“That’s their style of defense,” said Packers quarterback coach Tom Clements. “They’re not going to do it just because it’s Jordan. If you watch them, they are a blitzing defense. They’ll show you things coming from one side and bring it from another side. They’ll blitz all out and not have a safety in the middle of the field, and they’ll do it at any time.”
The Chiefs enter Week 13 blitzing at the sixth-highest rate in football. Cornerback Trent McDuffie leads his position group league-wide in pass rush snaps, while L’Jarius Sneed ranks 19th. Safety Justin Reid ranks 11th among his position group in pass rush snaps, while Kansas City has three linebackers out of 134 ranked in the top 44 in pass-rush opportunities.
The Chiefs don’t just send pressure. They also get home as well, currently holding the second-highest quarterback pressure rate in football.
“We got one of the best defenses coming in here on Sunday Night Football,” said Matt LaFleur. “It’s going to be a great challenge for our guys. They do a really good job applying a lot of pressure. They’re a very physical unit and just very aggressive.”
Success for the Packers on offense when it comes to handling the Chiefs pressure packages starts with the offensive line, but it is going to require a total team effort. For the offensive line, this all starts with their pre-snap communication, identifying responsibilities and where potential pressure could be coming from. Josh Myers recently discussed the importance of taking note of what personnel the defense is in, what the front looks like, and then communicating those calls effectively when facing a heavy blitzing team.
Chips from the tight ends and asking Tucker Kraft and Ben Sims to stay in-line to help protect will be strategies used by Green Bay to provide reinforcements up front. Not to mention that the running backs will likely often be asked to stay in the backfield to mass-protect and pick up any free pass rushers.
“They bring it from everywhere,” said running backs coach Ben Sirmans about the Chiefs defense, “and everybody is eligible to blitz in their system. So you really have to have a great awareness, and they are relentless in going to the quarterback and getting after the quarterback.”
Utilizing the quick passing game is going to have to be a part of the Packers’ plan of attack in an effort to get the ball out of Love’s hands in a timely fashion. But for Love, making the proper protection adjustments pre-snap, feeling where the pressure is coming from as the play unfolds, and knowing where his check down is at all times are going to be key components for him and the offense.
At this stage of the season compared to even a few weeks ago, Love is better equipped to handle this blitz-heavy approach. Clements would go on to say that, especially as of late, Love has been making the proper protection changes at the line of scrimmage, and when asked where he has seen Love improve the most, Clements mentioned his decision-making, specifically knowing where his outlet is when either the pressure is closing in, or the deep option isn’t available.
“I think Jordan,” said Clements, “especially recently, we call them protection adjustments; he’s made them, and they’ve been correct, gotten everyone on the same page. The more you can do that, and I always say, if you’re going to make an adjustment, you’re taking care of a problem.
“So if the problem is on this side, you’re making an adjustment. You know you should be good there. If you guess wrong, it could come from the other side. So you just have to know if you make an adjustment, what it does, what it protects, and what it means for them.”
On the season, Love still ranks 27th in yards per attempt and 29th in completion rate when blitzed, according to PFF. He and the offense as a whole have been better over the recent four game stretch at handling those pressure situations, with Love ranking around the middle of the pack in both those categories.
However, the name of the game is always going to be about protecting the quarterback. When under pressure this season, Love is completing just 45.8 percent of his throws. Even with the improvements made and the growth that the offense has experienced in recent weeks, if the Packers aren’t able to routinely keep Love clean and don’t have an answer for the Kansas City pressure packages, it’s going to be another uphill battle for this unit.