While the solution for any NFL coach on the hot seat is winning, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel can turn down the temperature on his own job by starting to figure out the defensive side of the ball.
That process must begin Thursday night when Kansas City travels to San Diego to take on AFC West rival San Diego Chargers. Anything more of the same will likely be the end of Crennel in Kansas City.
The overall numbers haven't been good for Crennel, who took over as interim coach last season and was retained for 2012.
Despite defense being considered Crennel's area of expertise, the Chiefs' unit has started the 2012 season ranked 18th in yards allowed per game (348.7) and 29th in scoring defense (29.9).
And the numbers get worse.
Four times this season, the Chiefs have allowed 35 or more points, including the last time they met the Chargers—a 37-20 loss at home. Kansas City will enter Thursday's game averaging 32 points allowed over the last two weeks.
In their current state, the Chargers should represent an opportunity for Crennel to reestablish some kind of identity on defense.
Since the start of the second half of San Diego's Monday night debacle against Denver, the Chargers have scored a grand total of six points: zero in the second half of Week 6 and then six against the Cleveland Browns in a road loss in Week 8.
Coming off the bye week, San Diego totalled just 265 yards and 17 first downs on 69 plays. Quarterback Philip Rivers threw for 154 yards—a low mark for the 2012 season and his lowest overall since 2009—and the Chargers converted just 6-of-16 third-down opportunities. On both trips inside the red zone, the team failed to score.
All told, the Chargers are struggling on offense.
Crennel's group has to make sure that continues.
The turnover-prone Cassel has contributed 10 interceptions and seven fumbles to the Chiefs' NFL-high 25 giveaways this season. If that trend continues, the defense will need to play almost perfect for the Chiefs to spring the upset and avoid a fifth straight loss.
Keeping San Diego under three touchdowns will have to be part of the equation. Since 2006, the Chargers are 6-0 against the Chiefs when scoring at least 21 points, but just 3-3 when scoring 20 or less.
At 1-6, Crennel will be hard-pressed to keep his job beyond the 2012 season. His chances of being fired midseason likely rank among the best among the coaches currently on the hot seat.
But if Crennel wants to stay in Kansas City, he'll have to get his defense turned around. Crennel and the Chiefs have that opportunity Thursday night with a trip to San Diego.