Without seeing the final score beforehand, taking a quick glance at the box score for the Kansas City Chiefs Week 13 win over the Denver Broncos would likely lead you to believe that the home team had a rough game defensively.
Denver had 404 total yards of offense on Kansas City, ran for 154 yards and had seven more first downs than its opponent. The Chiefs mustered just a single sack in the contest and allowed the Broncos to run 72 plays. They must have struggled on D, right?
Not so fast.
For a team that led as soon as they scored their first points, the Chiefs allowed a lot of yardage once the game was relatively out of reach. They also held the Broncos to just 250 passing yards and 4-for-14 on third-down conversion attempts. Additionally, the Teddy Bridgewater-led offense mustered just nine points against one of the hottest units in the NFL. It wasn't an eye-popping performance in terms of basic counting stats, but the eye test depicted a dominating game from the Chiefs' defense. After the game, head coach Andy Reid praised his defense.
"The defense, again, had a nice game here," Reid said. "It was beautiful to watch. The pressure we put on Teddy [Bridgewater] and the way we were able to sustain against the run game... they're obviously a good football team."
For the second game in a row, the Chiefs held their opponent to just nine points. For the fifth game in a row, the Chiefs held their opponent to under 20 points. Dating back to a Nov. 1 contest against the New York Giants, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's group is allowing an average of 11.2 points per outing. Over the course of that stretch, the Chiefs have a 5-0 record. When asked what the driving force was behind the team's improvement in the defensive side of the ball, Reid pointed to a few different things.
"I think health is one thing," Reid said. "I think our front is playing well. It was a nice addition Brett Veach had with Melvin Ingram. The guys are taking a lot of pride in what they're doing there, and they're healthy. So, knock on wood it stays that way, but they sure are playing hard."
He's right. Not only are players like Frank Clark, Willie Gay Jr., Charvarius Ward and Juan Thornhill in better spaces health-wise than they were to begin the 2021 campaign, but Ingram has made a major impact on the front four and the defense is jelling as a unit. Personnel tweaks, getting some key pieces back or near full-strength and adding one plus pass-rusher have all snowballed into the tangible improvements the Chiefs are showing now.
Perhaps the most impressive feat about the Chiefs holding the Broncos' scoring attack to single digits? They did so without standout cornerback Rashad Fenton. He was inactive on Sunday due to a knee injury, so Reid's claim about health may be even more valid down the stretch of this season. If that's the case, combined with increased comfort and chemistry among his players, it's easy to see why those within the Chiefs organization believe in the defense being legitimate.