Twice during the Bills’ 38-20 victory in October at Arrowhead Stadium, it looked like the Chiefs’ defense had stopped Buffalo on third down.
But Bills quarterback Josh Allen took off running and picked up first downs in each instance. Both of those Bills drives ended with touchdowns and Allen gained a team-best 59 rushing yards that day.
In anticipation of facing Allen again in Sunday’s AFC Divisional Round playoff game, the Chiefs have done something a little different this week, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said Thursday.
“We’ve spent a lot of time this week in a couple, three meetings that we’ve had with how to tackle. You don’t usually spend that much time talking about tackling the quarterback,” Spagnuolo said. “But he’s big, he’s strong, he’s got a stiff arm. If you don’t get him down with a couple of guys, he’s already shown he can break tackles, he extends downs.
“Really, the remarkable thing about him is when it’s not a designed run play, yet he decides to run it because he was going to pass and pulls it down, he’s always looking downfield and he’s got a strong arm. He proved that against us the last time we played when the down got extended and he chucked it deep. So not only running the football but scrambling and throwing the ball deep are really concerns for us.”
Shortly before halftime of the game in October, Allen was flushed from the pocket by the Chiefs’ defense and appeared to be headed out of bounds. But Allen spotted tight end Dawson Knox wide open and the duo connected for a 53-yard touchdown.
Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu said Allen can make “all the throws,” and when he runs, it puts both the pass-rushers and the secondary under duress.
In some ways, the Chiefs’ defensive players will have to treat the 6-foot-5, 237-pound Allen as someone other than a quarterback.
”It adds extra pressure to the guys that’s covering, but it also adds pressure on a guys that are rushing him just to stay in their lanes, not let him kind of break containment and get into the open field,” Mathieu said.
“But I think anytime he decides to tuck and run the ball, we just have to treat him like a running back, treat him like one of these wide receivers. where all 11 guys have to pursue and get to the ball. And I think it’s gonna be one of those games where we’re gonna have to tackle him, and tackle him well.”
Because Allen is not a one-dimensional passer, Spagnuolo said, the defense will have to figure out the best way to attack the Bills’ offense.
And the defensive coordinator echoed Mathieu’s assessment of how to defend him.
“We’ve got to make a decision on (do we) help the coverage, rush three, rush four, rush five, all of that goes into this game-planning, and we won’t do just one thing,” Spagnuolo said. “We’ll do a number of different things.
“But everybody on the defense has to be aware that when they drop back to pass, if he turns himself into a scrambler and a runner, we’ve got to be relentless. Everybody’s needed. Not one guy can tackle him. I’ve seen him juke a bunch of guys. He looks like some of our running backs out there sometimes running the football and that’s what’s scary. So we’ll be all hands on deck and we’ll be aware of it.”