Having fun helped Chiefs fix run defense ahead of facing Steelers

Dec. 14, 2014; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs defenders swarm Raiders running back Latavius Murray at Arrowhead Stadium. Photo used with permission from Chiefs PR. Credit: KCChiefs.com
Dec. 14, 2014; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs defenders swarm Raiders running back Latavius Murray at Arrowhead Stadium. Photo used with permission from Chiefs PR. Credit: KCChiefs.com

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs run defense needed Week 15’s performance after a four-game stretch saw the unit allow 738 yards rushing during that span.

Kansas City rebounded by holding the Oakland Raiders to 79 yards rushing on 17 attempts during a 31-13 victory. Oakland’s production comes just three weeks after the Raiders, anchored by Latavius Murray’s 112-yard effort, gashed the Chiefs for 179 yards and two touchdowns in Week 12.

But the Raiders’ ground attack ran into an adjustment.

“This time around we took a different approach to the game,” inside linebacker Joe Mays said Sunday. “Being in the profession we’re in, we kind of lose sight of just going out there and having fun. That’s one of the things we did. We went out there and had fun, doing what we’re supposed to do. Whenever we play the way we played, we get a win. This is something that we have to carry on throughout the rest of the season.”

While the Chiefs limited Murray to 59 yards on 12 carries, the approach to Week 15 must carry over for a more difficult task during a Week 16 road game against Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell.

The Steelers officially list Bell at 6-1, 244 pounds. But he reported to training camp weighing 232 pounds, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Weight discrepancy aside, there is little doubt surrounding the former Michigan State star’s talent.

Bell ranks second in the league in rushing with 1,278 yards on 262 carries and the second-year pro is a dual threat, totaling 76 catches for 765 yards on 97 targets. Bell is no stranger to the end zone with 10 total touchdowns (seven rushing) on the season.

The Chiefs understand the challenge waiting in Pittsburgh, but Mays said Week 15’s effort against the run provides an opportunity for momentum and making even more necessary adjustments as necessary.

“Not only do we get a chance to go out there and play the way we’re supposed to play,” Mays said, “We get a chance to see it on film and see some of the things we do right, some of the things we do wrong and correct it.”

Mays, who totaled four tackles (three solo) against the Raiders, points out what he and his teammates learn from watching film will help scheme against the Steelers.

And this is especially true when considering the Steelers offer more than just the running game.

“Having an offense that they have with (quarterback Ben) Roethlisberger running the helm,” Mays said. “Then you have a running back that’s going out there and having a career year. We definitely have to step up and do our jobs. It’s going to be good for us to get that film work in.”

Outside linebacker Tamba Hali agreed, pointing out the importance of Week 16’s matchup with the Chiefs chasing a playoff berth.

“We have to continue to prove and build on confidence each week by stopping the run,” Hali said. “Going there, we know this team runs the ball, they do play-action off of it. But we’ve got to go in there with the same mentality, got to win the game, do whatever it takes to win the game.”

The Chiefs defense dominated the win against Oakland, but the re-emergence of the run defense arrives at the right time before facing one of the NFL’s premier rushers.

Kansas City’s coaching staff stressed defensive fundamentals in recent weeks with hopes to effectively address the issues against the run for a playoff push.

And it worked in Week 15 when combined with the defensive players’ approach to have fun.

“We did a better job, I thought, of staying square upfront, kind of constricting the lanes and linebackers playing downhill,” coach Andy Reid said Monday. “The safeties got involved in that, too. Actually, a few of the snaps the corners got involved. I thought we tackled better.”