The Seattle Seahawks host the Kansas City Chiefs in primetime this Sunday. The 5 Qs and 5 As is coming in late this week, so let’s just jump right to it.
I sent five Qs to someone at Arrowhead Pride and in kind someone sent me back five corresponding As. That someone to respond was John Dixon and here is what he told me about KC’s defense, offense, Andy Reid, and his knowledge of Michael Dickson.
Q: The Chiefs offense is number one in the NFL. Number one in points, yards, yards/attempt, TD%, DVOA, passing touchdowns. It’s hard to believe I’m going to throw a “but...” in this after scoring seven touchdowns in the last two games...BUT, the Chiefs have only scored seven touchdowns in the last two games, facing the Ravens and Chargers. Those games resulted in an OT win and a one-point loss. Kansas City does not appear to be a team capable of dominating (like they have for much of the season) when not scoring 30 points. So do you see this as merely a two-game sample size of underachieving or is the offense noticeably more vulnerable recently for any reason in particular, whether it be the release of Kareem Hunt, the injury to Sammy Watkins, teams getting a better read on Patrick Mahomes, or other?
A: As so often happens, the answer is likely all of those things to one degree or another. From our perspective, though, it’s about Watkins. Without him, the offense is a normal NFL offense with a really good quarterback and two really good receivers -- in the case of the Chiefs, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. But with Watkins on the field, the offense is a three-headed monster. It’s just too difficult for defenses to account for all three of these receivers on every play. Even if they can, the Chiefs still have viable receiving options out of the backfield, too; even before Hunt’s release, Damien Williams and Spencer Ware had also made big plays in the passing game. It’s not that the Chiefs don’t have other receivers who can take Watkins’ place. They do. But Watkins is clearly on another level.
Q: If KC is more beatable when scoring under 30 (as any team would be, but perhaps when you are this prolific, it’s worth further examination) then it obviously leads us to a question on the other side of the ball. The defense is 31st in yards, 28th in points, 32nd in passing yards, 32nd in yards per carry, 27th in DVOA, 32nd in rush defense DVOA, It can’t be for a total void of talent: Chris Jones, Dee Ford, Justin Houston, Kendall Fuller, and I believe I heard Orlando Scandrick was having a good season but perhaps I’m incorrect there. Where are the major issues/problem areas on defense and how much did the return of Eric Berry last week affect the plan?
A: The Chiefs defense isn’t very good? You don’t say! We never would have noticed! It’s certainly true the team has given up a lot of yards and points, and the rushing defense has been awful. The Chiefs made multiple personnel moves in the offseason to shore up the run defense, and it hasn’t worked. On paper, the addition of free agents like Anthony Hitchens and Xavier Williams -- and draft acquisitions like Derrick Nnadi and Breeland Speaks -- should have made a difference, but in the running game, they haven’t. Hitchens in particular has been a disappointment. In Bob Sutton’s scheme, he seems unable to play at the same level he did in Dallas; he seems confused and hesitant on the field. A large number of Chiefs fans believe Sutton is the problem -- that his scheme is too complicated for his players to execute... that he is unable to adjust... that the NFL has passed him by. For many fans, watching Eric Berry move players in the secondary into their proper positions during the first half of Thursday’s game against the Chargers was the last straw; it was seen as a clear indication of Sutton’s inability to coach. But when Berry was on the field, there was no doubt the defense played much better -- even beyond Berry’s personal contributions. If Berry can get to the point he can play full games, the Chiefs -- even with Bob Sutton as defensive coordinator -- could be very difficult to beat.
Q: Andy Reid now has a firm reputation for inconsistency within seasons: KC started 5-0 last year, then fell to 6-6, then finished 10-6. KC started 2-2 in 2016, finished 12-4. In 2015, a 1-5 started ended with 10 straight wins. The year before that, 7-3 ended at 9-7 and out of the playoffs. In 2013, a 9-0 start ended at 11-5. The nice thing is that most of these seasons ended in playoffs but the negative side is that Reid has still only won one playoff game in that time. The Chiefs started 9-1 this year and after losing two of the last four, questions are popping up again: Will Reid fall backwards into the playoffs, and worst of all, lose the one seed and division to the Chargers? How real or valid are these concerns, in the bigger picture? Do you believe it’s a pattern or a coincidence? How worried are you about this KC team today not looking like the KC team of September and October? If the Chiefs don’t advance in the playoffs, how loud do the voices that want a change up top start to get?
A: In 2013, the Chiefs schedule was backloaded; all the difficult teams were in the second half of the season. Two years later, the exact opposite was true: the difficult teams were in the first half of the season, and the easier teams were in the second half. That explains the hot and cold streaks of 2013 and 2015. As for this season, we’re as surprised as anyone. I personally predicted that the Chiefs would go 10-6 on the season -- 4-4 through the tough stretch at the beginning, and then 6-2 as Patrick Mahomes got more experience and the new players on defense started to gel. Mahomes was clearly much more NFL-ready in his first season as a starter than we realized, and the defense still hasn’t figured it out. Yet here we are at 11-3, and still in control of our destiny in the playoffs. Fans of other teams may see inconsistency. What we see is a head coach who took a 2-14 team to the playoffs not just in his first year, but in four years out of five -- and has now found the quarterback we have all wanted for decades. If the Chiefs fail in the postseason, there will be plenty of voices calling for Bob Sutton’s removal -- many have hated him for almost the entire time he has been here -- but Andy Reid is here to stay.
Q: Seahawks defensive tackle Jarran Reed has 8.5 sacks and is the most exciting player Seattle has had at the position in many years. I won’t name the Seahawks DT that shall never draw comparisons from mortals, but let’s just say that Reed is explosive, talented, and arguably the DT Pete Carroll has been searching for since he arrived in 2010. Chris Jones has 14 sacks and they’ve all come in his last 10 games. I mean, 8 sacks is great, 12 sacks is fantastic, but once you start talking about 1+ sacks per game, especially from the DT position, you enter extremely rare territory. How good is Jones and how big is the concern around his injury? (For some reason P-F-R listed Jones with a shoulder injury but that does not appear to be the case anywhere else, hence why I addressed it and why is is addressed below) Related: How long do you expect Jones, Ford, and Houston to occupy the same defense?
A: Chris Jones is a force of nature. Even if he was injured -- which he isn’t -- he’d be making sacks from the sidelines. He’s always been supremely gifted, but this season he’s figured it out. He came into camp with a new attitude, has responded well to coaching, and now it’s paying off. With Jones and Dee Ford, the Chiefs have what is arguably the most disruptive inside/outside pass rush duo they’ve had since Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith in the early 1990s. The Chiefs will definitely have some hard choices to make with regard to their top pass rushers in 2019 and beyond, but I think we’ll see at least one more season with Jones, Ford and Houston playing together.
Q: Normally this is where I would ask you if you’ve heard of Michael Dickson. This is normal. Have you heard of Michael Dickson?
A: Yes. I went to high school with him. He still owes me $20. Do you have his address?