When the Chiefs get insufficient pass-rush pressure on an opposing quarterback, as was the case in last week’s loss at Oakland, the first statistic to examine is sacks.
Against the Raiders, there were none.
But linebacker Derrick Johnson says sacks aren’t the only measure of a pass rush’s efficacy.
“It’s about getting the quarterback off his spot or getting a hand in his face, causing him not to get comfortable,” Johnson said. That often takes everybody on defense: inside linemen pushing the pocket, and coverage from linebackers and defensive backs forcing the quarterback into a moment of indecision. The duty falls on many to make this pressure work, and the Chiefs know they have to be better than they’ve been recently when the Denver Broncos visit tonight.
In the Raiders’ 31-30 victory, quarterback Derek Carr passed for 417 yards, the most against an Andy Reid team since the Chiefs’ 2013 playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
The Chiefs knocked down a couple of passes, and got unlucky once when a sack by Allen Bailey produced a fumble that was recovered by Justin Houston only to have the play discounted by an illegal-contact penalty in the secondary.
But they didn’t make Carr uncomfortable often enough, and that lack of pressure was glaring as Carr moved the Raiders 85 yards in final 2:25 for the game-winning score.
The Chiefs’ defensive front shouldered the responsibility — “It starts with us,” end Chris Jones said. “We have to be accountable for this and have a better pass rush.”
Jones said the defense wants sacks — Dee Ford has the Chiefs’ lone sack in the past two games — but defensive coordinator Bob Sutton insists bringing down the quarterback can’t be the sole objective.
“A sack would be awesome, but there aren’t that many sacks in a game,” Sutton said. “The most important thing is pressure on a quarterback. Getting him out of rhythm or releasing quicker than he wants. If you can make him hold it one more click, that’s when the pressure gets there.”
Several times against the Raiders, Carr released the ball too quickly for the pressure to work.
“You can almost be unblocked and not get there at times,” Sutton said.
In those cases, a defense has to be in good position to disrupt a play. Carr’s passing total suggests that didn’t occur often enough last week.
The Broncos could be the right opponent for the Chiefs to see improvement in this area.
Denver had trouble keeping quarterback Trevor Siemian upright in a 21-0 loss at the Los Angeles Chargers last week. Siemian was sacked five times.
Broncos quarterbacks have been sacked 22 times in six games.
“We have to do a better job of protecting him and make good, quick decisions with the football to get it out on time,” Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said.
Key to an improved Chiefs pass rush is Houston, who showed up on the team’s injury report two weeks ago with a calf injury. He was back on the report this week with a knee injury and didn’t practice on Saturday, but Reid said after practice that Houston would play against the Broncos.