Anthony Hitchens explains why self-assessment matters to Chiefs defense
It’s been frustrating to watch the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense incapacities so far this season – but imagine the irritation from the players on the pitch.
Most of the starters and key contributors have been together before, playing much better than they are now. One of the longest-standing starters is linebacker Anthony Hitchens. He was once a captain of terrible defenses, but also a unit that won the championship.
If a player knows how to right the ship during the season, it’s Hitchens – and he explained the process of getting to where he wants to be on Friday.
“If you’re playing poorly as a defense or individually, you just have to keep showing up for work,” Hitchens told reporters at a Zoom press conference. âIt doesn’t appear every week, it might not appear for us for a few weeks, it’s pretty black and white. There is no way around it, we just have to keep working. We have the right guys, the right talent to be a top 10 defense, we just have to keep building, getting everyone healthy and locking in. “
Hitchens believes the unit has made some headway, but they arrived inconsistently – and were overshadowed by failures to be won.
âWe got better in the running game against the Chargers, but we lost the game – so it kind of got overlooked,â Hitchens said. âOur tackle was around 90% until last week, which was one of the highest rates in the NFL at one point. Then last week, we missed 5 or 6 tackles. We get better in some areas, then take a step back in others. We’re just trying to put together a full football gameâ¦ we can’t wait for it all to happen. “
Defense gets the best shot from each opposing attack because opposing teams know they need to match the Chiefs’ offense and production. This results in unique game plans that are different from what the offense will typically do against any other opponent.
This makes preparing for the game much more difficult, but Hitchens has started to adjust to it.
âEveryone wants to run the ball more, to keep Patrick Mahomes off the field. They go on the fourth tries, will rush at randomâ¦ my film studies are more of a self-assessment, like what the teams do against us which is repeated week after week? We have a plan for all of this, we just need to improve. “
He also noted that the teams would treat the third try as the second because they were already planning to move on to the conversion on the fourth try.
It’s an adjustment that Hitchens and the rest of the defense are getting used to. They struggled to contain the Philadelphia Eagles offense in Week 4, but had three red zone saves – two more than they had had all season before. Hitchens detailed what was better about this performance than previous ones.
âLine up and know what we’re trying to do, accomplish it, finish the series,â Hitchens recalls. âWe went there with a mindset to keep them at three points, and we did – and we won. If we had done it in the previous weeks we would be undefeated right now …. There is no guarantee that this will be the case this week.
Hitchens is right that there are no guarantees this week – but at least they will face a team that has struggled to score in the red zone itself. Buffalo has the 23rd conversion percentage in the red zone.
Quarterback Josh Allen hasn’t been as effective in this area – or any part of the field – as he was last year. Having said that, he is a very talented player; it will be a key individual clash for Hitchens.
âHe’s a big guy, a big target,â Hitchens began. âThere’s a certain way you have to approach himâ¦ you can’t dive into his legs and feet, he’s just going to keep him moving. He has a good false pump, a strong arm, can hold the ball with one arm … ability to run, ability to check on the line, he is going to be in this league for a long time and play a good ball. We have things for him, so me and him can play a little cat and mouse game with the controls and audibles.
The defense can’t be expected to stop the Bills offense from scoring points; they have to continue to play hard against the race in the first downs, forcing teams to go through third or fourth downs with long conversions – which will be less appealing. That, combined with a few stops in the red zone, is the recipe for a victory on Sunday night.