It's no secret that the Kansas City Chiefs' defense has gotten off to one of the worst starts in NFL history. With that said, the unit played a lot better against the Washington Football team in a 31-13 Week 6 victory.
Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy's offense finished one yard shy of 500 on the day, and Steve Spagnuolo's defense held Washington to just 276 yards of total offense and 13 points — all scored in the first half. Safety Tyrann Mathieu spoke with the media after the game and he reiterated that while improvement was evident, getting better on third downs is a key that could unlock the door to the Chiefs' defense of past years returning.
"Obviously, there are high expectations," Mathieu said of he and his teammates. "I feel like, obviously, we can be a championship defense. We've been to the championship the last two years and I think after a while, you have to play a certain way. Obviously, any time it's third and long, you've got to get off the football field."
One third-and-long situation stood out, in particular. With 16 yards to go, running back J.D. McKissic caught a short dump-off pass and got exactly the 16 yards needed to move the chains. It was a frustrating moment for the Chiefs' defense, but it was also a microcosm of its season thus far. Those allowances are inexcusable and if you ask Mathieu, he'll point to one thing that stood out — both good and bad — it's execution.
"I think mostly, it's execution, and I think that really falls on the players," Mathieu said on why Spagnuolo's defense is still struggling despite having success in 2019 and 2020. "We're pretty much running the same things we ran the last couple of years, and it's all about execution. I think defensively, you have to stay hungry. You can't expect anybody to give you anything or put you in a great situation. I thought we took the field today with that attitude — not necessarily worrying about what the offense did, what the media was saying. We really just took the field like all 11 or 12 of us, 13 of us that play, we're going to stick together no matter what."
The Chiefs certainly played with an attitude on Sunday. Mathieu was seen being frustrated on the sidelines after the team surrendered a big-play touchdown to Washington tight end Ricky Seals-Jones but heading into the half, that may have been a turning point. Over the course of the final 30 minutes, the unit played much cleaner football and held quarterback Taylor Heinicke and company scoreless. As the Chiefs face better opponents moving forward, responding to adversity and getting back to that championship-caliber defense will be key.