Halftime Digest: Chiefs 21, Saints 7

The Kansas City Chiefs take part in pregame warmup before their game against the New Orleans Saints at Arrowhead Stadium, Oct. 23, 2016. (Photo by Matt Derrick, ChiefsDigest.com).

Halftime Digest: Chiefs 21, Saints 7

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Spencer Ware tallied 104 yards on the ground and through the air in the first half, while safety Daniel Sorensen collected an interception for a touchdown return and a sack on Drew Brees, driving the Kansas City Chiefs to a 21-7 halftime lead over the New Orleans Saints.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees drove his team 80 yards to a touchdown on his team’s first drive, capped of by a 9-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks.

After that, the Chiefs defense brought heavy pressure on Brees, limiting the Saints to just 118 yards on the next four drives combined.

Alex Smith finished the first half 10-of-15 passing for 142 yards. Smith and wide receiver Tyreek Hill teamed up for a 38-yard touchdown play, with Hill using his burst of acceleration to speed past his defender with the ball in the air and making a juggling one-handed catch.

Bringing the Blitz

Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton turned to blitzes in the first half to generate pressure on Brees, and the results proved positive.

Blitzing Brees can be dangerous, given the Saints’ propensity for five-wideout sets and the ability of Brees to get rid of the ball quickly. But the Saints’ offensive line has serious injury issues, with both starting left tackle Terron Armstead and guard Senio Kelemente leaving with injuries.

The Saints haven’t found an answer for the Chiefs’ blitz scheme yet, so keeping up the pressure should continue working.

Keep pounding the ball

The Chiefs play their best with offensive sets utilizing multiple tight ends and full back Anthony Sherman. No need to get cute with the Saints. Pounding the ball with Spencer Ware, Jamaal Charles and Charcandrick West is both prudent and effective.

Quarterback Alex Smith found more and more holes in the Saints’ defense as the first half progressed. The play-action and run-option playbook should keep the Saints off balance.

Protect the middle of the field

The Chiefs biggest challenge for the second half is staying away from mistakes that put them in a hole. The Chiefs avoided penalties and and turnovers in the first half.

Brees tested the boundaries against cornerbacks Marcus Cooper and D.J. White, but he found most of his first half success in the middle of the field. Brees is looking for mismatches against the Chiefs’ linebackers and safeties rather than challenging the secondary deep.

Kansas City’s defense needs to find an answer for plays post routes and crossing routes over the middle.

Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and the Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.