The National Football League has a number of teams that are very good at protecting its stars, and that can sometimes make it difficult to understand why other teams might be better.
The following is a list of the league’s best defenses.
All statistics are from Football Outsiders.
—– In the last four seasons, only three teams have been more successful at protecting quarterbacks: the New York Giants (four straight top 10 defenses), the Carolina Panthers (five), and the Kansas City Chiefs (six).
The only teams to have more interceptions than sacks (six) in that span: the Dallas Cowboys (11), the New England Patriots (12), and Seattle Seahawks (13).
Only the Dallas Texans (11) have more yards allowed per attempt (14.5).
In fact, only the Chiefs (16.5) and the New Orleans Saints (17.5), have more sacks allowed per game (18.5-plus).
All told, only six quarterbacks have allowed more than 300 yards in each of the past four seasons (Matt Ryan, Alex Smith, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Carson Palmer).
Only two of those six have been in the top 10 of DVOA.
For quarterbacks, only eight teams have a passer rating of more than 100.0, which means the opposing team’s quarterback has been sacked just once in those 10 games.
(There are 11 other quarterbacks who have had at least one sack in that time span, but the only one in that group is Matt Schaub.)
And only three of those 11 have been the top two in DVOA in those games.
The other two were Russell Wilson and Cam Newton, and neither have a DVOA above .600 in any of those games (Wilson: .541, Newton: .489).
It seems that quarterbacks can be a very valuable commodity in today’s NFL, but defenses can also be very valuable commodities, and the Chiefs defense has had a very good season with its defensive front.
The Chiefs are ranked second in the NFL in DVSA, allowing just 18.0 points per game, and they rank fourth in DVPA, allowing a whopping 18.6 points per contest.
They also rank third in opponent passer rating, allowing only 79.5 points per 100 possessions.
The defensive front has been so good that the Chiefs have allowed the fewest yards per play and yards per attempt, and have been just as efficient on the ground.
The Chiefs also rank second in opponents DVOA against the run, with a league-low 9.5 yards per carry.
That’s actually down from last season (11.9), but it’s actually an improvement on last year, when they ranked in the bottom third of the NFL.
They rank fourth against the pass, with just 2.9 yards per pass attempt.
This defense has a great mix of size and speed, with Justin Houston, Chris Jones, and Dontari Poe all contributing at least 1.0 sacks.
It was only last season that the Kansasers allowed more yards per drive (6.8) than their opponents (4.7).
This season, the Chiefs rank second overall with a 6.1 yards per rush.
In fact to this point, they have allowed fewer than 6 yards per rushing attempt in six straight games.
This is also the only team in the league to have allowed five or more rushing touchdowns in a game.
Defensively, the Kansashuskers have allowed just 10.8 points per offensive possession, which is just slightly better than their 5.8-point average against the New Haven Giants (10.8).
The Chiefs have been very efficient in their defensive line, which has allowed just seven sacks and two quarterback hits.
The biggest reason for that success has been the talent in the front seven, where the three top defensive linemen are All-Pro inside linebacker Justin Houston (seven sacks), inside linebacker Tamba Hali (eight), and defensive end Derrick Johnson (nine).
On the other side of the ball, outside linebacker A’Shawn Robinson (seven) has been a star.
He has two sacks, three tackles for loss, and two pass breakups, while inside linebacker Derrick Johnson has three sacks, two tackles for a loss, two pass deflections, two quarterback hurries, and one pass breakup.
The rest of the front has all been solid.
Linebacker Kevin Williams (nine) is the top pass rusher, while the Chiefs are fifth in the nation with four sacks.
Cornerback Dont’a Hightower (nine), safety Justin Durant (nine and 10) and safety Chris Conte (nine, 10) are also top performers.
The linebackers, in particular, are all very good.
All three of the Chiefs’ defensive ends have at least 10.0 tackles for losses, and all three of their defensive tackles have at at least 12.0.
They have also been effective in coverage.
Defensive tackle Justin Houston has been stellar this season