Defenses have appeared to adjust to what the Chiefs like to do on offense. Perhaps that’s one reason why they haven’t really been able to get going in 2021 (there are some other reasons too, like Patrick Mahomes’ inconsistent play). But on Sunday night against the Raiders, the Chiefs showed that they have the ability to adjust right back.
Much of the Raiders’ approach was centered on getting as many double-teams as possible in coverage. The focus was mainly on Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, but they were also able to use linebackers in the middle of the field to basically help double-team multiple receivers. You can see what I mean on the plays below.
This first example was a 3rd-and-7 in the 2nd quarter. The Chiefs were aligned in a 3×1 formation with tight end Travis Kelce as the boundary-X receiver. This formation is a staple of Kansas City’s offense. Here’s how the Raiders matched up in response:
A few things to note here: The Raiders matched up to Kelce with 6’2” cornerback Brandon Facyson. He was clearly the man they wanted to handle the star tight end out of this formation.
To the other side of the field, the Raiders played man coverage at the top of the screen. Tyreek Hill received a double-team. And the inside #3 receiver, Byron Pringle, had linebacker Denzel Perryman aligned over him.
To ensure that Kelce gets to run his route in isolation against just a single defender, the Chiefs often have the #3 inside receiver run a deep-over route, occupying the safety to Kelce’s side. So the Raiders’ answer to this was to use a linebacker (Perryman) to disrupt the #3 receiver at the line (Pringle), and have the backside safety then take him once he ran vertically:
Then, the linebacker (Perryman) could drop off of #3 (Pringle) to become the hole defender in the middle of the field, and turn his attention to Kelce:
On paper, the Raiders were effectively able to get two defenders accounting for Hill, Pringle, and Kelce. Unfortunately for Las Vegas, the game isn’t played on paper. Perryman slipped while trying to react to Kelce, and Mahomes was able to find him for 16 yards and a first down:
The scheme the Raiders deployed was a good one, though. It was designed to take away what the Chiefs do best.
Andy Reid wasn’t going to just rely on the Raiders executing coverages poorly, though. So he attacked this particular look in the second half and found a way to get Tyreek Hill isolated in a favorable 1-on-1 matchup for a 32-yard gain.
This was 3rd-and-2. Again, notice the 3×1 formation with Kelce as the boundary-X. Reid knew this would likely get Vegas into the same coverage look. Sure enough, cornerback Brandon Facyson again lined up over Kelce:
The Raiders had linebacker K.J. Wright aligned over Tyreek Hill, who was the #3 inside receiver on this play:
Considering they appeared to be playing man everywhere else, it was likely the Raiders were going to drop into the same coverage shown on the first play above. They weren’t going to have a linebacker cover Hill alone.
But this time, they’d likely disguise it by having safety Johnathan Abram drop out to take Hill if he ran the deep over. Wright would then drop off into the middle and help out on Kelce:
But instead of running this play out of a 3×1, Reid had Hill motion across the formation outside of Kelce. The Raiders weren’t going to have a linebacker or safety follow him to the perimeter to play man coverage. So the only cornerback in the neighborhood, Facyson, bumped out over Hill:
That got Hill isolated on a larger cornerback who could not hang with him:
32 yards and another 3rd-down conversion. Line them up to knock them down…that’s what Andy Reid does.
After a rough first 7 weeks of the season, the Chiefs have now won 3 in a row and are back in first place in the AFC West. Sunday’s win against the Raiders was the first sign in a while that the offense is trending in the direction of their 2018-20 performance.