Kansas City Chiefs

KC defense responds to Crennel

KANSAS CITY, Mo. —The Chiefs' defensive players headed to the locker room at halftime of last month's game at Indianapolis, where they had been lit up for 24 points by Curtis Painter, a quarterback of dubious ability making his second NFL start in place of injured Peyton Manning.

Once there, they were greeted by defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. He mentally rummaged through his bag of tricks for something he thought appropriate for the situation.

Crennel came up with what was by all accounts a fire-breathing, paint-peeling rant that may have saved the Chiefs' season. They shut out Painter and the Colts in the second half, a key development in the Chiefs' 28-24 win.

It may make for a nice story to report that Crennel, who has coached in the NFL for 30 years and college another 11 before that, knew he would get results.

But it wouldn't be true.

"I didn't know if that was going to work, but I didn't know what else would have worked at that time," he said this week during a calmer time. "I did know that if we'd kept playing the way we were playing in the first half, we were going to lose that game. I had to do something.

"Fortunately, we responded."

The Chiefs gave up 89 points in the season's first two games, but since the rant the defense has been a different animal. As a mater of fact, since halftime in Indianapolis, the Chiefs have allowed just one touchdown in 10 quarters.

That's a big reason the Chiefs take a four-game winning streak into Sunday's game against Miami at Arrowhead Stadium. At least defensively, it traces to Crennel's halftime speech in Indianapolis.

"Going crazy in the locker room is not something he does all the time, so it was kind of a shock to all of us," defensive back Sabby Piscitelli said. "His passion and his intensity really came through. That speech was a good turning point for our defense. He knew what our capability was, and he knew we weren't playing up to it.

"The biggest thing was the passion and the intensity he said it with. It wasn't so much the words he said. But there was fire in his eyes. You couldn't miss that.

"I think you could say that was a defining moment for our team."

The Chiefs are far from dominant defensively and are allowing plenty of yards. But it's become the identity of their defense to make things work when they matter the most.

A goal-line stand two weeks ago against Oakland allowed the Chiefs to pull away from the Raiders. The Chiefs last week forced the Chargers into five field-goal attempts.

They also have eight interceptions in the last two games.

"We're trying to be a defense that makes big plays," linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "We're a bend-but-don't-break type defense. You can't go by yards at times. You've got to go by (points allowed) and we've given them only one touchdown (in the last 2 1/2 games)."

Crennel's ability was tested early in the season when the Chiefs lost safety Eric Berry for the season because of a knee injury. To help the Chiefs recover, Crennel has mixed and matched players and come up with several different groups he will use depending on the situation.

"That's what makes him great, and that's why he's been around so long," Piscitelli said. "He just knows how to adapt, to tweak or change some situations to let the players be successful."

Crennel might have changed some things the Chiefs were doing defensively early in the season when things were awful. But he didn't change.

"Consistency is the biggest word to describe him and his attitude and his approach," linebacker Andy Studebaker said. "You get the same guy every day. He pushes you to get better. He clearly communicates his expectations to us. He's great at casting a vision for the week: Here's the game plan, and here's how we're going to execute it, and here's what I need from you guys. So it's really easy for guys on defense to embrace their roles.

"He didn't change when we were losing, and he hasn't changed now that we're winning. He hasn't quit demanding excellence from us."

That includes the occasional rant if he thinks it's necessary.

"When I say consistent, I don't mean monotone and boring," Studebaker said. "He's going to motivate us in any way he feels is necessary. That's one way of doing that. That was a huge turning point for our defense and the team as a whole.

"It was a good day for us when he did that."

Sunday could be another good day for the Chiefs. The 0-7 Dolphins are one of the NFL's lowest-scoring teams. Playing the last four games with backup quarterback Matt Moore, Miami hasn't topped 20 points.

So if things aren't working out well for the Chiefs, they may hear about it from Crennel.

"I'll bring out my speech again," he said, "if I think it's needed."