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Chiefs' defense 'getting better every week' under new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Through three games, the Chiefs are allowing opponents to rush for roughly 138 yards per game this season.

Allen Park — Last season, the Kansas City Chiefs were one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the NFL. Behind quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the league MVP, the offense was the best in the league and a weekly highlight reel.

The defense, though, left something to be desired.

Defensively, the Chiefs ranked 31st in the league in total yards allowed (405.5) and passing yards allowed (273.4) per game. In the AFC Championship Game, they fell short against the eventual-champion New England Patriots, leaving head coach Andy Reid searching for solutions.

Reid hired Steve Spagnuolo as the new defensive coordinator and heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Lions, things have improved somewhat. The Chiefs rank 24th in total yards allowed (395.7) and 19th in passing yards allowed (258) per game.

It’s a small sample size, but the defense held up, especially in its toughest matchup last week in a 33-28 win over the Ravens to remain undefeated.

The offense again is among the best in the league and Mahomes is putting up another MVP-worthy season. The defense still is the question mark, but Spagnuolo has brought confidence and a worthy resume. Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator on the New York Giants’ 2007 team that stopped Patriots' bid for a perfect season in the Super Bowl.

After three wins, Reid is looking for some of that to carry over for the Chiefs this season.

“We’re getting better every week and more familiar with the defense every week. That to me, that’s important. I don’t care about anything else — as long as I see improvement and challenging as we go. I’ve been able to see that.,” Reid said via conference call. “Steve brings great energy and he’s been around a long time. He has a staff that’s familiar with what he’s trying to get done and the players believe in him.”

Defense is a progression and Spagnuolo, 59, has brought that pedigree. He worked on the defensive staff when Reid was the head coach of the Eagles in 1999 and that familiarity no doubt came to mind when Reid was looking to augment his prolific offense.

“You try to improve on everything and work on your overall complete game,” Reid said. “That’s the way we break up practice and put emphasis on both. If you don’t, you have problems. You want to make sure you're good in the passing game and good in the run game.”

The Lions have struggled to run the ball effectively this season, but the Chiefs have allowed 137.7 yards per game — and 6.2 yards per carry — through three games.

Lions running back Kerryon Johnson, who had 36 yards on 20 carries last week against the Eagles, sees an opportunity against the Chiefs.

“I’ll be a lot happier than I was last week, numbers-wise,” Johnson said. “They see the same numbers we see. They know we’re going to try to run the ball — that’s been our M.O. all year and that’s what we want to do.”

Extra points

Johnson will host a toy drive to benefit the families ravaged by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. The event will be Friday from 4-7:30 p.m. at the Boys & Girls Club in Dearborn.

“This will be my first event with this Boys & Girls Club (in Michigan). I’m having 12 kids from the Huntsville Boys & Girls Club come up to the game this weekend,” Johnson said. “It’s a joint effort so it’ll be a cool thing to incorporate both of those and have a good time. We have some fun events planned so it’ll be pretty cool.”

... The Lions released receiver Travis Fulgham, a sixth-round pick. No corresponding move was announced.

Chiefs at Lions

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit

TV/radio: Fox/760

Records: Chiefs 3-0, Lions 2-0-1

Line: Chiefs by 6½

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard