Running backs have had success catching the ball out of the backfield this season against the Chiefs’ defense, and that made the matchup with the Los Angeles Rams and potential MVP running back Todd Gurley a potential powder keg.
In the Chiefs’ previous two games, Cleveland’s Duke Johnson and Arizona’s David Johnson combined for 16 catches, 163 yards and three touchdowns. The multidimensional Gurley entered the weekend having caught 40 passes for 402 yards and four touchdowns. Last season, he hauled in 64 receptions for 788 yards.
Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton spoke to the challenge of containing Gurley in advance of Sunday’s game. Schematically, you’ll switch up coverage responsibilities, but you simply must play tight man-to-man coverage in certain situations. There’s not a whole lot of tricks to get around it.
“The actual coverage part is just technique,” Sutton said. “You’ve got to get down on him, stay inside-out, use your leverage — whatever you’ve got. If you’ve got somebody helping you inside, you’ve got to be the outside. If you’re by yourself, you’ve got to stay inside-out just like a tackler would and try to close that distance down on him.
“He’s a good receiver. They use him vertical, down the sideline on those wheels. He has really good hands.To me, his catch in the Green Bay game is what changed that game around down the sideline before halftime. He’s a legit problem.”
What Sutton didn’t reveal was that a big part of his answer to the Gurley “problem” would be using rookie linebacker Dorian O’Daniel at inside linebacker. O’Daniel, a hybrid linebacker/defensive back out of Clemson, started his first career game and registered four tackles on Monday night.
O’Daniel matched a career-high with 43 defensive snaps (he played 43 against Arizona as well). He played alongside Anthony Hitchens (58 snaps) in base defense and alongside Daniel Sorensen (24 snaps) as dime linebackers.
Starting inside linebacker Reggie Ragland played a season-low eight snaps. He hadn’t played fewer than 24 in a game this season.
Gurley caught three passes for 39 yards.
Home for the milestone: Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz passed the 7,000-consecutive snaps plateau in Monday night’s loss. He’s got the longest active streak in the NFL, and hasn’t missed a snap in his career. A second-round draft pick out of the University of California and a native of Pacific Palisades, Calif., Schwartz reached the milestone at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, less than 20 miles from where he went to high school.
Iron men: Chiefs defensive backs Eric Murray, Kendall Fuller, Steven Nelson and Orlando Scandrick played every defensive snap (80) against the Rams. The Rams use three-wide receiver, one running back sets the majority of the time on offense.
Ron Parker came up one play shy of being on the field for every defensive snap. Likewise, former Chiefs All-Pro cornerback and current Rams corner Marcus Peters missed one defensive snap as a result of cramping up. Peters had an interception, one tackle and one pass defensed in his first game against his former team.
“Like I said, just trusting the process,” Peters said of his interception. “You’re going to have ups and downs in a game and you just keep trusting the process. I say it’s all about team. We go out there together and we get this team win, can’t do nothing about it.”
Sammy sidelined: Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins started against his former team, but he lasted only five plays before coming out of the game. Watkins made one catch for four yards.
“Sammy tried to go, did some good things early, tightened up on him a little bit,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “He was there for us though all the way through the game in case we needed him in an emergency situation. We didn’t take any steps back, which is a positive thing with him.”
Receiver Chris Conley played 64 snaps, the most since the Chiefs’ first Monday Night Football game against the Denver Broncos (73 snaps). Watkins left that game with an injury in the first half of that Broncos game. Conley had seven catches for 74 yards and two touchdowns against the Rams.