Analyzing the Kansas City Chiefs Defense's First Game Under Gary Gibbs

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Analyzing the Kansas City Chiefs Defense's First Game Under Gary Gibbs
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs defense responded well to new coordinator Gary Gibbs during Monday night's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Gibbs needs to fix two key areas, the run defense and creating pressure. The following examples from Monday night's game show how they fared in Gibbs' first game as coordinator.

All screen shots courtesy of ESPN.

 

Run Defense

The Chiefs did a great job of stifling the Steelers running game. They did it through alignment and gap discipline.

In the screen shot below, the Chiefs are in their base 3-4, but have tweaked their alignment slightly.

By rolling both cornerbacks up to the line, the Chiefs challenged the Steelers to run against a nine-man wall.

The highlighted portions show cornerbacks Javier Arenas and Brandon Flowers both up at the line of scrimmage. Gibbs is presenting the Steelers with a nine-man front.

Even with two tight ends and a receiver in motion, the Steelers have lost the numbers game.

The next step for the Chiefs was to clog and hold their gaps. The screen shot below shows how they managed it.

Shaun Smith maintains 2-gap integrity and gives the runner only one place to go.

The highlighted portion shows defensive end Shaun Smith take on the left guard. Smith stands him up and perfectly maintains 2-gap discipline. He is covering the edge left exposed by Tamba Hali's wide rush.

Smith is also locking up the inside. This takes away the cutback lane for running back Jonathan Dwyer.

He is then forced to the other side, toward inside linebackers Derrick Johnson and Jovan Belcher. Smith's level of 2-gap discipline is essential to the kind of 3-4 defense the Chiefs play.

The Kansas City defensive line expertly 2-gapped all night. Their efforts freed Johnson to make 12 tackles and helped limit Pittsburgh to just 95 rushing yards.

 

Creating Pressure

The Chiefs are ranked 26th in the league for sacks. They have just 15 quarterback takedowns to their credit. One of the reasons has been a limited selection of pressure packages.

Creating pressure has to be about exploiting favourable matchups and deceiving protections. Two plays from the third quarter against the Steelers show how Gibbs might try to create more pressure.

In the screen shot below, the Chiefs are in a dime alignment.

Berry's presence at the line confuses the Steelers protection schemes.

They are showing man coverage with a single deep safety. The red lines show the three corners locking up the Steelers wideouts.

The key player is safety Eric Berry, shown in the blue box. Berry is over on the tight end side, looking as though he is assigned to cover Heath Miller (83).

However, the Chiefs are actually setting up a blitz for Berry. The highlighted portion shows free safety Abram Elam rotating down.

The screen shot below shows how the blitz works once the ball is snapped.

Elam takes Berry's coverage responsibility, while he blitzes an open gap.

At the snap, Hali takes a wide rush drawing tackle Max Starks (78) out. This creates an open blitz lane for Berry to attack.

Miller takes off on his route and is quickly picked up in man coverage by Elam. Berry bolts through his gap and hits quarterback Byron Leftwich as he throws.

Later in the third quarter, Berry again came on the blitz to good effect. Gibbs again showed a dime look, but this time with a six-man pressure. The screen shot below shows the alignment.

The Chiefs show a six-man pressure front, while Berry lurks with intent just behind it.

The blue box shows Johnson aligned to the inside of rush end Justin Houston. The red box shows Elam lined up on the inside of Hali. The highlighted portion shows Berry acting as the dime linebacker.

The Chiefs are showing a six-man front to outmatch the Steelers offensive line.

Behind it they have a five-man coverage look, matching Pittsburgh's three wide receivers, one tight end and one running back.

At the snap, Elam and Berry once again exchange responsibilities to create confusion and pressure. The screen shot below shows how.

The Chiefs have again created a free blitz lane for Berry and taken away Heath Miller.

The highlighted portion shows Elam back out and lock up Miller. He is joined by fellow safety Kendrick Lewis (23). The Chiefs have skilfully created double coverage on the Steelers' favourite third down option.

With Miller engaged, Berry blitzes through the gap, shown by the red arrow. With Johnson rushing on the other side, the Steelers have slid their protection over to him.

That creates only two blockers for Berry and Hali, the right tackle and the running back. Berry's blitz forces an errant throw.

While Berry has struggled in coverage this season, he is still a useful blitzer. It is encouraging to see Gibbs obviously keen to use him to generate pressure.

Sadly for the Chiefs, both of these plays were cancelled out by penalties. However, the schemes succeeded, only the execution let Gibbs and his defense down.

The Chiefs need more expansive pressure packages. These two offer a tantalizing first glimpse about the kind of tricks Gibbs might look to play on offenses.

If the Chiefs are going to salvage anything from this season, they will need their defense to lead the way. Gary Gibbs' first game calling plays, at least offered some promise that the unit could be up the task.

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