KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs have been a bit shaky against the run through three weeks, though in fairness much of that can be traced to a who’s-who of running backs that they’ve had to track down.
Melvin Gordon. Lamar Miller. Matt Forte.
Still, that puts the Chiefs uncharacteristlly in the bottom third of the NFL in run defense, and that isn’t a good place to be considering the Pittsburgh Steelers — with DeAngelo Williams and now getting Le’Veon Bell from his three-game suspension — are looming Sunday night.
“They have a couple good ones,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Wednesday. “I think we’ve got better from the first game, but again, every week is a different challenge.”
Oh, but that first game: The Chiefs gave up big chunks of yards to Gordon and teammate Danny Woodhead in falling into a 21-3 halftime lead.
But something seemed to change in the second half, the defensive front closing down gaps and finally beating the San Diego offensive line off the ball.
Kansas City shut down the Chargers on its way to the biggest comeback win in franchise history.
The Chiefs (2-1) still wound up allowing 155 yards rushing to the Chargers, but they bounced back to hold Miller and the Texans to 97 yards a couple of weeks ago.
And last Sunday, they held Forte and the New York Jets in check in a 24-3 victory that was fueled primarily by six picks and eight turnovers .
“We just played team defense,” nose tackle Dontari Poe said. “We feel like if we play team defense and our P’s and Q’s, we’ll be good. I feel like the only way we can lose is if we beat ourselves.”
The front was expected to be one of the strengths of the Chiefs’ defense.
Poe is a two-time Pro Bowl pick who is finally healthy after dealing with back issues. Allen Bailey, Jaye Howard and Nick Williams are a veteran trio that combined with him to form a stout group that allowed 98 yards rushing a game last season, eighth-best in the league.
Then the Chiefs added defensive lineman Chris Jones in the second round of the draft, resulting in a four-man rotation that allows Kansas City to keep fresh bodies on the field all game.
Perhaps that is why they seem to be better against the run in the fourth quarter.
“I think the guys in the run defense have done a good job of meeting the challenges that we left the San Diego game with,” defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said.
“We talked in here a week ago about executing and getting knocked off the ball. A lot of times, it was just that execution, where we were supposed to be, how we lined up and got off the block.”
The Chiefs have another tough task ahead of them this weekend.
Williams is the league’s seventh-leading rusher through three weeks, and the Steelers pride themselves on pounding the ball.
Now with Bell back in the mix, they can do it with a two-headed monster.
Bell ran for 121 yards in the Steelers’ 23-13 loss to Kansas City last October.
“You’ve got to be gap-sound against this crew or you’ve got problems,” Reid said.
“It’ll be a nice challenge for our defense front, the defensive line and linebackers. Everybody has to do their jobs. The safeties have to be involved in that, too.”
Notes: Chiefs CB Marcus Peters, who was sent home with the flu Wednesday, was voted AFC defensive player of the week after his two-pick game against New York . “Sweet and sour pork here,” Reid said with a guffaw. … RB Jamaal Charles (right ACL) is expected to work more with the first-team offense this week, a sign he’s closer to getting on the field. He has been splitting time with the scout team all season as he continues to rehab. “There’s a chance,” Reid said of playing this week. “We’ll just see how he does, keep kind of progressing. If he can go, we’ll give it a shot.” … RB Charcandrick West sat out practice with a sprained ankle. Tamba Hali also skipped practice to rest his knees.