The Pollard Problem
Jamie Squire - Getty
Jamie Squire - Getty
Warpaint Illustrated Columnist
Posted Sep 2, 2009


It’s ironic that Chiefs’ safety Jarrad Page was recently demoted to the second-team defense. Based on Saturday’s game against Seattle, Page’s secondary teammate, Bernard Pollard, might be worthy of such a demotion.

Pollard didn’t make any particularly outstanding plays against the Seahawks. There were no massive hits or interceptions. But he definitely didn’t disappear from the game. He had five tackles.

The only problem? Pollard should have had 10.

That’s right. In just over two quarters of play, Bernard Pollard missed five tackles. And these weren’t gallant, last-ditch, diving attempts at a player running full speed, zipping just out of mortal reach. No, Pollard had five football players dead to rights, almost directly in front of him. Each time, they slipped past as if he was a fan who had just walked out of the stands and put on a pair of shoulder pads and a helmet.

It started with about 11 minutes left in the first quarter on a kickoff return. Seattle’s Devin Moore encountered Pollard up the right sideline and, as the safety went low, skipped over his tackle attempt, stayed on his feet with some help from a teammate and gained six more yards.

A few minutes later the Seahawks faced 2nd-and-10 from their own 36. After Matt Hasselbeck sliced a pass through Kansas City’s zone to Nate Burleson, Pollard had an opportunity to blast him as he stumbled after making the catch. Instead, he weakly stuck out one arm. Burleson shrugged it off and gained another nine yards as Pollard slid to the ground.

After a quarter had passed, Seattle found itself in a third-down situation. On a busted play, Hasselbeck ad-libbed a pass to TJ Houshmandzadeh, who easily picked up the first down, but he wasn’t done. As Pollard drifted over to bring the receiver down, Houshmandzadeh made the slightest of cuts, but it was more than enough to send Pollard crashing to the ground. He stuck out an arm in a last-ditch effort to make a tackle, and could only watch as Houshmandzadeh gained 10 more yards.

Then, just before halftime, the Seahawks handed the ball to Julius Jones, who burst through a big hole off the right side. Pollard flew up from his safety position and was all squared up, ready to make the tackle. But instead of bringing down the ball carrier, he just fell to his knees and grasped at air as Jones stopped on a dime, sidestepped and continued up the field, picking up five more yards.

Finally, Seattle exploited Pollard one last time. About five minutes into the third quarter, Hasselbeck hit John Carlson over the middle for a big gain. The tight end caught the ball at the 12-yard line, turned up the field and ran right through Pollard like he was made of paper. Pollard grabbed at his jersey, slid off and hit the grass as the Seahawks took the lead on a 28-yard touchdown pass.

That was five missed tackles, about 40 extra yards gained by the Seahawks, and one touchdown. Five missed tackles in seven possessions, and not a single big play to make up for any of it. Five missed tackles that could have been turned into a big hit, a forced fumble or something to prevent Seattle’s offense from marching up and down the field all night, gaining 278 yards in just over two quarters.

After that, Pollard left the game. A young safety the Chiefs drafted in the third round a year ago, DaJuan Morgan, entered. He may have missed a tackle in the fourth quarter – it was difficult to tell from the replay. Morgan, like Pollard, also made five tackles. Unlike Pollard, Morgan did not appear to be a huge liability when he got a chance to bring down the ball carrier.

That’s not to say Morgan should replace Pollard in the starting lineup Thursday against the St. Louis Rams. Heck, maybe Pollard will destroy every ball carrier in his path and make up for his poor game against the Seahawks.

But this is now Pollard’s fourth NFL season. The game against Seattle was not an aberration - he has always had problems being a consistent tackler. A year ago, according to Football Outsiders, he was the Chiefs’ lowest-ranked starter in stop rate against the run. He had just six defeats (defined as a play which prevents the offense from gaining a first down on third or fourth down, stops the offense behind the line of scrimmage, or results in a fumble or interception). Only Jon McGraw, a backup, was inferior in these categories among the members of Kansas City’s secondary.

But you don’t need a bunch of fancy statistics to tell you this stuff. All you have to do is watch the games. Pollard keeps missing tackles. Until someone starts making those tackles, the Chiefs will probably continue to struggle to stop other teams.


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