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New York Times: Post-Week 7, 2013

This week at the New York Times, I look at how the Chiefs have gone from worst to first:

The Chiefs have found success in an unusual way. In the modern N.F.L., the best teams tend to be the best passing teams, but Kansas City has managed to succeed with a mediocre passing attack thanks to a great defense, excellent field position, a dynamic offensive talent and an easy schedule.

Kansas City’s defense has been dominant, ranking first in both points allowed and passer rating allowed. Bob Sutton, a defensive coach with the Jets from 2000 to 2012, has done a remarkable job transforming a defense that struggled in 2012 into the league’s best in 2013.

Inside linebacker Derrick Johnson made the Pro Bowl in each of the past two seasons and has been strong again this season, but he is just the third best linebacker on the team, behind outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali.

Houston has 10 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries. Hali has nine sacks and four forced fumbles, and he has returned an interception for a touchdown. Hali has 40 hurries, the most in the N.F.L., according to Pro Football Focus. No. 2 on that list? Houston, with 28.

Houston and Hali made the Pro Bowl last year, but they are reaching new heights this season in part because of a greatly improved defensive line. Dontari Poe, Tyson Jackson and Mike DeVito were question marks entering the season, but the three have produced remarkable results through seven weeks.

I also discuss how Alex Smith has the lowest average depth of pass this season, but still has a mediocre completion percentage:

Smith’s average pass has traveled just 6.23 yards past the line of scrimmage this year, the shortest of any passer. Quarterbacks who throw shorter passes tend to produce high completion percentages — Smith, who frequently checked down with San Francisco, too, completed 70.2 percent of his passes last year — but this season, Smith has completed only 58 percent of his passes with Kansas City.

You can read the full article here.