Chiefs Winning By Time Of Possession, But Must Improve Third Down Efficiency

KANSAS CITY MO - SEPTEMBER 26: Thomas Jones #20 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs the ball against the San Francisco 49ers at Arrowhead Stadium on September 26 2010 in Kansas City Missouri. The Chiefs won 31-10. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The Chiefs are not running a Marty Ball offense, but the philosophy is similar. In the first three games, they have shown that they can win games by running the ball down the other team's throat and eating up a lot of clock. The results have been staggering. The Chiefs won the Time of Possession game against both the Browns and the 49ers by 7 minutes. That has kept the defense fresh, especially late in games against Peyton Hillis and Frank Gore, two backs who are an absolute load to take down. Seven minutes could amount to 10-15 extra runs. Pretty significant. 

Here's a few interesting stats about the Chiefs' drive progressions against San Francisco and Cleveland:

  • Against the 49ers, the Chiefs' average series was 6 plays, 44 yards with a TOP of 3:09
  • Against Cleveland, the Chiefs' average series was 6 plays for 25 yards with a TOP of 3:00
  • Against Cleveland, in the first half, the average TOP was 5 plays for 16 yards and a TOP of only 1:58 (a half that featured 53% passes, and one where most agree that the Chiefs were not particularly successful)

Note: Those stats also include "outliers," which include drives that either led to a very quick Touchdown or a very quick turnover, both of which limit Time of Possession.

So where am I going with this? In this post, you will pretty clearly see that the Chiefs have been very effective in controlling the clock despite the fact that our offense has been extremely inconsistent at converting makeable third down situations. And oh by the way, I'd also like to point out that Thomas Jones' contribution to those results is extremely understated by the fan base and extremely underappreciated. You'll see why in a minute.

More after the jump.

Okay, so what does all that mean? It means that the Chiefs have been very successful at moving the chains and it's not hard to see why. Against San Francisco, a staggering 11 out of 13 third down situations (85%) were short yardage situations (thoughout this post, I will be using 3rd and 5 or shorter as the standard for "3rd and short.") Against Cleveland, 8 out of the 15 (53%) third down situations were 3rd and short. It's also interesting to note that against Cleveland, of those seven 3rd and long situations, 5 of those (71%) were series where Thomas Jones never once touched the ball.

Are you ready for this? In the last two games, in series where Thomas Jones has touched the ball, only three have resulted in a third and long situation. Has Thomas Jones been pivotal to the Chiefs' success? You bet he has. A lot of people have been critical of Thomas Jones because he doesn't have sexy Yards per Carry stats and because the offense at many points has been lackluster. I also think that Chiefs' fans have a tough time accepting any kind of an offense that even remotely resembles Marty Ball. That's a shame, because Thomas Jones isn't the problem and he's unjustly getting blamed for stuff that isn't his fault. It's not Jones' fault that the offense has been inconsistent; clearly, it's the fault of the 3rd down offense for not making the most of the opportunities Thomas Jones giftwraps for them.

So above, I talked a lot about how the Chiefs are setting up a lot of very convertible third down situations (68% of 3rd downs the past two games were 3rd and short). How did they do in those situations? Based on the stats, very poorly. Let's continue to get geeky with the stats. In the first half against the Browns, the Chiefs went 0 for 6 on 3rd down situations, three of which were 5 yards or less. In the 2nd half, the Chiefs went 0 for 4 on 3rd and short, and 4 for 4 on third and long. Total that all together and the Chiefs went 0 for 7 in the game on 3rd and short and 4 for 7 on third and long. That's backwards. What that tells you is that the running game has been extremely effective at setting up short yardage situations but the Chiefs were unacceptably bad at taking advantage of what was given to them.

Against the 49ers, we saw similar results. In the first half, the Chiefs had six 3rd and short situations, only two (33%) of which they converted. In the 2nd half, they turned things around. They converted 5 of 6 (83%) of their third and short situations. That's progress and hopefully something the Chiefs will continue to build on. And the biggest culprit to third down efficiency has been the passing game. The Chiefs actually passed quite a bit in those situations.

I'm not saying that clock-burning is the right strategy for every situation. In other games, you'd like to see the Chiefs focus more on their home run threat, Jamaal Charles, even if he's not a guy who will burn a lot of time off the clock. But in many instances, the strategy works great. The more time you burn off the clock, the less time the defense has to spend on the field tackling huge Running Backs. And I'll tell you what, if the Chiefs can consistently piece together drives that consistent of multiple 3-down series, the Chiefs could absolutely dominate the clock battle.

To get there, the Chiefs need to become significantly better at 3rd down efficiency. Hopefully the second half of the 49ers game signals that improvement is coming.  

Note: I have not had time to double-check the numbers, so I apologize if any of those statistics is a little bit off.

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