Kansas City Chiefs: Defense has a new mindset in 2019

We all know the Kansas City Chiefs have a high-powered offense. What has the team done to improve on a defense that came up short last season?

One of the most enduring mantras in National Football Leauge history is that “defense wins championships.” Nowhere was that truer than in the AFC championship game last season. In a game that came down to the wire in regulation, it was the New England Patriots who capitalized on the Kansas City Chiefs defense, or lack of, in overtime for the win.

Chiefs MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes had a slow start in the game but showed why he is the future of the franchise. After less than ideal play to start the game, he came out in the second half and put on a clinic. Like a surgeon, he sliced up the Patriots defense to get the Chiefs back in the game. With the season on the line and less than a minute to play, we saw the “Mahomes Magic” on full display. Mahomes led the team down the field for a Harrison Butker field goal to knot it up at 31.

Having a chance at redemption in OT, the Chiefs defense did what it had done all year. It folded like a towel fresh out the dryer and allowed Patriots QB Tom Brady to take the moment destiny had handpicked for Mahomes.

It was brutal to watch, and if you’re a fan of the Chiefs, it will always be a season of “what ifs.” What if Dee Ford never lined up offsides or what if the Chiefs had won the coin toss?

Last season is long gone now, and training camp has started. This weekend every team in the NFL will officially play its first preseason game. It will be a fresh start for every team in the league — a new beginning and a chance to right the wrongs of the past.

So what has Kansas City done to make sure a lackluster defense does not prevent another magical run from the high powered offense? Let’s take a look at some notable differences for the Chiefs defense in 2019.

Defensive coaching staff

One of the most significant issues for the Chiefs last season was the defensive play calling. To call it bland and predictable would be an understatement. The players always seem to be lost and unsure of what to do. It was so bad that when an injured Eric Berry came back to play, you could see him yelling at his teammates out of frustration.

The team responded by making changes to the defensive coaching staff. They fired Bob Sutton and hired Steve Spagnuolo, the kryptonite to the super coach who killed their super bowl dreams.

The most notable difference is in the way that Spagnuolo interacts with his players. While Sutton seemed to have a more off hands approach, Spagnuolo is more in the mix with his team. As soon as he was allowed to be on the field with the defense, you can see him taking players to the side and coaching them one on one.

Chiefs’ Secondary

From all the holes on the Kansas City defense, the one that needed the most improvement was the secondary. It ranked 28 of 32 in the NFL and allowed a 107.9 QB rating when safeties were targets.

That statistic comes to no surprise as their star safety Berry did not see much game action and Dan Sorensen is better at defending the run. While Jordan Lucas and Armani Watts have potential, starting the 2019 season with them as the starters would not have been a smart move.

The Chiefs filled the void by bringing in Tyrann Mathieu in free agency and adding Juan Thornhill in the NFL Draft.

Mathieu has quickly established himself as a leader on the team, and Thornhill has been as advertised so far in camp. They are looking to be one of the best safety duos in the NFL, and it’s not only Chiefs fans that are seeing it either.

Defensive attitude

Look I know the Chiefs’ pass rush was top tier already but one thing missing was the attitude. You can call this a personal observation if you want, but this group is vocal. The defense is no longer comfortable playing the “little brother” role to the high powered offense lead by Mahomes and company.

This year there seems to be more of a competition in training camp between the offense and defense than in years past.

Another significant difference is the way the defense is disguising the blitz.

Training camp and preseason action can be misleading. There is no way to genuinely know how much the defense has improved until the regular season starts. We have all been deceived by the mirage of a player looking better than he is. But this seems different. If what we see so far is any indication of what’s to come from the Chiefs, the NFL better watch out.

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