Key to the game: Bears @ Chiefs

Oct. 4, 2015; Cincinnati; Chiefs running back Knile Davis (34) returns a kickoff in the first half against the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Oct. 4, 2015; Cincinnati; Chiefs running back Knile Davis (34) returns a kickoff in the first half against the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Offensive, defensive and special teams keys of the Kansas City Chiefs against the Chicago Bears.

OFFENSE

The checklist of improvements needed from the Chiefs offense is a long one if they expect to beat a mediocre Chicago team at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.

Topping that list is pass protection, which has been the worst in the NFL over the first quarter of the 2015 season, allowing 19 sacks in 170 passing plays. The league average is 8.7 sacks allowed.

The Bears pass rush is anemic, with only six sacks to rank tied for 24th in the league, so it should be a good week for the Chiefs protection to get well.

The offense must score touchdowns rather than field goals; they have nine trips into the end zone in four games. That’s tied for No. 13 in offensive TDs, but they are now sitting at minus-25 in the point differential. K.C.’s red-zone offense ranks tied for No. 20 in the league, scoring touchdowns on just half of 14 forays inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.

It would be helpful for the Chiefs offense if they can stay in the game on the scoreboard and work on their running game. They are averaging 108 yards per game, but that hasn’t been useful in the last two weeks especially when they fell behind early and were forced to throw the ball. Jamaal Charles is averaging 14.8 carries per game; he needs more opportunity.

In Week 4,  quarterbackAlex Smith admitted the offense took more chances, especially throwing the ball down the field. It did not make a difference against the Bengals, but it very well could be a game decider against the Bears.

This is not the ’85 Bears defense they will face at Arrowhead, so the Chiefs have the opportunity to have success on this Sunday. But, they will have to commit far fewer mistakes than they’ve shown for the last two weeks.

DEFENSE

The K.C. defense was ripped by the Packers and Bengals in the last two games, giving up five touchdown passes to Green Bay and then four rushing scores to Cincinnati. The pass rush has been anemic with just one sack in those two games and no takeaways by the defense.

The Chiefs have just two interceptions in four games, both by rookie cornerback Marcus Peters. Their interception percentage is 1.3 percent, the sixth lowest in the league. Now that the starting group is settled with safety Eric Berry back in the opening lineup and cornerback Sean Smith’s return from an NFL suspension, the level of their play and production should rise in the coverage.

They face what has been a struggling offense with quarterback Jay Cutler at the controls. Cutler missed a game with a hamstring injury, but returned last week and did lead the Bears to their first victory of the season.

In three games, Cutler has thrown three interceptions; he threw 18 interceptions last season, tying him with San Diego’s Philip Rivers for the most in the league. He’s never been afraid to trust the power of his arm and take chances with his passes.

The Chiefs defense must make him pay for any chances taken by Cutler on Sunday.

It’s set up for the Chiefs defense to get well; right now coordinator Bob Sutton’s unit is ranked last in touchdown passes allowed (11), No. 29 in total yards allowed (397 yards per game) and tied for No. 21 in interceptions (2).

Accomplishing that will come only if they contain Bears running back Matt Forte who has 500 offensive yards on 97 touches as a runner/receiver. They also have the chance to take advantage of Chicago losing starting center Will Montgomery (broken fibula) last Sunday.

SPECIAL TEAMS

In the 36 regular season games where Dave Toub has been in charge of the Chiefs special teams they have returned six kickoff/punt returns for touchdowns. That’s an average of one every six games and it’s now been six games since De’Anthony Thomas scored on an 81-yard punt return against Oakland last December in that season’s 14th game.

Those numbers say the Chiefs are due and they may have found the perfect foe to help provide a big play in the return game.

Already this season, Chicago has given up a pair of touchdown returns on kickoffs – 108 yards by Arizona’s David Johnson to open the season and 105 yards by Seattle’s Tyler Lockett two weeks ago. Overall, the Bears kickoff coverage ranks last among the NFL’s 32 teams, allowing an average of 38.6 yards per return.

The Chiefs have gotten close in the last two games to breaking a kickoff return. Against Green Bay, Knile Davis had a 54-yard return that set up the offense in its best starting field possession in the game. Last Sunday against Cincinnati, Thomas took a kickoff back 70 yards but saw the play wiped out by an illegal block call.

To improve their victory chances, the Chiefs need a big play from the kicking game against Chicago. It’s time.

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Bob Gretz is the senior editor for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @BobGretzcom.

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