In the Kansas City Chiefs' Week 11 win over the Dallas Cowboys, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's unit held the opposing offense to just nine points. This continued a stretch of games in which Kansas City has played a dominant brand of defense and looked like a completely different group than the one that took the field just a couple of months ago.
A few games into the 2021 campaign, the Chiefs' defense was getting gashed at a historic rate on a per-play basis and was struggling across the board. Improved health, better personnel decisions and the acquisition of defensive end Melvin Ingram have all led to Spagnuolo's bunch playing much better. Defensive lineman Chris Jones is no different and after the Chiefs' win, he emphasized just how long an NFL season is.
“It’s never how you start, it’s how you finish," Jones said. "It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You are going to go through adversity along the way. We went through adversity. We had a lot of guys hurt. We were rebuilding the chemistry back on this defense and getting guys healthy. Being able to play together, I think this was the first time, within four weeks, that we had all of our guys healthy and able to mesh and play together. That is a huge part of our defense.”
To refer to the Chiefs' defensive start as "adversity" may be an understatement. Nevertheless, Jones and company are playing the best football they have all year. Jones had three and a half sacks against the Cowboys, making quarterback Dak Prescott's afternoon a living nightmare. Despite the defense's improvement, Jones knows there will still be skepticism surrounding it. He's hoping he and his teammates can use every challenge as motivation moving forward.
“Listen, they are going to talk about us regardless," Jones said. "We can beat the Cowboys and they are going to say the Cowboys are off and they didn’t have their top receiver. Every week we have something coming. It’s okay, it’s a little bit of adversity. It’s good for us. It’s a challenge. We hear it. We still suck. We can use that as a building point. We can continue to build as a defense, as a team, build chemistry and continue to put up points and win.”
The Chiefs' bye week couldn't have arrived at a much better time. Several players are banged up, and Jones is no exception. With three consecutive AFC West battles looming on the other side of the week off, the Chiefs will need every bit of rest they can get. There are still six games left in the regular season, followed by a possible playoff run. If there's one thing Jones knows, it's that the Chiefs have bigger goals than simply playing better part of the way through the season. They want to be battle-tested and ready to win come January and February.