What Is Wrong With The Kansas City Running Game?

DENVER - NOVEMBER 14: Running back Thomas Jones #20 of the Kansas City Chiefs is stopped by the Denver Bronco defense at INVESCO Field at Mile High on November 14 2010 in Denver Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

228, 236, 274, 104....51.  Those numbers are the rushing yards for the Kansas City Chiefs offense over the past 5 weeks.  Notice anything?

What is noticeable is that the Chief's ground game has come to a screeching halt. 

It all started with the Oakland Raiders.  The Chiefs offensive line had a hard time handling the Raiders physical play.  And why not?  Oakland is a physical, nasty, and a aggressive defense.  It only made sense that the Chief's zone scheme might run into a few bumps when playing the black and gold silver.

But the Denver Broncos?  Weren't they supposed to be ranked at the bottom of the NFL in rushing defense?  So what went wrong?

What went wrong was the Denver Broncos took a page out of the Oakland Raider's template on how to stop the KC running attack...and it worked for the Broncos as well.

The Raiders were able to slow the Chiefs rushing attack in week #9 by successfully executing a game plan made up of three major components and one belief:
  • Belief:  Count on the fact that KC cannot win the game if they have to throw the ball.
  1. Play 8 in the box.  And not that 8 in the box that the others teams have played.  Put 5 to 6 defenders on the line of scrimmage and essentially play a 5-3 or 6-2 defense.
  2. Out physical the Chiefs interior offensive lineman (guards & center).  Don't just try and get by them, be physical with them.  Try and move them off the ball and create "bubbles" in the backfield that cause disruption to the normal flow of the play.
  3. Out flank the KC tight ends with physical linebackers and quickly set-the-edge before the offense does.

 

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For the Raiders and Broncos plan to be successful all three components had to work.  For if the Chiefs could counter any 1 of the 3...the Chiefs might prevail.    All three, in unison, spelled a KC demise.

Opponent Game Plan #1:  8 in the box

The Broncos and Raiders both started putting 8 to 9 defenders in the box to stop the Chiefs rushing attack.  It doesn't matter how good you are at running the ball...if NFL teams dedicate 8 to 9 guys to stop the run...you're not going to run the ball unless you can keep them off balance with a little passing game.

Areas That May Contribute To Problem #1:  

  • The Chiefs do not have a receiver that can stretch the field vertically.
  • McCluster has been out for the two games against the Raiders and Broncos.  The Chiefs might miss his dynamic play.
  • Matt Cassel has had some accuracy issues throwing the ball deep.
  • The offensive line may not be able to hold out defenders consistently for a 7 step drop.

Opponent Game Plan #2:  Interior lineman getting driven.

Both the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders won the battles between the tackles.  Their defensive tackles were physical and created bubbles in the backfield, or , at the very least kept Kansas City from reaching them consistantly.

If you are a Kansas City fan then you need to realize that the Chiefs offensive line is not designed for power blocking.  It is a team designed to run zone blocking, pull and trap, and create creases for quick/slashing type backs.  It should be no suprise that KC's guards/center get out-physical-ed from time to time...that's the trade off.

But what fans of KC should expect is creative and opportunistic blocking schemes that keep defenders off guard.  Utilizing various blocking schemes keeps defenders guessing at what type of play they are seeing.

Areas That May Contribute To Problem #2:

  • Philosophy:  Chiefs have chosen a zone blocking scheme and populated the line with zone blocking types.  Expect those zone blocking types to lose some of those physical battles.
  • Injury:  Both Waters and Lilja have been banged up the last two weeks.
  • Age:  Both Waters and Wiegmann are getting up there in age.  Could the season be wearing them down?
  • Sprinkle in more creative blocking schemes that put lineman in positions to make easier blocks (down blocks).  This actually is already being done to a certain degree and if not for the other two problems I have addressed...this solution might not be that pressing. 

Opponent Game Plan #3:  Out-flank the offensive TE and set the edge.

The opponents game plans # 1 and #3 are probably the most significant and require an adjustment of strategy by the Chiefs offensive coordinator.  KC's opponents have found a solution that stops the Chiefs running attack.  Now, on the clock...Charlie Weis.

The Broncos and Raiders have taken a page out of the history books on how to defend the old fashion power running attacks like the wishbone or the wing T.  The most significant being the aggressive and physical play from the defender on the end of the line of scrimmage.

Both Oakland and Denver have been successful in out flanking the Chiefs offense prior to the snap (illustration #3) and then creating a bubble that causes the running back to bounce deep before he goes wide...or causes the back to cut back prior to the o-line getting the opportunity to create any stretch to the defense.

Areas That May Contribute To Problem #3:

  • Chiefs opponents being more physical at the end of the line of scrimmage.
  • Game plan #1 (8 in the box) exacerbates Kansas City's problem with the opponents game plan #3.
  • More creative offensive game planning.  As purely and observation, it appears to this observer that the Chiefs have come up with major game plan wrinkles every two to three games.  If that is the case then expect to see something new this Sunday.  The injury to McCluster might be hindering the play calling more than we realize, but, if Dexter is not a go then the Chiefs still have to take the field and win a ball game.  So let's see what Weis has for the fans as a counter move to his defensive coordinator adversaries.
  • If an offense can run up the middle effectively then the opponent out-flanking the formation is not a concern.  The Chiefs have lost the battles more often than not the last two games.

In one of Bewsaf's o-line posts it was stated that the combination of all three of these opponent's game plan successes created the perfect storm that stopped the KC running attack...and I still think this is true.  I believe that success or failure for the rest of the season hinges on whether the Chiefs have the creative coaching mind power and enough talent to counter these measures.

 

 

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Click On " Bewsaf Past Posts " for more past articles

*Chiefs vs Broncos: Breaking Down The O-Line Tape *The Next Hurdle For A Young KC Chiefs Team:  Fortitude

*KC Chiefs vs Broncos: Analyzing Denver's Play Direction Tendencies

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