After reviewing tape, Redskins coach Jay Gruden listed all the ways his defense was fundamentally sound against the Oakland Raiders. Players flew to the ball. Coverage was tight. Tackles were sure-handed.
The Redskins’ execution on defense led to a dominant 27-10 performance in which the Raiders’ longest offensive play of the night was just 21 yards — one of just two offensive plays that went for more than 10 yards.
The defense will need the same type of discipline when it faces the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football. At 3-0, the Chiefs are building a convincing case for being this young NFL season’s best team.
The Redskins D stopped the big play against the Raiders, but the Chiefs have thrived in ripping off yardage in chunks, racking up nine straight games with a scoring play of 50 yards or more.
Kansas City’s offense features a dynamic set of playmakers and Chiefs coach Andy Reid has designed a complex offense to get the best out of them.
There are reasons the Redskins are seven-point underdogs on the road.
Hunt and Hill
The Chiefs’ success on offense relies on players old and new.
First, the new: Rookie running back Kareem Hunt has been explosive, scorching opposing defenses and leading the league in rushing with 401 yards. Hunt, who stepped in after Spencer Ware tore his MCL in the preseason, has been a threat in the passing game as well.
Then there’s second-year wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who breaks the mold of a prototypical No. 1 receiver. The Chiefs line Hill up all over the field, including the backfield, to create favorable matchups. Like Hunt, Hill has breakaway speed.
“They put [Hill] in good matchups,” Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland said. “They use him and his attributes to their advantage and try to set them up and put them in the best place to get the ball in his hand, let him be a playmaker.”
As for the old, veteran quarterback Alex Smith has shown new wrinkles this season, including the ability to throw deep. The quarterback is averaging a career-high 9.2 yards per attempt.
The Chiefs also love using run-pass-options, which involve reading the defensive end after the ball is snapped before deciding to run or pass. In these plays, the Chiefs have been lethal, even mixing in shovel passes to tight end Travis Kelce.
Gruden said beating the Chiefs comes down to gap control and sound tackling.
“They are a big play team and if we can limit the big plays and try to make them methodically move the ball down the field, I think we can have some success,” Gruden said. “We just have got to figure out a way to eliminate the big plays with Tyreek and Hunt and Kelce and Smith and [Chris] Conley and all of them. But I think we will be up to the challenge and the guys are ready for it.”
The Chiefs defense is still good
Stats can sometimes be misleading. Through three weeks, the Chiefs ranked 28th in yards allowed per game with 369. The pass defense, in particular, has given up 772 yards, 23rd worst in the league.
But adjusted for competition, the Chiefs have been better than first glance. Kansas City’s defense ranks 11th in DVOA, a Football Outsiders metric that measures efficiency against a league baseline. By DVOA, the Chiefs are eighth in pass defense.
The Redskins must be aware of pass rusher Justin Houston, who already has four sacks this year.
“Very effective pass rusher, strong, got good knack for where the quarterback is,” Gruden said. “He can transition his rushes a lot of different ways — inside moves, outside moves, power … We’ve got to give our best pass sets when he’s in there.”
The Redskins are coming off their best offensive performance of the season and sticking with the run game has worked.
If there is an area to potentially exploit, the Chiefs are 26th in run defense DVOA. The Redskins have rushed for more than 100 yards in back-to-back games.
The noise at Arrowhead
The Redskins, Gruden said, have been practicing with loud music and crowd noise blasting through the speakers to try to replicate the expected chaos at Arrowhead Stadium.
Gruden said his team has been practicing hand signals and nonverbal communication because they’re unlikely to be able to hear each other.
“[The noise at Arrowhead] is special,” Gruden said. “That one and Seattle are the two that really jump into your mind.”