Chiefs are in a zone in the red zone
By ADAM TEICHER
The Kansas City Star
Chiefs linebacker Donnie Edwards made sure Vikings running back Adrian Peterson didn’t get away from him on this run. The Chiefs have kept a lot of players from reaching the end zone.
The San Diego Chargers were well on their way to making it interesting in the final moments of last week’s game against the Chiefs.They went down the field in the fourth quarter, 72 yards in eight plays, and appeared ready to score the touchdown that would cut their deficit to seven points.
The Chargers then made a fatal mistake. They moved inside the Chiefs’ 20-yard line, where this year drives have gone to die.
The Chiefs have allowed just three touchdowns in nine opponent possessions inside their 20, the second-best percentage in the NFL. They made the Chargers throw four incomplete passes from the Kansas City 5 last week and then ran out the clock in their 30-16 win.
The Chiefs held the Vikings to a field goal the previous week after a fumble recovery gave Minnesota great field position. That was a key sequence of plays in the Chiefs’ 13-10 win.
Their ability to make opponents kick field goals or — as against San Diego — keep them from scoring at all is one of the biggest reasons the Chiefs have scrambled back to 2-2 after losing their first two games.
“We’ve made a big emphasis on that,” Chiefs coach Herm Edwards said. “In the offseason, we talked about it. We practiced a lot there in the spring. We did it in training camp.”
Their defensive success could be an important factor in today’s game against Jacksonville at Arrowhead Stadium. The Jaguars have only three touchdowns in 11 trips inside the opposition’s 20, giving them the third-worst percentage in the league.
“That’s not a real good mix,” Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. “They’ve been very strong down there. They’ve done a nice job keeping people out, and it’s allowed them to win a couple of ball games. They’ve been making teams try field goals.
“It’s about execution and taking advantage of opportunities. We’ve been down there and missed some opportunities. What you do is go back and make sure you’re doing everything you can to put your playmakers to make plays and go out and execute.”
Only two NFL teams have allowed fewer yards than the Chiefs, so they’re giving it up grudgingly anywhere on the field. They’ve been particularly difficult to move against near the goal line.
“For some reason, we’re just reacting better down there,” strong safety Bernard Pollard said. “That’s a big part of our defense. That stand we had in San Diego, we made four great plays. That’s what great defenses do.”
The Chargers would have had a touchdown earlier on the drive had Vincent Jackson not dropped what would have been a 45-yard scoring pass just a few steps from the end zone.
But four passes from the Chiefs’ 5 got them nowhere. Craig Davis appeared to be open on fourth down, but free safety Jarrad Page dived and knocked down the pass.
“They had run that play on the other side of the field earlier in the game, not on me but on Bernard and Pat (Surtain),” Page said. “We didn’t match it up right then and they had a guy open. Jared Allen kind of saved us on that one. He knocked down the pass. The Chargers saved it for later and tried it again on us. But Pat and I were ready for it when they came back with it. We were in an all-out blitz, man to man. I had to cover that guy to the corner.
“It’s something that we practice and spend a lot of time on in practice. The other team might get the ball down there three or four times in a game. If you keep them out of the end zone every time, you’re saving yourself a lot of points.”
The Chiefs allowed a touchdown pass from the 2 on a play-action pass against Chicago. The Vikings scored an 11-yard touchdown when Adrian Peterson ran around Ty Law. And last week LaDainian Tomlinson beat them on a 5-yard scoring run.
Otherwise, the Chiefs have defended well in the shorter field.
“It’s a different type of football (from the 20-yard line in),” Edwards said.
“Down there it’s very, very tight. There aren’t a lot of passing lanes. We’ve done a pretty good job of keeping them out, and that’s always good. If you keep them kicking field goals, you’ve got a shot.
“We’ve been pretty good down there against the run and the pass. Offenses run out of room to do certain things. That kind of plays into your favor, and that’s how I’ve always kind of coached. When the field shrinks, just being a former defensive player, it was always to my favor.
“There are only certain routes they could run if you want to pass the ball. There’s no length or depth to the field. The end zone is your friend. Once you learn to play with that mentality and play smart, you’ve got a chance to defend that touchdown area and keep them out.”
The field inside the 20 is short for other teams as well. But not all are defending it well. Six teams have allowed opponents to score a touchdown each trip inside the 20, including the Patriots.
“For whatever reason, we get the sense of urgency when we get down there,” linebacker Napoleon Harris said. “We’re covering tighter and rushing faster.
“Hopefully we can play better defense over the rest of the field so we don’t even let them get down there.”