Chiefs defense continues locking down against the pass

Oct 5, 2014; Santa Clara, CA; Chiefs safety Ron Parker (38) and cornerback Chris Owens (20) combine to tackle San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin (81) at Levi's Stadium. Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 5, 2014; Santa Clara, CA; Chiefs safety Ron Parker (38) and cornerback Chris Owens (20) combine to tackle San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin (81) at Levi’s Stadium. Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – One of the biggest questions entering the regular season appears answered through five games as the Chiefs sit on a bye week.

The Chiefs have turned the corner against the pass and maintain improvement every week to currently rank eighth in the league, allowing 214.4 yards passing per game.

“I think a lot of it comes back to technique,” defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said Tuesday, “and I think both (defensive backs coach) Emmitt Thomas and (defensive assistant/secondary coach) Al Harris have done a great job working technique.”

The secondary’s progress comes a season removed from finishing 25th against the pass (247.6) when big plays down the field were common, especially during the second half of the 2013 season.

Still, even more impressive despite the Chiefs’ 2-3 record surrounds the secondary not allowing a 300-yard passer through five games in a league where weekly passing totals often resemble a video game.

The signal callers to face the Chiefs included two notable gunslingers: Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (242 yards passing in Week 2) and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (159 yards passing in Week 4).

Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker totaled the most yards passing (266) against the Chiefs in the regular-season opener at Arrowhead Stadium.

Cornerbacks Marcus Coopers, Sean Smith and Chris Owens, as well as safeties Husain Abdullah and Ron Parker, who has started three straight games in place of Eric Berry (ankle), have proven more than capable in defending deep passes.

Indeed, the Chiefs have only allowed 11 completions of 20 yards or more this season to rank fourth in the NFL.

The secondary’s ability to recognize and recover quickly has prevented big plays, which Sutton admits will occur during a game.

“It’s also the players understanding when these ‘shots’ are more likely to happen,” Sutton said. “We don’t have complete control of that, but you can know some by down and distance or formation or field position or any of that. That’s part of understanding it as well. And I think the players have gotten better at it.”

Getting to the quarterback has helped, and the Chiefs have 15 sacks, which ranks as fourth-most in the NFL.

The sacks are led by Pro Bowl outside linebackers Justin Houston, who has six, and Tamba Hali, who is second on the team with three sacks.

“Those guys are good pass rushers,” linebackers coach Gary Gibbs said Tuesday. “They’re relentless; they work hard at their trade. Those are the kinds of plays we’ll need coming down to the last 11 games of the year.”

Defensive end Allen Bailey, who became a starter this season with the free-agent departure of Tyson Jackson, is third on the team with 2 ½ sacks, and defensive tackle Dontari Poe has two sacks.

Defensive lineman Vance Walker has a sack and Owens is credited with a ½ sack.

The Chiefs put in a clear team effort to defend the pass. And pressuring the quarterback or causing havoc in the opposing backfield allows the Chiefs to maximize Sutton’s press-man defensive scheme.

“I think some of disguises have been good and that’s helped us,” Sutton said. “I think overall it’s like most of these things, it’s not one exact thing, but I think the players just understanding the importance of being on top of a receiver is really critical.”