KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs’ suddenly nose-diving defense won’t get a reprieve this Sunday when it tries to contain one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the game, Washington’s Robert Griffin III.
After three straight weeks of trying to stop Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers — and failing to do so — the Chiefs have plummeted to 21st in the league in total defense.
And now the Chiefs will go up against RGIII, who has run for 460 yards, most among NFC quarterbacks. And they’ll face him again without linebacker Justin Houston, one of their top defensive playmakers.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid understands the daunting challenge in front of his team, which has dropped three straight.
“(Griffin) is gifted both throwing the football and running the ball,” Reid said. “He’s a smart kid and he seems to love the game. It looks like he’s worked through the knee surgery from last year, and the last couple of weeks he’s playing just like he did last year. He’s fast. And aggressive.”
The Chiefs’ strategy to contain RGIII likely will include trying to keep him in the pocket.
“You let him out in spaces and he’s hard to get to,” Reid said. “He can (scoot) pretty good. I think he’s good in either situation whether he’s in the pocket and running vertical or he gets outside, taking off out of the pocket and using his speed to get to the corner.
“The bottom line is you have to tackle him and you have to hit him. Make sure you get him down on the ground. Whatever direction he’s going, you want to make sure you have it covered.
“But sometimes you can put too much emphasis on stopping him outside and then you leave gaping seams inside. And then you pay for that, too. Be disciplined as much as you can and get him on the ground.”
Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson, like RGIII also from Waco, Texas, likely will be the defense’s primary spy.
“At times, yes, I will be matched up with him,” Johnson said. “It’ll be a good matchup.”
Not that Johnson is looking forward to it or anything.
“Well, not really,” he said, smiling. “RGIII can really run. You lose sleep over that. You take away the run and he’ll hurt you passing. That offense is still explosive. They had success last year and this year.”
One of the problems in trying to prepare for RGIII is finding someone from the Chiefs’ offense to mimic him in practice during the week.
“It will be hard to,” Johnson said. “You have to put a running back in there at times, like Cyrus (Gray). Chase Daniel still can run. But it’s hard to practice against that. We just have to work at our assignments and play great team defense.”
That’s something the Chiefs haven’t done in over a month, and Johnson knows it.
“We’re not in a panic mode, not at all,” he said. “We’re trying to have a short-term memory. We have a sense of urgency. But not panic.
“We pride ourselves on playing good defense. We’re not discouraged. Our confidence is still there. We have an opportunity to go and prove that again against one of the best in the business. We have to do it.”
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email at email@example.com.