Chiefs have penchant for interceptions, defensive touchdowns
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Marcus Peters strode through the Kansas City Chiefs locker room after their latest victory sporting a massive black-and-bedazzled sombrero, which he had acquired from a fan for a pair of his gloves.
It looked as if the second-year cornerback was headed for a happenin' fiesta.
Or maybe a pick-six party.
The Chiefs have six defensive scores since the start of last season, tops in the NFL. Peters had two of them last season and Daniel Sorensen had the latest , a 48-yard return off a pass batted around by safety Eric Berry that helped Kansas City to a 24-21 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
''They're very, very sound, they're well-coached, they're disciplined and they fly around to the football,'' said Colts coach Chuck Pagano, whose team will have to deal with them on Sunday.
''It's a combination of things,'' he said. ''You get people into throwing situations, and playing from a lead you can cut guys loose, but their guys are good athletes back there. Peters is a great player and there's a reason he was voted defensive rookie of the year last year.''
It's more than Peters, though. It's an entire defense that prides itself on creating turnovers.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said it starts up front with a defensive line that has done a good job of bottling up the run, even against stars such as the Jets' Matt Forte. That has forced teams to the air, creating opportunities for a ball-hawking bunch of cornerbacks and safeties to make plays.
Six of their interceptions came against the Jets, and they had eight turnovers in all that day.
''They're a very opportunistic defense,'' said Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had one of those interceptions returned by Derrick Johnson for a touchdown. ''There weren't really any wrinkles. They are just a good defense that keeps their eye on the quarterback.''
The numbers bear out just how good: The Chiefs are tied for second in the NFL with 14 turnovers, resulting in a plus-seven differential - even though they have a league-low eight sacks. And they have managed to turn those turnovers into 41 points through their first six games.
Much of the cast has changed, too, which is perhaps the most impressive thing about their ability to constantly create turnovers. Departed safety Tyvon Branch had two of the interception returns last season, and injured linebacker Justin Houston had another of them, while Sorensen and rookie cornerback D.J. White have their first interceptions this season.
That's a testament to the next-man-up mentality that Reid has instilled in his team.
White has been pressed into service because of a knee injury to Phillip Gaines, even though he was an after-thought as a sixth-round pick. But he's been surviving - even thriving - as quarterbacks throw in his direction in an attempt to stay away from Peters on the other side.
When they do throw toward Peters, he seems just as likely to catch the ball as allow a catch. He has five picks already this season, and 13 of them through his first 22 regular-season games.
''With all corners, they're instinctive,'' Reid said. ''Are they going to take some chances? Will he take some chances? Yes, he'll do that. But he studies, he loves to play and that's a good combination.''
At first blush, it would appear the Chiefs have their work cut out for them this weekend. Andrew Luck is one of the game's premier quarterbacks, capable of slinging the ball everywhere and putting up the kind of numbers that are normally seen in video games.
Dig deeper and you'll see that Luck is somewhat prone to throwing picks. He had 12 of them in seven starts a year ago, though he's only thrown four through the Colts' first seven games this season.
What is also impressive about the Chiefs' penchant for forcing turnovers is the fact that just a couple of years ago they were lousy at it. They had six interceptions total during the 2014 season, or less than one-fifth of what they've over the past season-plus.
Part of it is scheme. Some of it is attitude. Most of it the personnel - they have drafted five defensive backs the last two years alone, four of them in the first four rounds.
''Your scheme, the base part stays the same, but every year you do these evaluations of yourself,'' Reid said this week, trying to pinpoint why there has been such a vast improvement. ''But I'd tell you for the most part it's just personnel.''
Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/AP-NFL