The Kansas City Chiefs were held to a season-low 294 yards of offense against the Chargers on Thursday Night. Whenever you see an offense as explosive as the Chiefs held under 300 yards, the “blue-print” talks begin. However, while Kansas City’s performance might not have been of the high-octane variety we’ve seen all year, the lack of yards was largely due to what happened on the other side of the ball.
The Chargers possessed the ball for about 6 ½ minutes more than the Chiefs. Kansas City also had several short fields, which ate into their total yardage numbers. The Chiefs had 9 possessions on the night. They scored touchdowns on 4 of them. One possession came with 4 seconds left in the game and the offense didn’t touch the ball. Another came with 47 seconds left in the first half, where the Chiefs couldn’t really run their entire offense. We’d hardly call allowing 4 touchdowns on 7 or 8 possessions a blue-print for anything.
Still, we’d agree that the Chiefs were not exactly in perfect rhythm all night on offense. Chargers Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley likes to predominantly play cover-3 zone. He stayed true to this approach against Kansas City and mixed in a few snaps of rotation to cover-2. Largely, the plan was not to get beat over the top or give up any big plays. The Chargers succeeded in this respect for the most part.
There was a really interesting game within the game between Andy Reid and Gus Bradley that we’ll illustrate below. One of the great ways to beat cover-3 is to align in a 3×1 set and attack the deep middle safety with a seam route and a deep-over route, as shown here:
The Chargers anticipated this, and they took away the deep over against this formation by dropping an underneath defender, safety Adrian Phillips, deep.
The idea was simple – align in cover 3 and then take away the cover-3 beating route. On this play in the 1st quarter, it worked. Andy Reid was probably shaking in his boots at this point. Might as well just abandon the downfield passing game and run the ball the rest of the night, right?
Instead of attacking the deep safety in Cover-3, Reid started attacking that underneath defender.
Below, you can again see the 3×1 set with Tyreek Hill as the #3 inside receiver. Also keep an eye on that underneath defender dropping to take away the deep over. It was Adrian Phillips again.
With that underneath defender occupied deep, Reid ran a screen to his running back to the same side of the field as the over route. The Chiefs were left with a distinct numbers advantage and a lot of space to maneuver.
An extra defender in the area certainly would have helped combat that screen better.
But Reid didn’t stop there. In the 3rd quarter, he attacked the underneath defender again. Look below and notice the similar 3×1 set. The difference here was that Tyreek Hill was aligned as the #2 receiver with tight end Travis Kelce as the #3 inside receiver.
You can see the route combination below. The Chiefs were making Adrian Phillips (again) choose between Kelce and Hill’s routes.
Phillips’ didn’t get as much depth on this play because his responsibility in this coverage was to take away the #3 inside receiver if he ran at him. Here, that was Kelce. Reid knew this, which is why he had Hill run his deep over from the #2 position. He likely figured that if Phillips did eventually recognize the deep over, he would be late to react because Kelce’s route initially occupied him. And that’s exactly what happened.
This big play set up Kansas City’s third touchdown.
Reid came right back in the 4th quarter and attacked the same underneath defender yet again. Like the previous three plays, the Chiefs were in a 3×1 set with Hill back at the #3 inside position.
Hill and Kelce ran over-routes again to attack Phillips, who dropped deep to take away Hill’s route this time. He wasn’t going to get burned deep again.
This left Travis Kelce open in the underneath void, though.
The Chargers tried to bring pressure on this play, but to no avail. The Chiefs would end up scoring on this drive as well.
If you enjoy the X’s and O’s of football, the game within the game between Reid and Bradley should make you warm and fuzzy inside.
The Chiefs Offense was certainly not the reason for the loss on Thursday. Philip Rivers and KC’s defense should probably share that responsibility. With that being said, the offense did make some mistakes.
Pat Mahomes has had an unbelievable year. We sometimes forget he only has 15 career starts under his belt. He is so talented, and he made a few spectacular plays on Kansas City’s opening drive to lead to their first touchdown. He is not infallible, though. In fact, he is still very raw at times.
The below sack, for instance, could have been avoided. Mahomes dropped almost 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. That gave pass rusher Melvin Ingram an easier angle to the quarterback.
You can see that Ingram really didn’t have to dip his shoulder and bend his rush inside that much.
Mahomes dropping too deep from the line of scrimmage turned the pass rush into more of a straight sprint to the quarterback. Not too many offensive linemen can handle fast pass rushers when that happens. We’ve seen Mahomes do this several times this season, and it is something he’ll need to correct moving forward.
Mahomes also was a little over-reactive to the rush at times, and his footwork broke down in the pocket as a result. Take the below play, for example. Mahomes lost his throwing base while moving in the pocket.
Had he calmly climbed the pocket and kept his base, he would have found his receiver right in front of him for an easy 10 yards. Instead, he one-hopped the ball to him. The Chiefs ended up punting on this drive.
Yes, we are nitpicking a bit here. But when your defense is as underwhelming as Kansas City’s is, the offense has less margin for error. The Chiefs were a bit too sloppy at times, and they committed too many penalties on offense. It came back to bite them in the end.
The Chiefs’ best path to the Super Bowl is undoubtedly through their offense. It will need to operate at the highest level to compensate for the defense in January.
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