When the Buffalo Bills take on the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday, it’s widely expected that both teams will put up a fair share of points. Though I bet if you ask the defenses for each team, they’re expecting only their team will put up points. Buffalo’s running game is solidly “meh,” so I won’t take any time worrying about how Kansas City might stop the run. To slow down Buffalo, they’ll need a pass rush, which is our topic of the day.
I won’t spend a ton of time on stats for this, but a select few might paint a picture. Let’s toss some out and see if we can make some sense of them.
- Kansas City has 13 sacks and 36 quarterback hits, which rate eighth and sixth in the league, respectively. But...
- They’ve faced 205 passing attempts, second-most in the league.
- I’m not suggesting they’re terrible; with a 6.34% sack rate, it’s good for 16th in the league which is average.
- Kansas City is allowing a 69.3% completion rate, ranking third-worst in the league.
- They have the eighth-best yards per attempt measure at 6.23 yards allowed per attempt.
- Kansas City has the tenth-highest blitz rate at 29.1%.
What does this all mean? They’re fine at getting to the quarterback, but nothing special. They allow a lot of completions, but teams have struggled to stretch the field against them in aggregate.
Let’s hit the tape.
Despite a healthy blitz rate, the first sack from Kansas City last week against Las Vegas was more of a coverage sack. Kansas City rushes four and doesn’t do anything fancy. Derek Carr doesn’t see anything he likes, and four seconds later the pass rush finally hits home.
Right after that sack, the Chiefs get more aggressive and rush six. It’s too much for Las Vegas to handle, and Carr has to get rid of the ball quickly—which he does successfully. The Raiders having a couple blitz beaters ready helped them set up an early lead.
This is a four-man rush with one of Kansas City’s favorite strategies, as Frank Clark (55) stunts to move inside and get a clear lane. As you can see, it’s successful this time.
Pre-snap, Kansas City made it look like a linebacker blitz was coming—and in this case that’s exactly what happened. This helps set up Clark with a one-on-one. Clark and Chris Jones (95) win their matchups and flush Carr out of the pocket. This pass was completed and fumbled.
I took the wider angle from the sideline here so we can truly see everyone. Kansas City rushes six, a decision helped by the Raiders’ personnel and play call. With the Raiders not sending all their skill players out on routes, Kansas City has plenty of defenders in the secondary to cover...two guys. Their running back eventually slips out as a safety valve, but there’s plenty of red jerseys nearby to cover him, too.
The raw number of rushers isn’t the whole story. Kansas City likes to mix things up, and the five rushing are weighted heavily to one side. We see a defensive back blitz on that side, as well as another stunt designed to free up either Darius Harris (47) or the aforementioned defensive back, Jaylen Watson (35). This forces a quick pass that’s off target.
Kansas City plays pretty aggressively. Their blitz rate isn’t incredibly high, but they take advantage of personnel to send extra guys when they can, and mix-and-match to try to create confusion. They also have some players capable of creating problems by their lonesome. Kansas City’s pass rush hasn’t been dominant, but it’s also not something teams should neglect to account for.
Will they have enough tricks up their sleeve to slow down Josh Allen and the Buffalo offense? Allen has performed well under pressure. On paper, Kansas City shouldn’t be expected to shut Allen down.