It Was Always Going to Be the Chiefs

| January 29th, 2024

Not much from me today, as I’m rushing to finish as much Senior Bowl prep as possible. More on that starting tomorrow.

But my biggest takeaway from yesterday’s games? The NFL is still a Quarterback league, and it’s becoming nearly impossible for anyone to shine brighter than the league’s best Quarterback when playing under the brightest lights.

Kudos to Purdy — I thought he played a very nice game yesterday, especially after a tough first half — but the young man has his work cut out for him in Las Vegas. Can the NFL’s modern ‘SuperTeam’ fell the game’s biggest giant? We’ll find out in two weeks.

But in watching the Chiefs, one other observation jumps out at me — the Chiefs’ Cornerbacks, namely L’Jarius Sneed, Trent McDuffie, and Jaylen Watson — have played great football over the last few weeks, providing Kansas City’s defense with a punch that many units in the NFL can’t even attempt. After all, could frustrate an offense  more than what we saw in Baltimore today? Todd Monken called pass play after pass play, but Odell Beckham Jr, Rashod Bateman, and Zay Flowers couldn’t separate against Kansas City’s corners, leading to tight throws that got batted away, sacks, and turnovers.

Baltimore’s frustration felt oddly familiar to me — it looked like Detroit’s frustration in their games against the Bears. And after all, how did the Bears fluster a Lions offense that seemingly no one else in the league could stop? The answer, I think, lies in Chicago’s corners. By investing in quality pass defenders, the Bears were able to turn their opponents’ rhythm throws into middle-percentage gambles that couldn’t be counted on when marching down the field.

When combined with Eberflus’ bend-don’t-break attitude, the stout run defense of Andrew Billings, and the pass-rush presence that Montez Sweat provided, I think Chicago’s corners became a force-multiplier that hasn’t been discussed enough — Jaylon Johnson, Tyrique Stevenson, and Kyler Gordon all gave WRs minimal room to breathe, minimizing layups and forcing offenses to play perfectly over long drives if they wanted to score. This clearly affected a pair of playoff offenses, namely Detroit and Cleveland, and throughout the Chiefs’ big win yesterday I found myself wondering if Matt Eberflus and Ryan Poles might be onto something here.

I hope they are — frankly, I hope they continue investing in DB this year with a new Safety and maybe more depth at Corner. But, for now, it’s nothing if not a different perspective on the drivers of a modern defense.

Pass rush will always be king, but as Corner turns into a land of “Haves” and “Have-Nots” it seems as if Ryan Poles has found a way to get ahead of the NFL’s curve — with another likely add coming to Chicago’s Defensive Line in the 2024 offseason, I hope his approach bears further fruit next year. Regardless of who’s playing QB, a stingy corps of DBs will go a long way towards frustrating future opponents and finding wins where others can’t.

Your Turn: What do you think drove the Bears’ defensive success in 2024? Who’s your Super Bowl pick?

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