Last year the Kansas City Chiefs defense was miserable. They were 22nd in passing yards given up and 31st in rushing yards. They gave up a lot of touchdowns and big plays.
They were a heartbreaking group (and, frankly, it's painful to talk about so we'll move past that group).
The offseason brought the arrival of Romeo Crennel, Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis. Other than that, no changes were really made to the defense. There were already four first round picks in that front seven so in-house improvement was expected.
The result? Two straight games giving up just 14 points to the opponent. If you watched the Chiefs 2009 defense, then you know what kind of feat this is.
The Chiefs held the Chargers to just 14 points despite Philip Rivers throwing for 298 yards. They also held the Browns to 14 points on Sunday. Last year they averaged giving up 40 points in each game against the Chargers. They gave up 41 to the Browns last year.
Clearly, things have changed.
Chiefs CB Brandon Flowers is arguably the best player on the team and he showed why picking off a Seneca Wallace pass on Sunday and taking it back for six points. The Chiefs as a team aren't flashy but Flowers is and he generally backs that up.
Chiefs LB Tamba Hali won't get a lot of recognition because he doesn't get a ton of sacks but he certainly affected the game against the Browns. There was one key holding call on the Browns lineman trying to block Hali. He pressured the quarterback at times and made Seneca Wallace locate him before the play.
Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson had his second consecutive strong outing. For the second straight game, he led the team in tackles with seven. He was always around the ball on Sunday and the speed he has for his size is impressive. Smaller running backs in the flat don't stand a chance at times.
The Chiefs players will tell you this is a bend-but-don't-break defense. They're not flashy with a ton of unique blitzes and interceptions left and right. But they do work together as a unit and only had a couple of minor breakdowns on Sunday against the Browns, which brings us to....
.....Eric Berry. While coming along nicely, he's still a rookie and makes rookie mistakes. He made two big ones against the Browns. One was taking a bad angle on a pass over the middle to Ben Watson. Berry missed the tackle allowing Watson to rumble down the field for a 44-yard gain. The other came on a 65-yard touchdown pass to Josh Cribbs and Berry bit on the play-action fake.
At the same time, Berry was tied with DJ for the team lead in tackles. He made rookie mistakes but he was also around the ball often. His speed is already impressive.
Overall, this is a much better unit, with emphasis on unit, as in team. These guys are playing better as a group, they seem more disciplined and generally don't have the number of meltdowns as they did last year. There are still some areas of improvement that need to be addressed but I'm thinking now that this defense can finish in the top half of league.
If you saw 2009, then you know how amazing that is.