Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: How did you feel like the guys responded after a couple tough weeks? Obviously, the score looks pretty good.
A: I think the guys – again, I've told you about these guys, they work hard all the time. The beautiful thing about these guys is each week they start over. They know they've got to start over on the opponent, but it was good to get a win and good to perform defensively like you would want to. I was pleased with that. As soon as they got back here on Wednesday, they were ready to go on Kansas City and you couldn't have more of a challenging obstacle in front of you right now with this offense. It's tough, but hopefully we get out here to practice and get ready to go to see what we can do.
Q: Was that a good example of what your defense can do when you're getting a lot pressure on the quarterback? You guys obviously got a lot of pressure, had a couple interceptions, pressured (Panthers Quarterback) Sam (Darnold) into a few bad decisions. Is that kind of an example of what can happen?
A: I hope so. When you hold an NFL offense to three points, you limit their effectiveness in the running game and you kind of take away their targets for the most part in the passing game, that's what you're looking to do. Again, each opponent is different. This week, I can't even begin to go down the list of all the different weapons they have. It's numerous, plus they have the best player in the league at the quarterback spot. It's hard, it's going to be hard, and the best offensive minds between (Chiefs Head) Coach (Andy) Reid and (Chiefs Offensive Coordinator) Coach (Eric) Bieniemy. It's going to be a challenge. This is the most explosive offense, I think. I don't know statistically, but if you just go off of SportsCenter in the last four years, they're the most explosive offense, so it's going to be a challenge. They've got good blockers, they've got good receivers. It's going to be tough.
Q: I keep reading everywhere that this year they're struggling with Cover-Two defense. I can't imagine it took the NFL four years to play Cover-Two defense against the Chiefs. What is it that teams are doing to them that's giving them so much trouble?
A: I think what you're seeing – and this is just me watching the tape, I'm telling you I was pulling my hair out. These guys are running all over the field. They've moving the ball offensively. I don't have the rankings in front of my face right now, but they're moving the ball. I'm sure there's some stuff that Coach Reid and Coach Bieniemy want to get a little better on, but they're moving the ball and they can score at any moment. You make a mistake, they can score. The numbers between Cover-Two, -Three, -Four, I don't know those numbers, but I would assume teams are playing Cover-Two because you play Cover-Two and you've got two deep people right there. You're trying to top their speed. They've got outside speed, they've got inside vertical speed, they've got backs that can run and take it off and then you've got the quarterback that might tie into some of the zone coverage to keep eyes on. I'm sure they've seen Cover-Two before. I'm sure (chiefs Defensive Coordinator Steve) Spags (Spagnoulo) is running some version of Cover-Two in practice. The struggling part – I get whatever the record is and stuff like that, but offensively just watching them on tape, it's still as scary as it was as at any other time. They've got the best player in the league playing quarterback, they've got arguably the best receiver, they've got arguably the best tight end. It's pretty good. Then, you took at those rookie O-linemen, those guys are playing well too, in terms of the kid from Oklahoma and then the kid from Tennessee. They've got a lot of good players.
Q: You challenged your defense last week and they responded quite well. Do you think this group is turning a corner or do you want to still see more before you feel more comfortable?
A: I never want to change my song. If I get up here when we're losing and I'm like, 'We're on to next week,' I don't want to come up here because we won a game and say, 'Oh, let's bask in the glory of that last week.' To me, we've got to deal with this week. That's how I talk to the guys, so in terms of turning the corner, we'll see. We got one game. That game is over. We've got to string some stuff together, playing good defense, focused on the fundamentals. I think that's the thing that showed up last week, no different than what we're going to do today in terms of focusing on the fundamentals. We've got to tackle these guys. They're in the top-10, I'm sure, in YAC, RAC, whatever you want to say, run after catch, yards after contact, yards after catch. However you want to put it, we've got to work on our tackling. In terms of explosive plays, defending the deep part of the field, we've got to get better at that. To say we turned the corner, I wouldn't say anything like that right now, but we've just got to focus on this week and it's a great challenge in front of us.
Q: One of the things that stood out when I looked at their stats was 18 turnovers. What are they doing?
A: I would say probably the 18 turnovers, sometimes it's just bad luck – tipped pass here and there. (Bills Defensive End Gregory) Rousseau made a great play there from Buffalo. I don't know how many times you're accounting for a D-end batting a ball and catching it himself, but he's a good player. Sometimes, a tipped pass. A whole bunch of stuff goes into that. Coach Reid is old school, so I'm sure he's saying, 'Okay, let's focus on fundamentals, let's not turn the ball over, take away chances from the opposing team's offense.' It's not like these guys don't know how to carry the ball. Again, the most explosive offense in our league for the last few years, so I would say part of it probably is bad luck, but it's on us to try to capitalize off of that and see if we can make some plays with that and force them into turnovers. It's going to be tough.
Q: So, can it be that (Chiefs Quarterback Patrick) Mahomes is just having a bad year?
A: Not if you're watching the tape. I understand how someone – not the tape I'm watching. I'm telling you, hair has been pulled out a little bit. (Head) Coach (Joe Judge) had had to talk me off the bridge a little bit, but this guy is good. He's the best player in the league for a reason. I mean, he's the best player in the league.
Q: I know this is probably overly simple, but when you look at an offense, do you go in saying we've got to take away what they do best? Is that your first objective in the game plan?
A: That's one of the main things and sometimes you're not successful doing that. There's plenty of examples over the years of my time being a coordinator where I've failed at that, but you're trying to minimize the game wreckers, the guys who are going to wreck the game. I would say offensively, defensively, special teams-wise, that's how I was raised. Let's try to minimize the game wreckers and then you've got to ID who the game wreckers are. Again, that's the hard thing. When you don't get that done, you're probably not going to win the game because those guys are game wreckers for a reason. Anytime they get the ball in their hands, there's a chance for them to score, there's a chance for them to get an explosive play to put them in position to score. I would say most of the time you're trying to do that. It always starts for me (with) stopping the run, who are the game wreckers (and) can we minimize their impact on the game and then try to expose their weaknesses if they have any. Again, this team is really hard to find any weaknesses.
Q: Where do you start with them? You say there are all of these scary things. Where do you start from your perspective?
A: My progression starts with the run game first, even though it's a passing team. I get that, but you have to say, 'How can we stop the run?' because like I've told you guys before, if they can run it especially early in the game, we're in trouble because now I'm playing catch-up the whole time. You're trying to stop the run and you do that against these guys – again, our first inclination when you think about the run game, you're (thinking) get more people down there. That's a recipe for disaster with these guys. You start bringing more people down in the run game, now these guys are running by – (Chiefs Wide Receiver) Tyreek Hill, all these guys. You've got to take care of the pass game. Then from there, the second part is, who are the game wreckers? You're looking at the quarterback, you're looking at the receivers, the backs, whoever you ID. You don't have like 10 game wreckers. You've got to kind of focus the defense on the game wreckers and say, 'Okay, how can we minimize their effect on the game?' and you try to come up with a plan. It doesn't always work and that's on me, but that's really where I start with that. To me, I'm always going to start with the run game because if you can't stop the run or minimize the effectiveness of the run, you're going to be playing so far behind. In this league in my experience, any blowouts I've been a part of, that's been a recipe for disaster.
Q: You brought up Eric Bieniemy earlier. What do you think about the NFL expanding the Rooney Rule and also are you surprised Eric hasn't gotten a head coaching job?
A: I've known EB over texting and through mutual friends. Again, I can't speculate on the head coaching stuff and all the stuff like that, but really good dude to me. Been really informative, got some information from him in terms of just picking his brain about stuff. I'm not caught up on what happened with the Rooney Rule or anything like that, but I know the league tries its best to try to be inclusive in trying to expand and give opportunities to people of color, for opportunities in leadership. Obviously, we're all appreciative of that. I can't really speculate, I don't know the exact rules. I'm pulling my hair out with these guys (laughs), but EB is a good coach. He does a good job of getting those guys prepared. They do so much and to me that's about the coaching. If you're able to do that much – I get the talent and all that stuff, and they have the players, there's no question – but the fact that they're able to do so much. The combination of him and Coach Reid doing it all together and being able to do that is because of the coaching. They found a way to simplify it for the players.
Q: I want to go back to that thing you said about how you can't put more guys in the box against these guys and stop the run—
A: I didn't say you can't. You can if you want to. We'll see. That might be the plan, I don't know.
Q: Just league-wide, I feel like a lot of people are playing with two-high. How challenging is it to stop the run when you're more geared to stop the pass?
A: I think the thing in this league and when I came from college to the pros, the defensive linemen and the linebackers, you have to really rely on them to help in the run game because it is a passing league. I'm not trying to talk out of two sides of my mouth, but if they can run it early, you're in trouble because you're going to be playing from behind. You really rely on your D-line to take care of a lot of that stuff. That's why you have the big bodies, you have the (Defensive Lineman) Leo's (Leonard Williams), you have the (Defensive Lineman) Dex's (Dexter Lawrence II) to take care of that run game. You bank on your outside edge guys to help collapse the edge and make sure that they don't go one-for-one. That's how we preach about the run game, don't go one-for-one. You're banking on that so that you can play a little bit more for the pass, but each game plan is different. Sometimes you've just got to get down there and take care of it, and then sometimes you've got to pick and choose, but there's a lot of weapons down there on the field and they open you up and spread you out. It's tough, it's really tough.
Q: When you say, 'Don't go one-for-one,' what do you mean by that?
A: To play defensive football in this league, to me, if you're blocking me, I've got to rely on you to be able to get off that block and play B gap to A gap, A gap to B gap, something like that.