Speed kills in the NFL.
And when it comes to the Kansas City Chiefs' offense, there's a lot of it, all over the field.
"This is one of the fastest teams I've seen," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said of the Chiefs, who come into Ford Field Sunday for a matchup of undefeated teams.
"Obviously, their skill players – whether it's the wide receivers, the backs, the tight ends, they all push the ball vertically very fast. They have some great schemes. Andy (Reid) does a great job of mixing it up from a standpoint of lining guys up that can go vertical and then lining guys up that maybe move horizontal that turn into vertical routes once the ball is snapped."
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins has been taking the top off defenses since he came into the league in in 2014 with his 4.43 speed. Wide receiver Mecole Hardman, who's been filling in for the injured Tyreek Hill (probably the fastest man in the NFL -- his nickname is Cheetah for a reason), isn't too shabby of a speedster himself. Hardman was clocked at 4.33 second in his Combine 40-yard dash. He showed it off last week on an 83-yard touchdown catch against Baltimore where he reached over 21 miles per hour, per NFL's NextGen stats.
Travis Kelce is one of the game's real big-play threats at the tight end position with his combination of size and speed. Even running backs Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy are vertical threats as runners and pass catchers.
"Just a bunch of guys out there that every single play I think that's where you just see that dynamic or that explosive type of offensive production," Patricia said. "From a points standpoint, I think that's where you see it because they can just get vertical so quickly."
That speed puts a lot of stress on a defense. It's one of the reasons Kansas City is one of the top offensive teams in the NFL right now. They average 33.7 points per game and 487.0 yards, and are the No. 1 passing team with MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
There aren't many defenses built to run with the Chiefs. What's worse, Detroit could potentially be down their fastest man on defense Sunday if cornerback Darius Slay, who's dealing with a hamstring injury suffered last week, can't go. Slay was limited in practice Wednesday.
"One false step can cost you a touchdown," safety Quandre Diggs said. "Against those guys you just have to be ready to go and we got to bring our track shoes."
FORD READY IF NEEDED
Cornerback Mike Ford was undrafted out of Southeast Missouri State last season. He spent the first half of 2018 on the Lions practice squad, was signed to the active roster in mid-November, and made his debut as a starter in a win over Carolina.
Ford went on to play in seven games for the Lions last season, starting four of them.
He's played in all three games this season, and twice had to step into a role on defense in place of the injured Darius Slay. Last week in Philadelphia, after Slay went out with a hamstring injury in the third quarter, Ford stepped in and played well. He allowed one catch on three targets and made a nice play on the final defensive drive to force an incompletion.
Ford could be thrust into an important role Sunday with Slay still dealing with a hamstring injury and the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs passing game coming to town. Slay was a limited participant in Wednesday's practice.
"Being put in those situations from previous games you know kind of calms you down and gets you ready. You already know what to expect and you kind of gain that confidence," Ford said. "When you do things repeatedly then you get confidence."
If Slay can't play, the Lions could also opt to tweak their game plan.
"We have different ways that we can cover, from that standpoint, whether it's mans or zones or combinations of both and we just kind of try to do the best we can with whoever's out there based on who we have to defend," Patricia said.
Either way, like always, Ford will be ready to step in if needed.
- Kansas City's defense is allowing 6.2 yards per rush and 137.7 yards per game on the ground. The 6.2 yards per carry are the worst in the NFL by nearly a whole yard.
- Among the 36 quarterbacks with at least 30 clean-pocket drop backs this season, Stafford ranks fifth in passing grade (84.2) and tied for fifth in yards per attempt (9.1), per PFF. Can the Lions go a third straight game without allowing a sack on Stafford?