For all the pomp and ballyhoo directed at the Kansas City Chiefs' offense, it's not all that difficult to forget what a vital role the defense played in K.C.'s ascension to Super Bowl champions.
Down the stretch of a season that would culminate in the Chiefs' first Super Bowl title in 50 years, Kansas City led the NFL in scoring defense from Weeks 11-17, according to NFL Research. Will the Chris Jones and Tyrann Mathieu-led band be able to carry over its late-season surge into 2020?
As the Chiefs readied for a drive to the Super Bowl, the defense clamped down, allowing a league-best 11.5 points per game thanks in part to a league-high 10 interceptions.
Weeks 11-17, 2019
PPG Allowed 11.5 1st
TD-INT Ratio 5-10 1st
Interceptions 10 T-1st
Opp Passer Rating 63.5 1st
The turnabout equated to a massive improvement overall from 2018 to 2019. Most notably, the Chiefs improved from 24th in the league in points per game allowed in 2018 to seventh in 2019, thanks in tremendous part to shoring up their pass defense (the Chiefs went from 31st in the NFL in passing yards per game allowed in 2018 to eighth in 2019).
As the Chiefs boast an offense that's averaged a league-high 31.8 points per game over the last two seasons, it's hardly surprising that a massive defensive improvement has been overlooked.
For the opposition ahead, though, it simply cannot overlook the defense, though.
Jones now has the big-money deal that goes with being one of the elite defensive players in the league. Across the past two seasons, Jones' 24.5 sacks and 49 quarterback hits are second among defensive tackles to only Aaron Donald, per NFL Research.
Mathieu, on his third team in as many seasons last year, has made a home for himself in the Chiefs defensive backfield and reaffirmed his status as one of the top safeties in the game. Mathieu's first season as a Chief saw him earn his second All-Pro nod, which came four seasons after his first with the Cardinals.
Defensive end Frank Clark was selected to his first career Pro Bowl after becoming one of seven players with eight or more sacks in each of the last four seasons, per NFL Research.
Speedy linebacker Willie Gay, a second-round pick, also figures to add to the mix and free safety Juan Thornhill, who was turning in a terrific rookie year before it was cut short by injury, is also due back.
Amid all the celebrations of a generational offense in Kansas City, the defense is trending upward, too. With high hopes of a repeat, Jones and Co. are a reminder that there most assuredly is a 'D' in dynasty.