Chiefs’ defense stingy at goal line

Eric Goska
For Press-Gazette Media
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Perhaps you’ve heard of escape rooms. Individuals are locked inside and then, working together, hunt for clues and solve puzzles in order to free themselves within a time limit.

The Kansas City Chiefs’ end zone is the opposite of an escape room. In recent years, teams of 11 have spent hours searching for ways in which to get inside using their feet.

Success has been fleeting. For teams in the NFC, access has been all but denied.

If the Green Bay Packers hope to score touchdowns against the Chiefs on Monday night, they likely will have to do so through the air. If there is an element of Kansas City’s defense that stands out, it’s a stubborn refusal to allow runners into its end zone.

Since Andy Reid became coach in 2013, no club has allowed fewer rushing touchdowns (13) than the Chiefs. They are better at prevention than Seattle (14) or Baltimore (16), two defenses that often get more ink.

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That Kansas City is so stout is somewhat of a mystery. They are mediocre at best in other aspects of ground control.

In their last 34 regular-season games, the Chiefs have surrendered 4,118 yards rushing. That places them 24th out of 32 teams.

Opponents have nicked them for more than 100 yards rushing 20 times. The Eagles (264), Bills (241), Broncos (214) and Seahawks (204) were the biggest offenders.

In those 34 games, Kansas City has been tread upon at a rate of 4.56 yards per run. Only San Diego (4.57), New Orleans (4.69) and Chicago (4.82) have been less resistant.

On Reid’s watch, the Chiefs have allowed better than four yards a carry 23 times. Fifteen of those instances occurred in succession last season.

Given these numbers, it’s surprising then to discover how well the Chiefs guard their end zone. There are no snarling dogs or barbed wire, yet opponents struggle to get in.

In 2014, Kansas City yielded just four rushing touchdowns. That total was a league low and it tied the franchise record (set in 1968) for fewest in a season.

In two games this season, no runner has crossed over. The Texans’ Jonathan Grimes tried from the 2-yard line in the opener and was dumped for a 2-yard loss by linebackers Derrick Johnson and Josh Mauga. Four days later, Denver’s Ronnie Hillman made an attempt from the 1 and was tackled for no gain by linebacker Tamba Hali.

They have not been alone.

For a time — a long time — the Chiefs’ end zone was closed completely to foot traffic. After Donald Brown of the Colts scored on a 51-yard burst on Dec. 22, 2013, Kansas City turned back all runners until Latavius Murray broke through twice for Oakland on Nov. 20, 2014.

The shutdown lasted nearly a year. Opponents attempted 317 consecutive running plays with zero touchdowns.

Super Bowl I: A major breakthrough

The Chiefs faced some formidable talent during the streak. Miami’s Lamar Miller (108 yards rushing), San Francisco’s Frank Gore (107) and Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch (124) each rushed for more than 100 yards but failed to score.

For NFC players, the embargo remains in force. Since 2013, Kansas City has given up just one rushing touchdown to a foe outside its conference.

That score was authored by LeSean McCoy, and it occurred more than two years ago. The speedster reached the end zone on a 41-yard run in Philadelphia’s 26-16 loss on Sept. 19, 2013.

Since then, NFC opponents have attempted 167 consecutive runs against the Chiefs without a six-pointer. Lynch came closest, reaching the Chiefs’ 1-yard line on a 3-yard carry in the Seahawks’ 24-20 loss on Nov. 16, 2014.

Of those 167 tries, 22 originated in the red zone. The runs produced just 49 yards.

Perhaps that’s the answer. Perhaps the Chiefs dig in deeper the closer an opponent gets to their end zone.

For the Packers, no explanation is needed. What matters is finding a way to breach that end zone – regardless of means – and to do so as often as possible.

Extra point

In 2014, the Chiefs did not give up a touchdown by return. They became just the sixth team to allow five or fewer rushing TDs and zero returns for a TD over the course of a 16-game season.

Regular-season series

Overall: Kansas City leads 7-2-1

At Lambeau Field: Chiefs lead 3-0

Starting QBs

Packers: Aaron Rodgers (72-33 overall; 0-1 vs. Kansas City)

Chiefs: Alex Smith (58-48-1; 1-2 vs. Green Bay)

Once a Chief, now a Packer

There are no former Chiefs on the Packers’ roster.

Once a Packer, now a Chief

LB Frank Zombo (2010-12) is a former Packer.

No Trespassing

Teams that have given up the fewest rushing touchdowns over the past 34 regular-season games.

No. ... Team ... Record

13 ... Chiefs ... 21-13

14 ... Seahawks ... 25-9

15 ... Cardinals ... 23-11

16 ... Ravens ... 18-16

18 ... Texans ... 11-23

19 ... Jets ... 14-20

19 ... Panthers ... 21-12-1

20 ... Patriots ... 26-8

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