Chiefs Return from the Bye but Forget Some Luggage

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Dan looks at how the Chiefs offense performed against the Raiders

The Chiefs came back home after a much-needed bye week and demolished their division rivals, the Oakland Raiders, 40-9. Looking at the score tells a very different story than what actually happened, at least from the offensive side of the ball. The Chiefs struggled offensively coming into the bye week so it was safe to assume they would address the issues and have it all figured out for the Raiders, right? Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. There are always some things they do well because Mahomes is a great quarterback but they struggled to get much done against a bad Raiders defense. 

There was a rather large outside factor in the passing game with the gusting winds that were swirling around Arrowhead Stadium but I have no way of truly gauging how it affected each and every throw. So we’ll start with the foundation of any offense, which is the line. If you can field an above-average offensive line in the NFL, you can move the ball on any team, especially with the way this offense is constructed. The problem with this team’s foundation is the interior and more specifically the center. Austin Reiter is one of the worst centers in the NFL and it starts with his contact strength in the run game.

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Far too often I see Reiter being stood up in the run game, and here we see it again with the added bonus of him being controlled by the tackle and not just getting driven back. The defensive tackle is able to move his body with the running back at will. Controlling the point of attack in any situation is how you dominate the man in front of you, and Reiter seldom dominates a tackle that’s in front of him or in his immediate gap. The tackle long-arms Reiter and watches where Williams is going and then disengages Reiter to make the tackle. 

This is something I have stressed from early in the season, Reiter just doesn’t have the strength to get movement in the run game. He is driven into the backfield too often and that can force running backs to find a way around him, putting them behind the eight-ball before they get to the line of scrimmage. He is a liability in the run game and at this point in the season, I find it difficult to believe that Reid is going to make a change. This could end up being a huge issue that derails the Chiefs’ goals. 

The interior of the offensive line is a liability in pass protection as well, they are very susceptible to stunting defensive lines and that just so happens to be something they struggled with in the 2018 season. I think the Raiders have some good young talent at EDGE but they are rookies and Mahomes didn’t trust his line to pick up stunts in this game.

The struggles are in communication and recognition of the stunts themselves. The interior of the line is too slow to see the stunts coming and that creates issues with trade-offs for the tackles. If the stunts aren’t traded off between the guards and the tackles then a defender is coming free to the quarterback or fighting through a weak block because one lineman was expecting something that never happened. You can see it in the first clip, LDT gets pushed back quickly and Hurst gets into the B gap quickly making the block for either himself or Schwartz difficult. On the left side, Wylie pushes Ferrell to the outside but Fisher has his hands full with the tackle and neither can recover to help the other. If Hurst didn’t get the sack Ferrell would have. 

With an offense that wants to take deep shots down the field stunts create a problem for Mahomes and the offense. They typically take a little longer to develop but if the play design helps that then it works well for the defense against a Chiefs’ offensive line that really struggles to pick them up. The Patriots exposed that in the AFC Championship game and that just so happens to be who is next on the slate for the Chiefs. 

The line is a big problem but at this stage in the season, I think Reid is going to stick with this starting five and hope that they develop some chemistry and continuity down the stretch. There is something developing because of the offensive line play that is a bit troubling to me and that’s Mahomes staring down Kelce and Hill. In this game especially, I saw Mahomes lock into one of those two far too often and I think it inhibited the effectiveness of the offense.

The first clip results in a first down on third down, so on the surface, it’s a good play and I’ve got no issues with the outcome. But let’s dig a little deeper. The Chiefs moved the pocket to help give Mahomes a bit more time to find his receiver. From the get-go, Mahomes is locked onto Hill, who gets open thanks to a pick route from Watkins – but keep your eyes on him rather than Hill. He’s wide open for a touchdown here and Mahomes had time to get him the ball. 

The second clip, Mahomes is locked into Kelce on the out-route. The coverage should dictate that Mahomes look elsewhere, physical man-coverage that Kelce took a little too long to get off of (that ended up being a hold that extended the Chiefs drive). Mahomes keeps with him and ends up throwing it over his head because the pressure was closing in. Thompson was all by himself in a bunch of space on the other end of the field. I know he still needs to get 14 yards, but that’s a lot of space to work with and he was the only guy open. 

I think Mahomes has lost enough trust in his offensive line to be able to go through his reads on a number of plays. Hill and Kelce had 17 targets combined in this game, all other receivers combined for ten targets. I don’t think that was a coincidence in this game and I’m hoping it’s something they can address in the week leading up to the Patriots game. Mahomes will need to not break from the pocket on plays that he isn’t being pressured as well.

One last issue that cropped up in this game, outside of drops (ugh), was some miscommunications. Mahomes said that Hill ran the wrong route on the touchdown run from the quarterback and there were a few other plays that looked like receivers were in the wrong place.

On the surface, this looks like a Mesh-Wheel concept; Watkins running the “wheel” route with Kelce and Hill running crossers underneath and Robinson running a deep post. But it looks as though Kelce carries his route upfield a little too much and he ends up in close proximity with Robinson, who would have been wide open if Kelce wasn’t as close. Mahomes locks onto Kelce and carries him across the formation and throws it to him without much separation and the defender breaks up the pass. 

Watching this game unfold just felt off on the offensive end and had it not been for four drive extending penalties on third down from the Raiders, who knows what the score of the game would have been. But luckily for the Chiefs they got four second chances at drives and scored 24 points with those chances. 

I know the mood of this piece has been somber but there were some concepts the Chiefs used very well in this game to get chunks of yardage as well, thanks to some great throws from Mahomes.

The “Sail Concept” proved to be an effective tool against the Raiders and for those of you that don’t know what that is, here are some of the basic examples of that concept drawn out.

The Chiefs modified an aspect of this on the first clip with Robinson running a deep post route instead of a “go” route. Watkins runs a “zig” route and Hill runs a ten-yard “speed” route to the boundary. Due to the man coverage, the defender on Hill is forced to correct his position to the left and commit to the deep route. Hill cuts out to the sideline and gets wide open thanks to the coverage. 

The second clip is just a bit of coverage manipulation from the Chiefs, knowing the inside linebacker has the flat protection and the other has a shallow zone to the seam. Kelce runs a speed route to the outside and Mahomes fires a strike in between the three defenders to Kelce for a nice gain. 

Mahomes made some impressive throws in this game but was clearly impacted on deep throws because of the wind. They knew the wind was going to impact the game and didn’t do a whole lot different, the gameplan seemed pretty vanilla and the Chiefs ran the same plays often in this game. By design? I’m not sure, but there was one thing they got to try out for the first this season in a sustained role, albeit due to an injury, and he didn’t disappoint.

Darwin Thompson has been a player many fans have wanted to see more of since the preseason and on Sunday they got their wish, assuming they were local and didn’t have the game turned to a “more competitive game”. I said I would wait until the All-22 to look into his snaps and I came away quite impressed. This is a small sample size and against the Raiders, so take it with a grain of salt.

The first thing that jumped out to me was his patience, something we haven’t seen a whole lot of this year from the Chiefs running backs. He can use his size to his advantage and get lost behind a much bigger offensive line which gives him time to let holes unfold. In the first clip, #50 for the Raiders completely loses Thompson and turns around during the play, then we see Thompson find the hole and get through it. At the end of the run is a sight for sore eyes as well, he lowers his shoulders and immediately puts two hands on the ball. He’s not about to fumble.

The second one was one of my favorites to re-watch because he toys with the pursuing linebacker making him think he’s going to take this to the edge. Instead, he puts his foot in the ground and accelerates upfield passing both edge protectors in the process.

He’s a different breed of running back than the Chiefs have typically used to this point, but I think he’s the type they need. This offensive line doesn’t open holes immediately with great push upfront, but as the blocks unfold there are creases he can find and with his skill, so he could be very useful going forward.

The ability to cut back during a play is required as a running back, and that can be aided by a back’s ability to perform this jump cut. Thompson begins going to his left, sees a hole open up to his right and jumps into it. No, he doesn’t get a huge gain but in the grand scheme, this trait can pay off when you force a linebacker to commit and then jump back into a different gap for a big gain.

This run is just entirely too much fun to watch and he puts together a bunch of different skills on tape in it. He gets to the edge and then shows a bit of that contact balance we all have been fawning over, the ability to fight through arm tackles without slowing down is a trait you need to be successful in the NFL. Then he gets into some space and hurdles the incoming safety. He gets pushed in the air and has the balance to still land on his feet before falling out of bounds. He’s got some special traits.

Thompson impressed me on this drive in the fourth quarter, but I would like to see him in a more featured role before I completely make up my mind about him. I have some questions about if he can hold up to an NFL workload at his size that only time will tell. But I love his skillset and think they fit perfectly in this system, once he can pass block more consistently.

Coming out of a bye, I expected more from the offense and a little more from Mahomes, who is now close to 50% completion percentage in two straight games. That’s not ideal going into a game against the Patriots, who have one of the best defenses in the NFL. I know the offense has the potential for greatness but for them to reach that level the offensive line has to step up and allow Mahomes to get to that next progression and Mahomes has to be willing to open up his reads a little more and not break from the pocket if he doesn’t have to. 

These two things, in my opinion, will correct the vast majority of the issues facing this offense. Mahomes is great but he still needs a great performance from the men in front of him on Sundays to get the ball to his weapons. In an offense predicated on timing routes, it’s important that Mahomes gets the time he needs to see the proper route open up when it’s supposed to. If he is forced from the pocket that destroys all of those angles and creates a broken play. 

With the Patriots on Sunday, I expect Mahomes to have his best game of the season because the Chiefs will need it. Who do you think steps up the most for one of the biggest games of the season?

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sydenham

Been thinking about this some more and Tyreek Hill is the guy who keeps standing out for me. For one thing he’s due and he’s a helluva competitor. If the Pats try and blanket him like they did last game then he’ll have to accept that and make it a bloody tough job to do. But if the Pats key on our OL maybe they leave Ty in man-to-man coverage and that should be good for the Chiefs. If he’s directed on short-to-medium routes (let Hardman stretch the Pats D with long routes) Mahomes should have time to get him the ball. Maybe Big Red gets fancy with the play-action and gets Ty involved in some end arounds. Even if Hill is used as a decoy it’s on him to do it well and that’s important so others can get the ball. I want to see the ball in Ty’s hands as much as possible, but one way or another he’s an indispensable part and I hope he has a big game.

TNCHIEFS

Nice write-up Dan. Seth over at the Athletic did a review of Mahomes which bled into a lot more. The failure of the interior O-line is throwing the rhythm of the entire offense off. He compared PMII’s last two games to AS11’s stellar 2017 year. Basically Mahomes is operating at that level – which is still Pro-Bowl caliber, but well below what we’ve become accustomed to.

We’re down to 2 receivers, Hill and Kelce, as the breakdown up front isn’t allowing Watkins and DRob to gain separation. There may be more to it IMO, cause both of those dudes are really fast. Kelce just knows how to find the open spot. And on top of his speed Andy has mentioned numerous times how smart Hill is. So time may not be the only issue. However, Seth suggested maybe using Mecole Hardman a little more because he possesses Tyreek Hill level speed. Ha! I think it’s awesome that we’re talking about turning to the rookies to shore up the offense with Thompson in the backfield.

Side note: Veach may have largely whiffed on the draft last year, but he stuck the landing this year. All of them are contributing except Allegreti. And I hope he pops out soon.

Sudden
Sudden

The way the interior OL has played this year, Allegreti can’t get on the field fast enough

NHChiefsfan
NHChiefsfan

Haha. I was about to say the same thing. We should just bench Reiter and try Allegreti. Couldn’t be much worse. Besides, his name rhymes with spaghetti.

TNCHIEFS

Just by the eye test I thought the O-line last year was suspect and that Mahomes made them look like they were playing better than they were. The other big factor was Kareem Hunt. He had to be accounted for. The run game has taken a big step back this year. Also, there seems to be far less motion in the backfield this year. This allows the defense to focus more squarely on the QB.

upamtn

ok, Ware … he can pass block, yes? he CAN pass block, can’t he??? please tell me Ware can pass block …

MasterChief
MasterChief

He can. Is he the best? Maybe not, but he can do it.

Berserker

Yeah, he’s ok at pass blocking. He’s also a decent pass catcher. And he’s good at running decisively and running through the first tackle. All of which adds up to a very good 3-down player in Reid’s offense, when he’s healthy.

The only complaint I ever had about Ware is that he can’t stay healthy, but they still insisted on trying to make him the starting RB and taking on too many reps.

His role should be as a 3rd down back through quarters 1-3, and then as the main RB for a couple series in the 4th quarter so he can trample and demolish the opponents’ hopes and self esteem in an entertaining manner.

MasterChief
MasterChief

^^^This. Except I think Ware is a very good pass catcher and I’ll add that he’s way above average at slipping through tackles.

upamtn

cool … maybe they should sign him

stsly I feel gooder mow

Berserker

comment image

MasterChief
MasterChief

This is what I’m hoping he’ll play like for the rest of 2019 and well into 2020…

01lowbird
Berserker

I know I’m being way overly optimistic about Darwin. But I can’t help it. A RB with excellent running skills is the difference that would make this offense un-defensible.

Defenses are taking away our offense’s biggest strength right now by playing soft, semi-prevent coverage and totally selling out on pass rush. Draw plays and choosing the R on RPO plays should defeat that kind of defense, but our team doesn’t have the above-average run blocking or the excellent RB play necessary to take advantage of those 6-man boxes. A good runner by himself could solve that entire issue, create explosive running plays, slow down the pass rush, and open up the downfield pass coverage.

upamtn

truth!

and it’s still Daniel Sorenson Appreciation Week 😉

Berserker

I appreciate that Daniel Sorensen is a little bit better player than Anthony Hitchens.

upamtn

I <3 you, man … I mean that had to be almost hard to say (just that 49 is better than ANYONE)

Berserker

It was, yes.

Eze chief kingdom
Eze chief kingdom

I also appreciate that he costs less than half of hitchens as well

Berserker

I think this Sorensen/Hitchens comparison is more about depreciate than appreciate.

kcfreak725
kcfreak725

I say that after this season, Wylie and Reiter need to go.

Berserker

Or at least Reiter. Really, those two should be competing for a #3 OG spot.

kcfreak725
kcfreak725

Reiter, imo, has been the biggest liability on the OL, but Wylie hasn’t been good either…that is, when he’s been on the field.

Berserker

Agreed. Was wondering if I was the only one with a bad opinion of Reiter, after all the hope we all had for him in the offseason. Looks like I’m not. Which is bad, because it probably means I haven’t been just imagining Reiter’s badness.

MasterChief
MasterChief

They do have some game experience, so they might make ok backups if we do keep them. I do agree we need better starters. In my opinion, they are the weakest part of the entire offense (sorry to say).

CHIEFSandSABRES

Agreed. Need to upgrade the interior.

ChiefOfTheWolfpack
ChiefOfTheWolfpack

Bad offensive line play makes the whole offense underperform. Look at Rodgers: His line was shit in GB and his play took a nosedive plus he got hurt. Same with Pat. He has no confidence that he can go through his reads without getting fucking mauled by poorly-blocked 300+ pound defensive linemen, he’s suffered two painful and scary injuries already this season as well, so he has to stare down his top targets and hope they work magic out of sheer self-preservation. This is the main force behind his and the offenses regression

I honestly wouldn’t be mad if our first and second round picks this year are center and guard. We need a massive infusion of depth and talent ASAP.

sydenham

In the absence of Bell or Yelder (injured?) finding their super-capes, and in the doubt that Spencer Ware will be fully game-shape, and unless Tyreek and Travis can do their thing, that leaves Darwin Thompson (OL please find your road-grading persona) and my personal vote for hero vs the Pats: Sammy Watkins. Okay, crickets quiet down. I’m not forgetting DRob, Pringle, and Deiter (back on the practice squad?), but seriously the OL has to play well and Sammy must have an impact.

Slayer0810
Slayer0810

You saw on review exactly what I saw from Thompson live. The other backs seems to have a hard time making something happen with a subpar OL in front of them. Darwin was being patient and finding holes. While I agree that a larger sample size is in order, I think Thompson’s traits are a huge positive while our OL is as bad as it is.

Eze chief kingdom
Eze chief kingdom

Kelce and hill are going to be non factors this weekend. hill will be bracketed and Kelce is not once going to have a free release off the line and they may even put a CB on him. if mahomes doesn’t get the other guys involved we are going to look bad on O.

CJ_Spiller
CJ_Spiller

This entire article is spot on and I was saying a lot of this watching the game in the stadium. The IOL has serious issues. Pat was not seeing open RBs out of the backfield. And I was fully hammered late in the 4th quarter I was repeatedly yelling “DTRAIN is a mini Leveon Bell!”

Berserker

I don’t know if Darwin really has that Leveon stop/start style, though. Maybe he just looked like he was “being patient” because they kept calling plays that handed him the ball while he was standing still.

I don’t know if all the various draw plays they gave him were just part of the run-out-the-clock philosophy, or maybe they don’t trust him yet to take a handoff while he’s moving forward. Whichever, it was driving me nuts, because I kept expecting him to get tackled in the backfield before he had a chance to take two steps. But damned if Darwin didn’t make those doomed-looking handoffs work, and that’s partly why I’m so optimistic about him.

01lowbird

Thompson definitely has the physical start stop abilities of Bell.

Berserker

Lots of people do. When Bell waits for his blocks, it’s not about his physical ability.

Sudden
Sudden

Darrell the barrel placed on IR. ☹️

Time for the rookie to really step up

upamtn

Darrell the Barrel

hadn’t heard that one, thank you, I needed the laugh