hurried less often than any other quarterback in the NFL during the regular season, facing pressure on just 17.4 percent of his drop-backs, according to Next Gen Stats.
“He gets rid of it very fast. He’s been in this game a long time, so he can identify a lot of things,” Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones said. “That’s what makes it so tough to bring Tom Brady down. Because he can identify so fast and get rid of it so fast, you gotta scheme on him.”
In that case, it’s strength versus strength. The Chiefs’ defense emerged with its best back-to-back outings this season over the last two games — the finale against Oakland and the AFC Divisional Round victory against the Colts.
It was otherwise a pretty bumpy road, but the defensive line was the exception, a reliable force all season. The Chiefs tied for the NFL lead with 52 sacks. Jones had 15 1/2; Dee Ford had 13; Justin Houston had nine.
That battle within the battle — the Chiefs’ defensive line against the Patriots’ offensive line — could dictate the flow of the game.
It was key last week, too. The Colts had allowed fewer sacks than any NFL team, just 18 in 16 games. Yet the Chiefs sacked quarterback Andrew Luck three times, and Dee Ford forced a fumble on one of them that prevented the Colts from getting back in the game.
But rattling Brady represents a unique task.
“It’s a different challenge,” Chiefs defensive tackle Xavier Williams said. “You don’t really have to worry about him running around as much, but (with) a veteran quarterback like that who’s not afraid to sit in when the pocket is kind of collapsing on him (and) who can still deliver the ball with accuracy, that’s a concern. It’s not so much about hitting him but getting him off his point, making him move around a little bit and just trying to make him as uncomfortable as possible even though you might not actually get the sack.”
A pump-fake sold rookie Chiefs defensive end Breeland Speaks in the two teams’ first meeting. You remember the play: Speaks had Brady wrapped up, then let him go, and Brady ran for a 4-yard touchdown, his longest scoring run in six years. It was the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter of the Patriots’ 43-40 win that night.
In the rematch, the Chiefs’ plan of attack involves a group effort.
“He’s not much of a scrambler, but he’s a competitor,” Chiefs defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi said. “He’s gonna do what he needs to do. With that, you just have to really do your job. If you have to keep contain, keep contain. If you have to close the pocket, you have to close the pocket. It’s as simple as that.”