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The Chiefs have problems on defense, but it’s too early to panic

Kansas City is still in great shape, even if the defense is subpar.

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NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Allowing 944 yards of total offense over a two-week span is a red flag. For a Super Bowl contender like the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s a blaring red siren that sends people running for the nearest fire extinguisher.

The only teams to allow more in a pair of consecutive games this season are the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots, who gave up 1,025 and 966 yards, respectively, in the first two weeks of the season.

But if it wasn’t for a wacky ending against the Oakland Raiders on Thursday that featured about as much drama as possible, the Chiefs would be 6-1. Instead, Kansas City is 5-2 and will be at the top of the AFC West after Week 7, regardless of how the 3-2 Denver Broncos do against the Los Angeles Chargers.

If the Chiefs avoid a third consecutive loss and beat the Broncos next weekend, they will improve to 6-2 and will have at least two wins over the rest of the division. Ultimately, the Chiefs are in good shape in a division where the other three teams are hovering around .500.

The defense is worth worrying about, though.

What’s wrong with the Chiefs’ defense?

“I think you look at it,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Thursday after the team gave up 505 yards to the Raiders, via Arrowhead Pride. “Are you close? Do you have people close to receivers in the run game, close to the ball carrier, all those things you look at, and then you have to go, ‘OK I could have done something a little better here.’

“This is all play-calls. This is what play-callers do. ‘I could have done a little better here. Am I putting the guys in the right position to make a play? And do we have to make the play?’ and that’s what the team part is all about here. When everybody takes accountability for that, normally you can flip things around. To tell you that (defensive coordinator) Bob (Sutton) is not going to go back and look at things, he does that. I mean that’s what he does. He’s a great coach.”

Boiled down, that essentially translates to “we can fix this.”

And really it doesn’t take much fixing. The Chiefs average 29 points per game — more than any team but the Rams, who average 29.8 points — and face a weak schedule in the back half of the season.

The absence of Eric Berry is taking its toll, though.

The five-time Pro Bowl safety shut down Rob Gronkowski in Week 1, but suffered a ruptured Achilles late in the win over the Patriots. Daniel Sorensen has been the starter in Berry’s place for the last six games and has been a significant downgrade.

According to Pro Football Focus, Sorensen has been targeted in coverage 23 times and has given up 17 receptions for 238 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. That’s a 135.8 passer rating for quarterbacks targeting Sorensen.

Having Berry may have also positively impacted a run defense that ranks No. 27 in the NFL with an average of 4.7 yards allowed per carry. Losing Dontari Poe to the Atlanta Falcons in the offseason didn’t help much, either.

Will the Chiefs be OK?

Even if the defense continues to struggle, the offense is No. 2 in both yards and points per game.

Kareem Hunt is revelation, Travis Kelce is a matchup nightmare, Tyreek Hill is giving peace signs to players as he torches them, and Alex Smith is continuing to play mistake-free football at a historic level.

The only other quarterback to ever start a season with seven consecutive games with at least one touchdown in each game and no interceptions was Milt Plum during a Pro Bowl season with the Browns in 1960.

As long as the offense continues to roast opponents, the Chiefs will always be in good shape to win games. And the return of players like outside linebacker Tamba Hali and defensive back Steven Nelson will boslter the team’s chances.

It also helps that the final nine teams on the Chiefs’ schedule have a combined 23-27 record.

The Broncos haven’t scored more than 16 points in over a month and Trevor Siemian has reverted to his 2016 self. The Raiders have been just average on offense for most of the year and have plenty of defensive problems of their own. And the Chargers started the season 0-4 and are, well, the Chargers.

Going into Thursday, the Chiefs had a 12-game winning streak against AFC West opponents. The division title is still theirs to lose.

The defense may be the fatal flaw that derails the Chiefs eventually, but it doesn’t look like a problem that will cause the team to spiral during the regular season.