In the next installment of my Dynamic Duos series, we take a trip back in time to Kansas City to reminisce on a pair of cornerbacks that were the cornerstone of a defense that was very tough on opposing quarterbacks.
The 80’s was a golden time for the advancement of passing games in the NFL. Bill Walsh’s west coast offense would dominate the era winning three Super Bowls. As such, NFL offenses were forced to adapt and that basically means copy. Soon, offenses found it advantageous to get more balls in the air on Sundays and use the passing game as an extension of their running games.
With that being the case, defenses also had to adapt and find ways to limit all the passing that was going on. Having a pair of cornerbacks that could play tight man coverage became the move to make and Kansas City struck gold with Albert Lewis and Kevin Ross.
Ross was a 7th round pick by the Chiefs in 1984 out of Temple. The New Jersey native was able to earn a starting job as a rookie and have immediate impact when paired with Albert Lewis at the cornerback spot. Ross was 5’9″ and a stocky, muscled up athlete who preferred to wear the commonly referred to “duck” facemask. That bar down the middle was perfect for Ross who was physical in every way. He would beat up wide receivers at the line of scrimmage, get them out of their game and if they were able to catch a pass, he would make them pay a hefty price. Ross intercepted 30 passes in his 11 years as a Chief, made two pro bowls and is in the team’s Hall of Fame.
Albert Lewis was more of the gazelle. At 6’2″ with 4.38 speed, Lewis would disrupt WR routes at the line of scrimmage with his long arms then use his speed, length and acceleration to stick to wide outs like a pair of hip pads. Lewis was drafted one year before Ross in the 3rd round out of Grambling St. Coveted for his athleticism, Lewis put it to fine use as a bump and run technician. Pass breakups were not a stat kept back then but as someone who watched plenty of Ross and Lewis during this era, they both racked up a ton of them. Lewis also was a force on special teams where he blocked 11 kicks in 11 seasons as a Chief. In his time with Kansas City, Lewis intercepted 38 passes which was quite a feat.
In their first three seasons as a duo, Ross and Lewis racked up 29 interceptions before it became teams’ strategy to avoid throwing at them. The ability to remove wide receivers from the game plan helped Kansas City’s defense tremendously and had reverberating effects. Chiefs’ safeties like Deron Cherry stared racking up interceptions and their pass rush buoyed by Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith started leading the league annually in sacks. It was truly fun to watch the Chiefs play defense back in this era.