The Kansas City Chiefs have hit the midpoint of the season and are still undefeated. Following a 23-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns in Week 8, the Chiefs have run their record out to 8-0 and find themselves the lone unbeaten team in the NFL.
The Week 8 game against the Browns put the Chiefs in a different place. The Kansas City offense was clicking early, hanging 20 first-half points on Cleveland. But it couldn't generate enough exterior pressure to consistently rattle Browns quarterback Jason Campbell.
Campbell, who was sacked only once, routinely got the ball out well before the Chiefs' vaunted pass rush could hurry his throws.
Campbell is the third Cleveland quarterback to start a game for Browns this year. He was thrust into action after Brandon Weeden was wildly ineffective and Brian Hoyer was lost for the season due to injury.
Teams Think They Can Pick on Sean Smith
Over the past three weeks, teams have begun targeting the receiver defensive back Sean Smith is covering. His tendency toward gambling on the football is well known in the league and the reason for his departure from the Miami Dolphins.
Smith has great length for a cornerback, and early in the season he was showing promise in not worrying about the interception and just getting the deflection. Over the last few weeks, however, Smith has slipped back into old habits and has been caught peeking in at the quarterback rather than sticking with his man in coverage.
The Browns must have seen something on tape. They went after Smith early and often in the game. Smith didn't fare too poorly, defending two passes and making a pair of tackles, but it bears watching going forward.
Knile Davis Has Ability, Needs to Be More Consistent
Knile Davis, the rookie running back out of Arkansas, has had his share of rookie moments throughout the preseason and regular season this year. He has also shown flashes of ability.
The Chiefs need Davis to begin to shoulder some of Jamaal Charles' workload. Charles is the most utilized running back in terms of touches and targets in the NFL, and the Chiefs will need their primary weapon healthy down the stretch. Charles has already had some dings and injuries this season; utilizing Davis should help lighten the load.
Per Andy Reid's post game press conference. Jamaal Charles has a knee contusion (bruise) #Chiefs— Nick Jacobs (@Jacobs71) October 27, 2013
Kansas City attempted to work Davis into the game early. The Chiefs gave him three carries, which he turned into 13 yards, and a target in the pass game, which he took for 12 yards.
The Chiefs would do well to start working Davis into the rotation more heavily in the second and third quarters. This will allow him to help tire out defenses while keeping Charles fresh for the fourth quarter, and for the Chiefs' playoff run.
The Chiefs Cannot Solely Rely on the Pass Rush off the Edge
Kansas City struggled for the first time all year to generate a significant pass rush off the edge.
The Chiefs tallied only one total sack of Browns quarterback Jason Campbell and very seldom hurried his throws. Part of this was a result of the Browns' game plan, which was predicated on short crossing routes to get the ball out quickly, and part of it was Kansas City's inability to deliver significant pressure up the middle.
A lot of the Chiefs' early success has been a direct result of nose tackle Dontari Poe disrupting up the middle while Justin Houston and Tamba Hali cash in from the outside. The Chiefs may need to vary some of their blitzing and sneak Eric Berry down or send Derrick Johnson up the middle occasionally to help disrupt the timing of quarterbacks on teams with good offensive lines.
The Chiefs have a date with the Denver Broncos after a trip to Buffalo to play the Bills and a bye week, and now is not the time to realize the pass rush is both predictable and easy to scheme.
While the Chiefs don't want to overlook a surprisingly dangerous Buffalo Bills team, their eyes have to be doing more than just glancing at the matchup with the Broncos in a few weeks.
The Broncos have a much more potent offense than the one the Cleveland Browns fielded, and Kansas City needs to have the defense in optimal shape for a game that may very well shape who wins the division.