How to Stop the Chiefs Offense

The Chiefs loss in week 1 came as a bit of a shock to a lot of people around the league. Here’s how the game went. An early turnover by Kansas City allowed Buffalo to get out to a quick lead, from which they never looked back. Kansas City’s defense was porous all day and once the offense was forced to abandon the run, they were completely ineffective at controlling the clock, or really even mustering any offense for that matter.

If you’ve played fantasy football or watched any appreciable amount of ESPN in the past year, you know that Jamaal Charles is pretty amazing. The running game is by far the strength of their team. If the Chiefs can stick to their ground game and chew up clock, they can be dangerous. On Sunday, it didn’t quite pan out that way. From watching the game, I can conclude that Matt Cassel was just flat out bad in Week 1. Once the game was put on his shoulders, it was all over. If what the Chiefs showed against Buffalo is an indication of what their offense will be in 2011, expect similar passing results. Matt Cassel’s completion percentage of 61.1% is actually higher than his career completion percentage of 58.9%. In a dink-and-dunk passing scheme (think west coast offense), you need accuracy above all else. You’re not looking to complete 60% of your long bombs down the field. You’re looking to hit high percentage throws at a high enough rate to consistently move the chains. Let’s put it this way. If 40% of your passes are incomplete and another 40% of your passes don’t go for fist downs even when completed, you’re not going to be getting very many first downs.

The Chiefs had 3 full drives in the first quarter before the Bills took a 14-0 lead. After that, the Chiefs had to try to keep pace with Buffalo, effectively killing their running game. I’m going to take a look at just what happened on those 3 drives to see what went wrong with the Chiefs offense in week 1.

On the opening play of the game, Dexter McCluster fumbled the opening kickoff. In the 2nd year of his career, he seems to be pretty fumble-prone. According to pro-football-reference.com, McCluster has 13 punt returns, 30 kickoff returns, 21 receptions, and 18 carries to his name. He also now has 3 fumbles in those limited touches. That works out to a 3.7% fumble rate. Assuming there’s a 50/50 shot for either team to recover it, you can use some basic probability to determine how likely he is to lose a fumble for a given number of touches. Here’s a chart I made to demonstrate:

You’ll see that at around 20 touches, there’s a 25% chance of the lions recovering a Dexter McCluster fumble (theoretically). That’s a pretty huge number of touches for him, so I wouldn’t say another McCluster fumble is a particularly likely thing to pin your hopes and dreams to. Let’s take a look at the 3 drives of the Chiefs to see systematically what went wrong. If you don’t feel like reading through 10 play descriptions (yeah, 10 plays in 3 drives is horrible), then you can skip to the punchline at the bottom.

  • The first drive for the Chiefs lasted 4 plays before they were forced to punt.

-The first play was a single-back formation with 3 WR and 1 TE. The play was a play-action roll out to the right and Cassel hit Leonard Pope in stride, who broke an arm tackle and rumbled for 15 yards.

-The 2nd play is an offset I formation where Jamaal Charles ran off tackle with a fullback lead blocker. He got to the corner and turned up field for a 4 yard gain.

-On the 3rd play, WR Terrence Copper beat his man to the inside in 1-on-1 coverage and Cassel threw the ball about 4 feet higher than he could possibly hope to jump for it. Incomplete.

– On the 4th play of the drive, Cassel dropped back to pass. The center and right guard started double teaming Marcell Dareus right away, but I guess the RG decided he didn’t feel like doing that any more, so he wandered off after the RT. Meanwhile, Dareus quickly beat the chiefs’ center and got a hand on Cassel, throwing off his balance. As he stumbled around, someone cleaned him up for the sack.

-Punt

  • The 2nd drive of the Chiefs

-The first play is another play action rollout and Matt Cassel finds the feet of his crossing tight end nicely. Incomplete

-The 2nd play looks like a stretch play to the left. Charles finds a cutback lane, but a linebacker steps up to fill the hole and stop him after a 3 yard gain

-On the 3rd play of the drive, Cassel is in the shotgun with Charles to his right. Charles motions to his left and runs a flat route behind the line of scrimmage, where Cassel quickly hits him. The safety sniffed it out all the way and just as Charles catches the ball, he’s planted 6 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

-Punt

  • The 3rd drive of the Chiefs

-On the 1st play, Charles is in the backfield with McCluster lined up at fullback in an offset I. McCluster motions before the snap to something like a deep TE position. At the snap of the ball, Cassel hands off to Charles and fakes the end around to McCluster. No one bites on the fake and in the meantime, Kyle Williams pushes the left guard 3 yards into the backfield. Charles is forced to run around them and he plows into the pile for a 3 yard gain.

-Quick pass to Bowe and a nice open-field tackle by the cornerback near the line of scrimmage.

-Bowe gets single coverage and after some hand signals between him and Cassel, he runs a fly route up the sideline. Cassel takes a quick drop and throws it high and behind him to his outside shoulder. Bowe jumps and spins and can only get 1 hand on the ball. Incomplete.

-Punt

So there you have it. The Chiefs tried some play action, some quick passes, and some outside runs to get something going early against the bills, but a mix of poor throws and good defense resulted in only 1 first down before the Bills were able to score 2 touchdowns. For a team that is so proficient at running the ball, they simply did too much passing on those early drives and I’m sure they know it. They’ll look to re-establish the run this week against the Lions and of course, their defense will have to do a better job than in Week 1. The Lions should gear up to face the run, but be ready to catch one of Cassel’s errant throws to get a quick turnover. All in all, if the Lions can stop the run and tackle well on the short passes, I expect it to be another long day for the Kansas City Chiefs.

P.S.- You can follow me on twitter @NateWashuta

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