The Kansas City Chiefs have become the most polarizing team in the NFL. In less than a year they've come from bottom-dwelling, No. 1 pick-status, to the most popular team in the league to criticize. But their old-school approach and defensive-minded philosophy won't stop the wins from coming in the second half of the season.
The Chiefs currently lead the NFL in scoring defense, allowing just 12.3 points per game. They have two players in the top five in the NFL in sacks. Justin Houston has 11 and Tamba Hali has nine.
The formula for success in the NFL hasn't wavered from its original roots, despite recent attempts to make the game "safer." At its core, it's still a physical game dominated by physical teams.
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Those numbers are just what they are: numbers. There are variables and reasons beyond these simple statistics that explain each of these championships. There is no perfect statistic out there that would explain everything, unless you simply want to use the old Bill Parcells saying of 'You are what your record says you are," but that'd just throw gas on the fire in discussing the Chiefs right now.
But it does disprove the thought that you have to have a top-ranked offense to win a Super Bowl. The last 10 Super Bowl winners have had an average scoring offense rank of 8.5 during the regular season. Yes, obviously you need to have a good offense, but having a good defense is just as important.
"The media doesn’t like the Chiefs because the Chiefs force them to focus on what is becoming increasingly boring to them—football.
It forces them to applaud solid special teams, a reliance on a steady run game and a quarterback who does enough to put his team in a position to win.
It forces them to put the spotlight on the fact that an ugly win is still, in fact, a win. So what if it doesn’t feature huge personalities, sound bites, off-field drama or SportsCenter highlights?"
The Chiefs are a boring team to talk about when you have a 30-second montage of highlights, and that's a big part of society today. But the media doesn't dictate what happens on the field. Despite the ever-changing culture surrounding and within the NFL, it's still at its core a physical game dominated by physical teams.
The Chiefs are grinding out wins in the manner that they were built. Alex Smith isn't being told to throw the team on his back and throw up 400 yards and 35 points to win games because that's not what is needed, nor does it play to his strengths. Taking care of the ball should be considered a strength of a quarterback, not a knock on one.
They're built to methodically and safely move the ball down the field and protect their side of the field, both offensively and defensively. One of the big reasons the Chiefs have yet to give up more than 17 points in a game this season is because their offense hasn't consistently given the opposing teams a short field.
When you have a top defense you want to make sure the opposing team is consistently having to go the length of the field to score points.
The Chiefs have the best giveaway/takeaway ratio in the NFL (+12) right now. There's another reason that protecting the ball should be considered a positive for a quarterback.
People often want to talk about wins in regard to Alex Smith, because he's 26-5-1 since 2011, which is the best in the NFL among all quarterbacks. But the truth is that it's not impressive that he's just won games, it's peeling back the onion and figuring out what he's done in those games that's helped attribute to those wins.
That's where you realize that not turning the ball over really does make a difference, especially if you're on a team that doesn't have a high-powered offense. It seems so obvious but yet it's a statistic we use less than others that don't have nearly the same impact on a game.
For many it's more impressive for a quarterback to throw for 350 yards even if he has two interceptions than it is to throw for 200 and not turn the ball over at all.
It's a statistic that seems to be used as a side note many times. People would rather talk big passing numbers and touchdowns than protecting the ball.
Elite quarterbacks can offset a few turnovers because they have the offensive firepower to make up the points they just cost their team. But if you don't have the offensive scheme, firepower or skills to make up the points caused by turnovers, then you better not turn the ball over.
The final eight games of the Chiefs schedule are considerably more difficult than the first eight.
Six of their final eight games are against teams in the top 14 in the NFL right now in scoring offense. That would be the Denver Broncos (No. 1) twice, Indianapolis Colts (No. 8), Washington Redskins (No. 10) and the San Diego Chargers (No. 14) twice.
Five of the final eight games for the Chiefs are on the road. They will be tested and their offense is going to have to answer the call in at least half of these games. But the equalizer always reverts back to the defense, especially one that can create pressure on the quarterback.
As a team, the Chiefs have 36 sacks through eight games. If they continue at this pace they'll finish with 72, which would tie them with the 1984 Chicago Bears for the most all time.
Some have asked, 'what would it take for the Chiefs to make a serious run in the playoffs with Alex Smith as their quarterback?'
For many, the answer would be something along the lines of the best defense in the NFL and a strong running game.
How many wins will the Chiefs finish with this season?
Well, the Chiefs have the top-ranked defense and Jamaal Charles is the No. 2 rusher in the NFL right now with 635 yards. Therefore, the Chiefs are showing you exactly what it would take.
And that's why Chiefs fans are optimistic, not because of some renewed belief in Smith being someone other than who they thought he was, but simply because he is who they thought he was and the supporting cast is being exactly who they need to be to complement him.
Take care of the ball and force offenses to go the length of the field against your defense. It's a physical game dominated by physical teams.