De’Anthony Thomas SCOREBOARD PETER AIKEN/GETTY IMAGES SPORT 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 PLAYOFF FINISH WC - - WC - REGULAR SEASON W-L 11-5 2-14 7-9 10-6 4-12 POINTS PER GAME 26.9 13.2 13.2 22.9 18.4 POINTS ALLOWED PER GAME 19.1 26.6 21.1 20.4 26.5 YARDS PER GAME 337.3 319.3 310.8 350.0 303.2 YARDS ALLOWED PER GAME 367.8 356.5 333.3 330.2 388.2 TURNOVERS 18 37 28 14 27 TAKEAWAYS 36 13 26 23 28 Poe and his fellow front seven linemen and linebackers. In this aggressive climate—as opposed to the previous leadership’s mandate of “read and react” to the offense—the Chiefs D rose to a ninth-best defensive ranking, according to Football Outsiders (seventh against the pass and 15th against the run), while nose tackle Poe, linebackers Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali and safety Eric Berry all had career-best season, playing at an elite level as individuals, as a team and later, at the Pro Bowl, as recognized stars. Few will forget Kansas City’s 9-0 start to the 2013 season, that was made possible by the 111 points allowed in those nine contests (by contrast, the Chiefs scored 215 points in those nine games). Kansas City’s 2-4 regular season finish—where the Chiefs D gave up 194 points—and first-round 45-44 playoff loss to Indianapolis obviously showed KC did not finish strong in 2013 and has much to improve on in 2014. That said, significant ground was covered by a D that may have become too pleased with itself. The Chiefs D doubled the number of takeaways (36) from their offense’s turnovers (18). Put many of its longtime veterans—and high draft picks over the years—in their best positions to succeed. Think it’s safe to say that in 2014, Kansas City once again will have the AFC West’s most dominant D versus the run, against the pass and in straight-up stripping the ball away for multiple touchdown returns. After all, the KC D had seven touchdown returns in 2013, along with 47 sacks and 21 interceptions. Who says the Chiefs can’t do it again? Defensive Player to Watch The 6-3, 346-pound Poe emerged as an elite player in 2013 in revamped Chiefs’ 3-4 attack defense that saw Poe lay out foe, time and time again, at an unbelievable rate. It’s not often you see a big nose tackle possess the stamina to dominate play after play the way Poe did in Kansas City’s 9-0 start of the 2013, but that’s what the NFL got from the interior defensive lineman who played 90 percent of the snaps in 2013 (not even including his special teams snaps). The 24 year old was recognized for his second-year play with a selection to the 2013 Pro Bowl, his first such honor. Key Additions: T Jeffrey Linkenbach, DT Vance Walker, T J’Marcus Webb Key Subtractions: T Brandon Albert, LB Akeem Jordan, FS Kendrick Lewis, RB Dexter McCluster, G Geoff Schwartz Rookies: LB Dee Ford, CB Phillip Gaines, RB De’Anthony Thomas, T Laurent Duvernay-Tardif Chiefs Special Teams Nobody is more special at special teams than the Kansas City Chiefs, who reminded fans of that very fact in preseason game No. 1 of the 2014 season when rookie returner De’Anthony Thomas made his NFL debut with an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown. He later followed that up with a 35-yard kickoff return, not too long after Kansas City teammate Albert Wilson took a kickoff back 68 yards. Such is life in K.C. special teams, where parts are as interchangeable and successful as the previous year. Remember, it was in 2013 when Football Outsiders analytics rated the Chiefs as the No. 1 special teams, with the No. 1 punt return squad (led by departed Dexter McCluster, now with the Titans), No. 2 kick return team (led by departed Quentin Demps, now with the Giants) and above-average kick and punt coverage units. Only Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop graded out as a subpar Chief (15-for-16 on 39-and-under field goals; 6-for-8 on 40-49; 1-for-4 on 50-plus). Prediction Nobody in the NFL can keep up with the Denver and San Diego high-powered offenses that ranked 1-2 in the league last season and will probably go 1-2 again in 2014. That said, the improving Chiefs D is one of the few in football—and the only one in its division—that may slow them both down in 2014. It didn’t happen in 2013, when KC lost to the Broncos and Chargers in all four games by a combined 130-107 (Chiefs were 11-1 versus rest of the league).
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