One more game left. One more game before this catastrophe of a season is over. One more game until all we have to look forward to is free agency and the 2013 NFL Draft.
This season has been the most disappointing of any I've ever witnessed as a Kansas City Chiefs fan. So much hope destroyed in such an alarmingly efficient manner by our guys. But I'll talk about that some other time.
There are so many decisions to go over regarding what direction we should go with free agency and the draft. But I'm saving that for another time as well.
And good LORD a lot of things could be said about Scott Pioli/Romeo Crennel and the decisions that need to be made there... but let's face it, those subjects have been beaten to death at this point.
Because the season is almost over, and as horrible as it's been... I'm going to miss Chiefs football. Even as awful as they've been this year, it's going to be tough (like it is every year) counting the days until football gets going again. Of course, they could prolong our enjoyment by actually making the playoffs, but I digress (sigh).
So I'm saving my thoughts on the season and thoughts on the future for another day, and focusing on the now. And last week, despite the game going into the loss column, we got to enjoy Chiefs football. 353 rushing yards. Good God Almighty, that's insane.
(I COULD go off here about how absolutely brutal the QB play and the coaching have been to make the Chiefs lose a game like that... but I won't... besides acknowledging it here: Because seriously, guys? You can't pull out a win when you get 353 yards on the ground? C'mon. MAN I can't wait until the new QB and coach come in. Anyways...)
I could talk about Jamaal Charles and what a transcendent talent he is, but I've covered that this year already here (long story short, if he can stay healthy I believe he goes down as one of the greats). I could talk about Peyton Hillis, but that just reminds me how wrong I was about the impact he'd have and make me really, really bitter about this season (where was THAT guy all season????).
So instead, I want to take about Patrick DiMarco.
Let's get it out of the way right now: he's Pancakes DiMarco (H/T NigerianNightmare). I'm not always a fan of nicknames, but I love that one. Now, I know that the NFL is changed. I know that fullback is considered a position of days past. I know that some even say it's a waste of a roster spot now.
But I also know that Pancakes DiMarco has only played significant snaps in two games (Panthers and Colts) and the Chiefs have run the ball well in both of them. I also know he made the most crucial block to spring Charles for his 80 yard opening touchdown against the Browns. And most of all, we Chiefs fans know what a great fullback can do for an offense (MAN I miss T-Rich). So let's just take a look, then draw some conclusions.
Time for a snap breakdown...
Previously: Jeff Allen, snap-by-snap
(As always... these are for diehards. If you're not ready to read what could well be 2,000 on fullback snaps this last game, move along. Maybe turn on ESPN or something. They're much better with 10 second soundbites. Also, HUGE H/T to jmc for the All-22 film. Finally, this will be long enough without me getting into detail about formation/situation and whatnot. So we're looking mostly at what DiMarco does and whether he makes an impact. Let's have at it...)
Snap 1- JC run between Jeff Allen and Ryan Lilja DiMarco leads the way and gets to a LB, sealing him off. However, Allen doesn't hold his man down and neither does Jon Asamoah, leading to a 2 yard gain as the hole closes behind DiMarco. Nothing special, and DiMarco's block was relatively useless on that play.
Snap 2- JC run between Allen and Lilja. DiMarco POPS a LB and moves him aside, but Lilja doesn't hold his man and JC is stopped for a relatively short gain. Great block by DiMarco, but again, minimal impact. Maybe prevented it from being a 1 yard gain instead of about 3?
Snap 3- JC run left outside Donald Stephenson. DiMarco goes the other way, but still manages to take the Colts' LOLB off his feet with a cut block. It didn't help JC but was a really impressive block, as the defender was completely removed from the play. Still, minimal impact on a play designed to fool the D by sending the RB and fullback opposite directions.
Snap 4- Pass play off play-action (big Baldwin gain). DiMarco helps sell the counter, then stays in to help pass block. He helps keep a defender at bay who otherwise MIGHT have gotten there in time to disrupt the flow. OT isn't it weird how when a good running team uses play-action it helps get receivers open? How odd. Someone should send that revelation to the Chiefs...
Snap 5- JC run, goes between Stephenson and Allen. DiMarco heads up between Asamoah and Winston and lays a decent pop on the LILB. Big gain for JC, and a nice contribution from DiMarco to prevent the LB from coming close to the play (the run gets called back, but still a nice play)
Snap 6- in a new development, DiMarco's lined up as H-back. Quinn never looks his way as he stares down Baldwin on the other side, but I have to say... DiMarco's faster than I thought.
Snap 7- Gives LOLB a quick shove on his way to a short route from H-back. Doesn't get looked at.
Snap 8- Hillis run left. DiMarco heads for outside the Stephenson, but Hillis tries to cut back and gets hit almost immediately. Meh. (frankly, so far there's a lot of "meh" here).
Snap 9- Lines up as H-back, again not looked at in his route. He was open in the Colts' zone and if Quinn had looked his way it could've been a good gain.
Snap 10- JC run between Stephenson and Allen. DiMarco gives the LB a good pop, but the guy still manages to get an arm on JC and it's a gain of about 4-5. A pancake would've been nice, there DiMarco. Still a nice hit, though.
Snap 11- Hillis run pretty much up the guy. Crazy thing is Lilja and Asamoah leave the Colts NT completely unblocked and go right to the second level. That'd be a problem if, say, the Chiefs fullback weighed 215 pounds. But DiMarco goes right at him and makes a great block, letting Hillis truck by for a decent gain. I'd say that's his best play by far. Big impact, as that play's a big loss without him and a solid gain with him.
Snap 12- Another Hillis run, this one to the right off-tackle. DiMarco doesn't really get a hat on anyone here.
Snap 13- Hillis run up the middle. DiMarco makes a great block on the ILB, but we're starting to see what happens when you can't pass, as the S is on the play very quickly. Really nice block on the ILB, though, which helps Hillis get a few yards.
Snap 14- Lined up as H-back, is well covered.
Snap 15- JC run around RT. DiMarco gets around the edge and lays a great hit on one of the Colts ILBs. The guy didn't have the angle to catch JC, but there was no one else to hit. Great blocking by everyone on that play.
Snap 16- JC run up the middle. When I first saw this play I didn't think DiMarco impacted it at all, but upon re-watching (and this is why you re-watch snaps if you want to know what you're talking about), if DiMarco doesn't take on the ROLB he gets to JC right as JC hits the LOS. Instead, it's a decent gain. Nice stuff!
Snap 17- Lined up as fullback, goes out for a pass. Well covered in man.
Snap 18- JC run left outside the T. DiMarco doesn't get a hat on anyone. Looked like he expected JC to follow him between Allen and Stephenson and JC decided to try the edge instead.
Snap 19- I swear to God I'm not making this up... Dimarco's lined up at WR. I mean c'mon, Daboll... Really? One thing I do like is in a play that takes awhile to develop he comes all the way across the field to hit someone near the end of the play.
Snap 20- Lined up as H-Back. Non-factor in a screen going the opposite way.
Snap 21- This is why you have a fullback. JC run left around the edge. The Colts RDE is working his way free only to take a SHOT from DiMarco which lets JC run by for a decent gain. Fun to watch, and again, something I totally missed the first time I watched this game.
Snap 22- Hillis run around left edge, DiMarco heads right. Hillis gets BURIED. Should've just stayed away from trickery and gone to the right behind DiMarco. There was tons of room to be had.
Snap 23- Lined up as H-back, doesn't get looked at.
Snap 24- JC's fumble. Ugh. Like Joel said, that fumble is so... Chiefs. Not any fault of DiMarco's, though, as he made his way through and hit an ILB. It was Lilja who missed an assignment and let the other ILB free at JC. Seriously... ugh. We love to shoot ourselves in the foot.
Snap 25- JC's glorious 86 yard TD run. I watched this about 900 times. It's a thing of beauty. Not just by JC either. As they JC is turning the corner, DiMarco lays out for a cut block on the closing safety, who had a decent angle, and takes him completely off his feet. What's more, DiMarco laying himself out for the cut block forces a closing LB to slow down to avoid tripping over ol' Pancakes. Either of those guys would've likely stopped the run for maybe 5-10 yards. Instead, neither gets to make the play, JC does JC things, and it's an 86-yard TD. Those 6 points are not on the board without an absolutely stellar job by DiMarco.
(another thought... the fact that DiMarco has the speed to stay far enough ahead of JC to make those blocks is just amazing for a guy who weighs over 240 and whose job description is "smash." I could watch that play all day)
Snap 26- Another great play. JC runs right, then cuts it back left (in the direction DiMarco went). DiMarco has nailed the ROLB and he completely seals the edge when JC cuts back, allowing JC to make a big gain to the outside. Really nice.
Snap 27- H-Back, not looked at as Quinn makes a very quick throw the other way.
Snap 28- Quinn's second pick. DiMarco leaves the backfield but never gets looked at. Quinn's busy at the moment making terrible throws, thank you very much!
(I'd take Tim Tebow as the QB over Quinn or Cassel. There, I said it. it's out there)
Snap 29- Hillis run left outside the T. DiMarco hits a LB, but this run is 95% Hillis moving after contact. Where the crap was this guy all year?
Snap 30- Hillis run up the middle, DiMarco goes around the left edge and attempts a cut block on the ROLB. He doesn't take him off his feet but does slow him down. Meh. I miss watching the Chiefs run, yanno, BEHIND the fullback...
Snap 31- JC run left between Stephenson and Allen. DiMarco has to choose between two free LB's, hits one, and the other hits JC. DiMarco really would have done more good taking on the ILB instead of the OLB.
Snap 32- Worst play of the game from DiMarco. He loses his feet running into an OL and falls. It happened. let's move on, because I'm thinking of a bunch of analogies involving that play and the Chiefs' season...
Snap 33- Lines up as H-back, blocks to the inside on a run up the middle by Hillis. Makes a great block on the NT, who otherwise stops Hillis for a loss. Instead a gain of 5. See what happens when you don't fall down, DiMarco?
Snap 34- Another big run by JC. This one up the middle, and it ONLY happens because DiMarco lays a great hit on an ILB who otherwise blows up that play (the guy was running completely free). DiMarco lays the smack down and JC has enough daylight to go for a big gain.
What's that, we haven't finished out the game, you say? I know. But I'm shot, and I'm ready to draw conclusions (I DID watch the remaining snaps... for a summary, DiMarco flattened a couple of fools in the 4th. It was nice).
First things first... despite all my enthusiasm for Pancakes DiMarco, I can understand why people don't get very high on fullbacks. It seems like more often than one would like, a fullback doesn't make much of an impact. If the OL doesn't do their job or the RB doesn't do his, the fullback holding down or even pancaking a LB doesn't do a whole lot of good.
That said, I noticed something interesting; the Chiefs were, by far, their most successful running the ball when they did so behind DiMarco. When they pulled him, or when they didn't use him directly as a lead blocker, the running game had less success. And it wasn't close. And even more interesting, it was JC who I noticed benefiting the most from DiMarco's blocks (although Hillis did as well on several runs).
The general consensus here (and my opinion) has been that JC's running style doesn't really lend itself to a normal fullback. Watching the Colts game, it occurred to me that there's a chance I was wrong.
He's big, he's strong, and he's surprisingly fast. He also seems to have a good grasp on who to block, and he's ALWAYS looking for someone to hit. He showed me the H-Back formations that he can run in the open field and came open a few times (you're not gonna believe this, but Brady Quinn misses open receivers).
I like what DiMarco brings to the table, and I hope we see more of him against the Broncos this next week. Given his surprising versatility and the uptick I see in the Chiefs running game with him back there, I believe there is absolutely a spot on the roster for him next year. And a potentially important one. Almost every one of JC's big runs against the Colts involved DiMarco clearing the way. Would you like to see more of those? And would you like to see more runs where JC isn't even touched getting to the edge and ends up getting pushed out of bounds rather than getting hammered?
DiMarco may well be the way to get that.
So here's to you, Pancakes DiMarco. Hopefully the Chiefs new head coach (crosses fingers) sees the same things I see.