Chiefs’ suddenly dominant defense flexes in win at Jaguars

Chiefs Jaguars Football
Posted at 6:16 PM, Sep 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-17 19:16:25-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Detroit’s offense finished third in the league in yards last season and Jacksonville’s finished ninth.

The Lions were fifth in the NFL in scoring and the Jaguars were 10th during the 2022 season.

Both teams also ranked in the top half of the league, converting more than 40% on third down last season.

Unless Detroit and Jacksonville have taken significant steps backward this season, the early returns for the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense in 2023 are fantastic.

Combined, the Lions and Jaguars totaled 23 points on offense, averaged fewer than 4.7 yards per play and went 8 for 26 on third down in the first two weeks.

Two games is too small of a sample size to make definitive statements, but the Chiefs’ defensive numbers so far for points per game, yards per play and third-down percentage would have led the NFL last season.

“The defense was incredible,” said quarterback Patrick Mahomes. “That’s a really good offense, a really good offense. For them to shut them down ... that win is on them. The defense won that game.”

Mahomes continued, “If the defense plays like that, we’re going to be a hard team to beat because that was special.”

Time after time, the Chiefs’ defense came up big Sunday in Jacksonville, particularly in the second half, during a 17-9 victory.

The Chiefs led 7-6 at halftime buoyed by a defense that stymied the Jaguars after a muffed punt set up Trevor Lawrence and company at the 17-yard line.

Jacksonville settled for a field goal on the drive.

Kansas City had one of the league’s worst red-zone defenses last season but seems to have found a more tenacious mentality in 2023.

“Just give us an inch, man, that’s all we need to defend,” said second-year defensive end George Karlaftis — who had four tackles, including 1 1/2 sacks.

Nursing an eight-point lead early in the fourth quarter, the Jaguars had first-and-goal at the Chiefs’ 1-yard line but again settled for a field goal.

Linebacker Nick Bolton, who had a team-high eight tackles, and cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, who notched seven tackles, snuffed out a Lawrence bootleg on first down for a 3-yard loss before two straight incompletions.

Kansas City answered with its own field goal on the next drive to restore the eight-point lead before the defense finished off the win.

Jacksonville battled its way into the red zone again only to flame out thanks to a third-down sack by Chris Jones and rookie Felix Anudike-Uzomah sandwiched around some sticky coverage against Calvin Ridley in the end zone.

“We responded when the defense was called upon,” Karlaftis said. “The offense leaned on us for a little bit. We picked them up when we needed it the most. That’s how you win games.”

Jones matched Karlaftis' 1 1/2 sacks in his first game back after a months-long contract dispute, helping the defense sack Lawrence four times and hit him seven times.

The Jags failed to find the end zone on three red-zone trips, finished only three of 12 on third down and managed only 4.2 yards per play.

“It’s huge, but we’ve got to keep it going,” Karlaftis said. “That’s the biggest thing — consistency.”