The Athletic - "‘Spags is a wizard’: How Steve Spagnuolo turned Chiefs defense into one of NFL’s best"
"Standing next to a whiteboard, Spagnuolo, the Chiefs defensive coordinator, started his halftime address with a simple question.
“You guys ready?”
Spagnuolo changed the rushing lanes for the defensive linemen, a move designed to keep Allen in the pocket. He had the secondary play more zone coverage than usual to keep its collective eye on the quarterback and his pass catchers. Spagnualo used his linebackers in simulated pressures and called more run blitzes on first down.
“We made some (pre-snap) checks that we never practiced,” safety Justin Reid said. “We put them in at halftime and went out and executed them on the field. It made all the difference.”
“We fixed the things that needed to be fixed,” linebacker Drue Tranquill said.
In a major twist, the defense has been the most productive part of a Chiefs team that finds itself back in the AFC Championship Game for a sixth consecutive season. No opponent has scored 30 points on Spagnuolo’s unit, which allowed the fewest second-half points (126) in the league. The Chiefs finished the regular season allowing just 17.3 points per game, second-fewest in the NFL.
Allen, one of the league’s most talented quarterbacks, had just two games this season in which he averaged 5.5 yards per pass attempt or fewer. Both came against the Chiefs. In Sunday’s elimination game, Allen and the Bills didn’t score in the fourth quarter of Kansas City’s 27-24 victory.
“He’s a headache,” Spagnuolo said of Allen after the game, his voice filled with relief.
The reason the Chiefs defense could make so many alterations at halftime, Spagnuolo said, was because his players can help solve schematic problems alongside him.
“They love playing together,” Spagnuolo said. “I love the chemistry, and it shows on the field. When you get into games like this, chemistry, cohesiveness and guys having confidence in being really bold, is really, really important."