Secrets of the Chiefs' defense

Can Kansas City's talent, creativity lead to upset of Broncos?

Updated: November 15, 2013, 11:42 AM ET
By Gary Horton | ESPN Insider

ChiefsAP Photo/Joe RobbinsDontari Poe (92) is the monster in the middle of the Chiefs' dominant defense.

As the Kansas City Chiefs prepare for their big showdown with the Denver Broncos, their formula for winning in 2013 has become very clear: Run the football, control the clock, play with minimal mistakes at the QB position -- and above all play great opportunistic defense. For the first nine games, it has worked perfectly, as this is a unit that has elite playmakers on all three levels, creates turnovers in bunches and plays with a swagger and confidence that you would expect from an undefeated team.

The Chiefs are at the top of the NFL in a lot of defensive categories, including points allowed per game (12.3). How can a team with multiple Pro Bowl defenders have been so mediocre a year ago and be so good now? In 2012, the offense had a horrible passing game that constantly put the defense in poor field position. Even though the 2012 Chiefs played a 3-4 scheme (which they surprisingly kept this year even though Andy Reid is a 4-3 guy), they ran a read-and-react conservative defense. Under new coordinator Bob Sutton, they are much more aggressive with blitzes, tight man-coverage schemes, changing fronts and put an emphasis on attacking and creating turnovers. So far, it has worked really well.

The more you watch the Chiefs' defense, the more impressed you become. While they can look exotic at times, they are really very sound; they concentrate on assignment football and staying in position. Because they have the ability to play a lot of tight man coverages on the back end, they can be creative with their front seven. Let's look at some nice wrinkles on all three levels of this defense that is helping the Chiefs' success.

Gary Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.