The Flame Is Missing
Oct 24, 2008, 7:20:54 AM by Bob Gretz - FAQ
Thereís no fire.
Defense is about emotion. Itís about anger, and attitude, and attacking and doing things between the white lines that would get you arrested on the street. Defensive players must be smart, they must do their assignments, but they must do them in ill-temper. There must be fire to play defense and it must show. Most especially, the other team has to know that a fire burns and could rage out of control at any moment.
If there is flame with the 2008 Chiefs defense it does not show. No fire is visible. Several times this season they have given up the type of plays that should have sent half the unit into states of rage. A defensive player doesnít stand for being embarrassed. Ever. And if it happens, it doesnít happen again. Ever.
Thatís not the case with this defense. Last week, the Chiefs had their largest number of penalties in any one game this season with eight. Not a single flag was thrown against the Chiefs defense. Not one. Running backs for the Titans were trampling all over them and there was no reply. LenDale White, who is not in any danger of winning a foot race among running backs in the NFL, ran through the Chiefs defense untouched for 80 yards. He had time enough during the run to watch himself on the Arrowhead Stadium scoreboard.
Not long after that, Chris Johnson ran 66 yards through the Chiefs. He stopped afterwards and played the bongo drums. Two runs, 146 yards and not a single reply from the Chiefs defense. Nobody grabbed those drums and bounced them off Johnsonís helmet.
All this is quite perplexing. The head coach is a defensive guy, who understands the defensive mentality. The defensive coordinator has a flame that burns so bright that he has to wear special glasses just to protect his eye sight. There are individuals on this unit that possess an obvious fire, guys like Bernard Pollard, Turk McBride and Demorrio Williams. It lurks in Glenn Dorsey and Brandon Flowers.
Still, the flame is not visible. Some of that can be explained. There are seven new starters on the defense this year. Six of those seven have made their initial NFL starts in this season. In fact, on average the Chiefs defense has 19.7 starts per man. For comparison, the Jets defense the Chiefs will face this week averages 47 starts per man, nearly 2.5 times per player.
This group is young, inexperienced and still learning how to play with each other. They donít have an identity and are obviously struggling to make the defense work. Thereís even more pressure on them because the offense is so unproductive and the Chiefs are generally in the hole on the scoreboard immediately. The Chiefs have just six points in the first quarter in six games. And the Chiefs defense does not have a leader. If they do, he hasnít shown himself. There is no one to wag a finger in the face of habitual mistake makers and demand more from them. There is no one slamming lockers with their helmets and allowing the frustration to pour out.
On Monday of this week the defense met as a group and several players stood up and spoke to their teammates. The premise was this: it was time to take off the gloves, time for players to start holding each other accountable for mistakes and breakdowns. Itís nothing personal; itís about playing defense.
Pollard probably said it best.
ďItís time for us to quit worrying about stepping on somebodyís toes, because the other team is running all over our toes,Ē said the third-year safety.
That is the necessary first step if this thing is going to be turned around. If this defense is going to develop a mentality, it must come from within the locker room. From their ranks must come leaders who arenít worried about offending their teammates, or their coaches, or even their opponents.
Defense isnít about being a nice guy. Defense is about hitting the other guy in the mouth, play after play, time after time, from the opening kickoff to the final gun. It means playing on the edge of the rules and sometimes stepping over. Nobody wants a team of cheap shot artists, but sometimes a well placed personal foul sets a tone and sends a message. It doesnít even have to be on purpose; it can come simply through the act of tackling somebody with a little extra vigor.
That comes from the flame, and the flame is a must because a defense with no fire is not a defense. Itís a doormat for other teams to wipe their feet on.
Itís time for the Chiefs defense to light a fire and stop being a doormat.