The Kansas City Chiefs are the last unbeaten team in the NFL. Let that ruminate for a bit. Pour it into a wine glass and slosh it around. Let it breathe and then drink it in.
Let it layer your palate to get a feel for the texture. Taste the tannins. Eat some cheese. Do other weird wine stuff.
None of it will change the fact that the Kansas City Chiefs are sitting at 7-0, the last of the undefeateds in the National Football League and now, ipso facto, a Super Bowl contender. And that’s because, like a fine wine (so I’ve heard), the Chiefs talented young defense has continued to get better with age.
Sure the addition of new head coach Andy Reid this offseason infused a new energy into this proud franchise, but defense has never really been Reid’s domain, and it’s undoubtedly been the defense that has driven this unexpected start in Kansas City. Young stars like Eric Berry, Justin Houston and Dontari Poe are hitting their stride, and the Chiefs defense is bullying opposing offenses into submission.
Not once this season has a Kansas City Chiefs opponent managed to muster up more than 17 points in a game, but it’s not just that the Chiefs have been stout, it’s the fact that they’re dynamic and fully capable of creating offense in their own regard. Against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week One, they scored on a Tamba Hali interception to drive another nail into the City of Jacksonville’s football coffin.
Two weeks later, Eric Berry struck paydirt (a common theme throughout his career, both in college and the pros) on an interception against the Philadelphia Eagles. Two weeks after that, they scored again against the Tennessee Titans, and so on and so forth.
All totaled, the Kansas City Chiefs defense has been responsible for four touchdowns and, at times, they’ve managed to single-handedly keep the Chiefs in the ballgame.
But this isn’t just some flash-in-the-pan performance. While statistical regression towards the norm may be inevitable, this is a team that was built over time and is finally reaping the rewards of scores of high draft picks over the course of the last several years.
Berry, Houston and Poe, the aforementioned core of this defense, are an average age of 24. Derrick Johnson gives the unit an experienced veteran in the heart of their 3-4 defense. Longtime stalwart off the edge Tamba Hali is combining with Houston to form what may be the most potent pair of pass rushers in the NFL.
All five of those guys have played every down of their professional careers with the Kansas City Chiefs and four of the five were first round picks in the past decade. Only Justin Houston wasn’t, and he was still a third-round pick.
For nearly a decade the fledgling Chiefs have managed to stockpile talent, and it just so happened that an experienced head coach looking to resuscitate his stalling career was the right man to bring out the best from this bunch. And, while Reid wasn’t responsible for drafting any of them, this is undoubtedly his bunch and it will be for the next several years.
Johnson is the elder statesman (as starters, Dunta Robinson is actually the oldest man in the unit at a whopping 31 years of age) with nine years of experience, and he’s only 30 years old. On the whole, the Kansas City Chiefs starters on defense average 26.5 years of age.
And, given their makeup with a ballhawk like Eric Berry (24), a solid No. 1 corner in Brandon Flowers (27), a pair of dominant pass rushers in Houston (24) and Hali (29), a Pro Bowl presence at middle linebacker in Johnson (30) and a physical freakshow in the heart of the 3-4 with Poe (23), I’d say they’re built for long-term success.
The Kansas City Chiefs are 7-0. Be sure to drink that in, but don’t guzzle up.
Put the cork back in and save some for another day. They just might ripen with age.
That’s a scary thought… Eric Berry scary.