Chiefs DE Chris Jones gives his unit a C+ for Sunday’s win

In the bottom half of Sunday’s opening 44-21 season win against the Arizona Cardinals, the Kansas City Chiefs never led by less than 16 points. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray — in his first game after signing extra time that earned him a higher average annual salary than Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes — finished with less than 200 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns. The Chiefs took three sacks against Arizona – and Murray’s dreaded running ability was also held in check as he was limited to just 29 yards.

Kansas City’s longest-running defensive player, however, was less than impressed.

“We played OK,” defensive tackle Chris Jones said after the game. “We missed a lot of opportunities. But overall I think we’ve gotten better as a group. Still need to build chemistry along the defence. [There are] lots of new faces so it will be challenging throughout the season. But overall, I rate us a C plus today. ”

Jones largely blamed his position group for the missed opportunities, while still finding some positives about how the unit affected Murray.

“I think we missed three sacks,” he recalls, “but we also have three sacks. He’s a shy guy; hard to get down. He ducked under me on one of them. Thrown the ball [away] on George [Karlaftis] on the other. Surpassed Frank Clark. We came to him; we influenced him in several ways.”

Safety Chiefs Justin Reid was more impressed with the unit’s performance, although he agreed there were some areas where improvement was needed.

“I think we had a great game plan put together by [Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo] to really round up No. 1 (Murray),’ Reid remarked. “Don’t let him get balls behind us. Don’t let him run around the field all day.

“The defense line did a great job keeping him in check. Secondary got the big ball taken away. And we just executed. There’s always room to get better. There are a few plays with some flaws that we need to iron out .”

Jones was pleased with the solid defense approach, which he said was the result of extra focus during the team’s training camp.

“We put an emphasis on tackling,” he explains. “We usually start the year with 12 to 16 missed tackles in the first game; everyone gets used to it. But I think in training camp this year [we were] emphasizing – and making sure – boys matter most. Making sure we get out of the stacks as a defense line [while] our linebackers are flying around. If we all commit to that, the missed tackles go down and it becomes a gang tackle. We have to be consistent in that and make an effort.”

In their comments, Reid and Jones each praised strong performances from individual teammates.

Reid praised the play of fellow safety Juan Thornhill, who just missed what would have been an incredible interception when he broke up a sideline pass from Murray.

Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

“I wish he’d taken one—he had two chances,” he said of Thornhill. “But I think he did a great job finding the ball on that deep. And also just get on the sidelines and just play fast. Don’t think about it, just go. He has that ability. I’m going to show it to him. Like : ‘Next time you should catch at least one of them.’”

Jones credited linebacker Nick Bolton for strong play – and stronger leadership. He revealed a way the sophomore performed that those watching wouldn’t have noticed.

“We’ve asked Nick to take on a bigger role this year with [former Chiefs linebacker] Anthony Hitchens is gone,” he noted. “He’s our play-caller. He’s been great since training camp – he lined us up in the midst of all the bullets [that are] fly around. In the hurry, a few situations, he actually called the play for us. The headphones went out. I think Nick did a really good job today. Very proud of him.”

Syndication: Republic of Arizona

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He also noted that Murray’s third-quarter sacking of fellow defensive lineman Carlos Dunlap was the 97th of his career, bringing the 12-year veteran closer to an important career milestone.

The Chiefs’ defensive performance would have looked better if the Cardinals hadn’t landed until later, which took place after several defensive changes. Jones explained that even these seemingly pointless touchdowns hinder him.

“Those are crap scores because the game is out of reach,” he said. “That’s when the D-Line can finally eat. You don’t run blitzes, you don’t run schemes, you drop the script. Four of us hurry, stuff the back in light Cover 3 or quarter halves, and have our dinner. I put it on the defensive line. We have to influence the quarterback.”

For his part, Reid was confident that Sunday’s win will lead to better things for the defense.

“The way the defense is really coming together now is really nice to see,” he boasted. “We’re going to build on it in the future.”

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