Accessing the Chiefs & 3-4 Defense

Like water trying to find a crack in the basement wall, news leaks out of the Chiefs in drips and drabs these days.

But it does leak out. The NFL Network’s Adam Schefter reported Wednesday that the Chiefs are switching to the 3-4 as their base defense. Schefter does not have a perfect batting record, but among all the network information men, he’s probably got the best average of correct hits. And he should, since he works for the home team, so to speak.

A switch by the Chiefs to a 3-4 defense wouldn’t come as a surprise. That’s what Scott Pioli knows, as that’s what the Patriots have run for years under Bill Belichick.

There’s nothing about the 3-4 that makes it any more effective than the 4-3. What makes both schemes work are the people playing on the field and the coaches who help train them. It’s the people, not the scheme.

But the 3-4 has gotten a lot of attention lately. One reason is the Super Bowl victory of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have won two championships in four years playing the 3-4. Of course both Indianapolis and the New York Giants won titles with the 4-3 defense.

Last year, there were eight teams that used the 3-4 as their primary defensive alignment: Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Dallas, Baltimore, New England, San Diego, Miami and the New York Jets. Other teams have been experimenting with the 3-4, like Denver, San Francisco and Arizona, mixing it in with the 4-3 as the defense presented evolving looks. Green Bay has hired Dom Capers as its new defensive coordinator, and they are making the switch to the 3-4.

The Chiefs biggest problem on defense last year was poor play at linebacker. So on paper it doesn’t make much sense to change the scheme from three linebackers to four, when the team couldn’t find three linebackers last year.

When rebuilding a franchise however, going with the 3-4 makes sense for personnel reasons. The pool of athletes to play outside linebacker in the 3-4 are easier to find and in greater numbers than the classic defensive end in the 4-3 defense. Those guys are difficult to acquire and when a team does, it generally is going to cost them a lot of money to retain them. As evidence see a guy named Jared Allen. …Read More!

Second Look: Chiefs Pass Rush

Upon a second look, the Chiefs pass rush against New Orleans was just as invisible as the first look.

In 36 passing plays against the Kansas City defense, Saints QB Drew Brees was not sacked a single time.

That leaves the Chiefs with six sacks in 10 games. That works out to one sack every 52.7 passing plays.

That’s the worst pass rush in the NFL; Cincinnati is 31st with 11 sacks.

The Chiefs are well on their way to establishing a new franchise low for sacks; that’s 15 in nine games during the strike-shortened 1982 season. In a full 16-game season, the lowest total was 22 in 1976.

But this is even worse than that. The NFL record for pass rushing futility over a full season was established by the 1981 Baltimore Colts who had just 13 sacks in 16 games. The ’82 Colts had just 11 sacks in nine games during the 1982 strike season.

Right now the Chiefs are on pace to have 10 sacks.

Now, let’s re-focus on Sunday’s game against New Orleans. The Saints came in as the league’s top passing team and they were among the best in protection. Brees had been sacked eight times in 362 passing plays, or on every 46.3 pass snaps.

The Chiefs were without DE Tamba Hali and rookie DE Brian Johnston. The No. 3 defensive end on the depth chart was Jason Babin, signed just last week to the roster.

It proved to be a mismatch in favor of the Saints. In 36 passing plays, Brees not only wasn’t sacked, he was in danger of being sacked just once. He was hit after the throw only two times. In 36 attempts, there were 30 were there was no pressure at all from the Chiefs.

There was certainly no pressure from the interior of the pass rush. Not once in those 36 throws was Brees’ vision blocked or delivery changed because of a body coming directly at him. Tank Tyler, Glenn Dorsey and Ron Edwards were virtually invisible. …Read More!

Gunther Talks About Defense

After last Sunday’s overtime loss to Tampa Bay, Chiefs defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham ran into Norma and Tavia Hunt. They asked him about the game, his defense and the season to date. Cunningham tried to explain to the First Ladies of the franchise what it’s been like in this 2008 Chiefs season trying to integrate so many inexperienced and young players into the defense.

“Tavia says it’s like begin a mother and nurturing your children,” Gunther said. “She hit the nail on the head. To go in every day and look them in the eyes in the meeting room and see them looking back and they are just waiting to soak something up.

“People around here have challenged me that I need to get on them more. I’ve told them all, go in that room look them in the eyes and see what I see. I’ve never lost respect for any coach or player on this team that’s in the room; they want to do it so badly. I don’t have to yell. I stand there in practice and watch and they are out there busting their butts.”

None more so than Cunningham, whose worth ethic is legendary. Over the last couple weeks, he’s pretty much cut off contact with the outside world. E-mails go unread. The voice-mail light has been blinking in his office for weeks. There’s no time for anything but making the Chiefs a better defensive team.

So there’s no sitting down for interviews with Gunther at this time of the year. We conducted our conversation on the run, as he walked off the practice field on Wednesday afternoon. …Read More!

Second Look: Defense vs. Denver

Over the previous two games, the Chiefs front seven had its problems. Against Denver, that group played much better football, particularly the linebackers Derrick Johnson, Demorrio Williams and Pat Thomas.

Through in improved play from DT Glenn Dorsey and continued good play by DT Tank Tyler and DE Turk McBride and those were the keys behind the Chiefs winning effort against Denver. Rookie DE Brian Johnston did some nice things in this game as well, consistently getting involved in the action.

In the secondary, Dimitri Patterson provided some aggressive tackling and rookie CBs Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr both played pretty well. Flowers had a fumble recovery, while Carr had a fumble recovery and an interception. Carr ended up spending most of the game covering Denver WR Brandon Marshall. There were several moments when Marshall got him, including at least three times when the Broncos receiver made the catch and Carr came up to tackle too much on the inside. That allowed Marshall to spin and get more yards after the catch to the outside. With help to his inside, Carr needs to protect that outside first. It’s something that will come with more playing time. …Read More!

Conversation with Gunther

From River Falls, Wisconsin

The first time I spent any time talking with Gunther Cunningham was here in the northwoods.  The Chiefs were riding the bus over to Mankato, MN for a practice session against the Minnesota Vikings.  It was training camp 1995, Gunther’s first with the Chiefs.  Sitting in the back of a bus, with the cornfields of central Minnesota flying past, he explained his defensive philosophy.  It was a passionate, learned conversation about football.

Little did I know it would be the first of literally hundreds of similar conversations we would have over the next 13 years.

The thing I came to understand that day in the summer of 1995 was that Cunningham was a passionate guy, who also happened to be pretty smart.  Since then, I’ve seen a lot of people under-estimate the intelligence of this German.  He doesn’t just have a football doctorate in defense; he’s always a step ahead of the curve in how to deal with players, how to teach, how to dissect tape, how to use computers, and on, and on. …Read More!


2011 Senior Bowl
Chiefs Players
College football
Combine 2010
Combine 2011
Cup O'Chiefs
Draft 2010
Draft Profiles 2010
Game Coverage
Hall of Fame
Mouth Of Todd
Other News
Practice Update





         Copyright 2010 Bob Gretz. May not be used or reprinted without the expressed written consent of Bob Gretz.