FanPost

Play calling tendencies

As the draft approaches, I wanted to empirically see what happened last year in the hopes that it would reveal insight into greater areas of need. The results were expected, surprising, and in some cases vomit-inducing.

The Link connects to a Google Document that breaks down each play called on offense and its result for the first 8 games of 2011. Since those were the only full games with Cassel, I stopped there.

After the Jump you can read my analysis of each game, in sequence. At the end of it all is my summary of hope.

I welcome further analysis of the data, and your thoughts.

Game 1: Buffalo Bills (Home)

1st Down- On 1st down, the playbook appears wide open with a near perfect split between pass and run, and the results are mostly positive. Of the 25 1st down plays, 5 plays resulted in 1st downs. Another 6 resulted in gains of 4-5 yards (nothing between 5-10 yards). 53.8% of the 1st down passing plays went to the right.

2nd Down- More skewed toward the pass, since most plays had more than 5 yards needed for a 1st down. 7 of 12 passes were thrown for a loss of yards or were incomplete, resulting in obvious passing situations. The run was mildly effective, converting two first downs.

3rd Down- Abandoned the run completely since no attempt was closer than 4 yards. More passes were thrown to the right, but more success was found to the left. No passes were thrown to the middle. Both sacks occurred during these obvious passing plays.

Passing- Passes were thrown mostly to the right with good production on 1st & 2nd downs, but when it was crunch time (3rd down), the right side only caught 1 of 6 passes and that one completion was 4 yards short of a 1st down. The only effective passing on 3rd down was to the left, and that was to Jamal Charles and the tight end. The passes to Charles were likely (not sure) to the flat where he was able to gain yards after the catch.

Rushing- Most of the rushes went up the middle with only one 14 yard gain to improve the otherwise abysmal average. The only success in the run game was to the left, where 3 of 5 rushes were for more than 10 yards and two of those were for more than 20 yards. The right side was, if not good, at least consistent.

Other- There were more passes thrown to the right on the 1st two downs and that was OK, but when it was crunch time on obvious pass plays the only players to convert were the running back and tight end. The offensive line only had success on the left. There was no push up the middle on 1st down, without which the pass/run mix will skew to pass.

Next Week- Things to look for :
1. Spread the pass around the field. Left, right, middle, close, medium, and long range. Find players that can consistently make plays.
2. Get more push on runs up the middle.
3. Try more rushes to the left to see if week one was a fluke or true potential.
4. Don’t abandon the run on 3rd down.


Game 2: Detroit Lions (Away)

1st Down- Much like the previous week, 1st down was an open playbook with an even mix of pass and run with generally good results, with one glaring exception. Two sacks on 1st down. One was the final play of the first half, and the second resulted in a lost fumble. There is no reason to get sacked on a 1st down. On the plus-side, Bowe was responsible for all three big pass plays on 1st down. Only 23% of 1st down rushes went to the left, despite the previous week’s dominant performance.

2nd Down- A mixed bag. The pass was terrible. Like the previous week, either an incomplete pass or a short pass for nearly nothing. The run was better, notably on the three plays that were 3 yards and closer. All three were converted into 1st downs (left side rules!).

3rd Down- 3rd & “Missed it by THAT much”. Need six, get five. Need four, get three. Need one, get none. Bowe had both (that’s two TOTAL) 3rd down conversions with receptions on the left side when we needed 8 yards. The only zone ignored on 3rd down was the left side rush.

Passing- Statistically passing looks mildly improved from the previous week only because there was a 45 yard reception to skew the data. Take out that one play and our QBs gained 88 yards. If you factor in the yards they lost due to interceptions and sacks (-62) the number is 16. Damn. Passing was deplorably bad. Whether through play-calling, throwing, or catching it was bad.

Rushing- Jones and McClain don’t go left apparently. The only real success in the run game was on the left side. 3 of 5 carries to the left went for 1st downs, and it would have been four except for a false start that backed it up to 1st & 15 (Bowe ran for 12 yards). The average gain was 13.20 yards. Last week it was a mere 13.00 yards. Way to go Left Side!

Other-Turnovers. Nuff said. The only bright spots in this game were Bowe, and the left side run.

Previous Week-
1. Spread the pass around the field. Left, right, middle, close, medium, and long range. Find players that can consistently make plays.
Result: Better because of BOWE. He caught 5 of the 6 passes thrown for 1st downs.
2. Get more push on runs up the middle.
Result: It actually got worse on average.
3. Try more rushes to the left to see if week one was a fluke or true potential.
Result: Same number of carries, a slight improvement on amazing numbers.
4. Don’t abandon the run on 3rd down.
Result:The run was there, but it got stuffed just short of converting on all four tries.

Next Week- Things to look for :
1. Use the left side rush to dominate without Charles.
2. Is there another receiver, besides Bowe, on this roster?
3. Will Cassel learn to pass beyond 10 yards without taking a sack or throwing a pick?
4. Still need a consistent 3rd down running threat.

Game 3: San Diego Chargers (Away)

1st Down- They could have advertised “We Pass Left, But Don’t Run Left!” Of the 10 pass attempts on 1st down, 6 were thrown left, 3 to the right, and 1 was intercepted. Of the 11 1st down rushes, only 1 was to the left. The average gain on 1st down was 3.58 yards, which is the worst game so far.

2nd Down- 1 great play, 1 decent play, and the rest were crap. Breaston caught a 43 yard pass on the left side on 2nd & 13, setting up Pope’s TD in the 4th qtr. The other decent play was an 8-yard pass to Pope for a 1st down. The run was a pretty even mix of crap (2.27yrd avg) from any direction. There was only one 2nd down play closer than 6 yards.

3rd Down- The noticeable improvement in this area is the big plays made. 5 of 12 on 3rd down conversion is OK, but 4 of those conversions were for 16+ yard gains and that’s nice. That generated an excellent 7.58 yard average on 3rd downs. The passing game came up clutch, but the running game still needs work on short yardage. Of the 4 attempts at 5 yards or closer, only 1 was converted into a 1st down.

4th Down- The first time this season the 4th down has been used for anything but kicking and the results were good. We actually tried it twice, from 4 yards and from 1 yard. Both would have been converted, but the 1 yarder was called back due to a penalty. Breaston caught the ball for 5 yards when we needed 4. Again, the passing game was clutch.

Passing- As I’ve already noted, the passing game was really solid. It was responsible for 9 of 11 1st downs and both TDs. Other than a tendency to pass left on 1st down, the rest of the plays were evenly spread across the different zones, getting more players involved.

Rushing- Well, the dominance of the left side was halted in this game, each zone was equally mediocre at best. Of the 27 rushing attempts, only 1 went for more than 10 yards. Worse, only 4 went for more than 5 yards. The O-Line was not getting it done. The rushing “attack” accounted for only 2 first downs. Two. All game long. Two.

Other- Thomas Jones and McClain have each had only 1 rush greater than 10 yards in the first three games. They got them in the second game. Is there something I’m missing about running up the middle and right? Nearly 80% of attempts are in those areas, and there aren’t any results to warrant it. This was the best game for Cassel so far, which isn’t saying much. He needs to be twice as productive as this.

Previous Week-
1. Use the left side rush to dominate without Charles.
Result: Nope. Rushed left 22% of time and it looks like SD was ready to stop it.
2. Is there another receiver, besides Bowe, on this roster?
Result: Breaston and Pope both showed up with clutch catches.
3. Will Cassel learn to pass beyond 10 yards without taking a sack or throwing a pick?
Result: At least for this game he did. Solid, but he needs to get better.
4. Still need a consistent 3rd down running threat.
Result: Nothing. Drive killers.

Next Week- Things to look for :
1. Will the left side rush return?
2. Solid 1st down rushing (more than 5 yards).
3. QB throws for more than 250 yards!
4. Will Thomas and McClain learn to run left and for more than 3 yards?

Game 4: Minnesota Vikings (Home)

1st Down- A bit of a change over last week. Now there were more passes to the right than left, and there was an effort to run more to the left (yay!). The rush up the middle is getting old. It was called 6 times (1 was a kneel down at the end of the game) and on 4 of them Thomas Jones & Battle gained 1 single, solitary, yard per carry. Cassel had the other run, and it went for 8 yards. Rushing to the right was even worse. Three tries on 1st down resulted in a net loss of 1 yard. Luckily they only tried it 3 times.

2nd Down- Due to numerous penalties, the range of 2nd down plays was wide, and the mix was nicely balanced. Even on longer yardage plays, the calls never favored pass or run. The result was converting 6 2nd down plays into 1st downs. The real benefit was on the plays less than 5 yards, where 5 of the 6 plays resulted in 4-1st downs and 1 TD.

3rd Down- The run was basically abandoned again because 10 of 15 plays were for greater than 5 yards. Fortunately, four of those long attempts were converted, in addition to 2 of the 5 short yardage attempts. 40% conversion is not great, but it’s still OK.

Passing- Breaston & Bowe both had strong showings with several high yardage gains. Cassel’s 62% completion rate isn’t going to win many games. Knowing the reason for all the incompletions and the range they’re being thrown in would be helpful in gauging Cassel’s ability better. Is he missing the easy short passes, or is he missing the deep one? Dropped passes? Either way, this is an area that needs greater investigation.

Rushing- FINALLY! They learned how to run left successfully! They still need to work on their distribution a lot, but at least there were a few more runs to the left. The result was a solid 7.29 yard average on the left. That’s it for the good news, however. Thomas Jones officially sucks going up the middle or right. None of his 7 attempts in those areas gained more than 2 yards. Most were for 1. On the left he saw runs of 3, 7, 9, and 12 yards.

Other- No interceptions, and only one 1st down sack. Better. Passing yards were better in all zones. Another win in the turnover battle.

Previous Week-
1. Will the left side rush return?
Result: Yes! They actually utilized it a little too.
2. Solid 1st down rushing (more than 5 yards).
Result: Only on the left. The rest was crap...again.
3. QB throws for more than 250 yards!
Result: Barely, but YES! Coincidentally, we won!
4. Will Thomas and McClain learn to run left and for more than 3 yards?
Result: Well, Jones did. McClain’s 1 carry up the middle got snuffed for -2 yards.

Next Week- Things to look for :
1. Better completion percentage on 2nd downs.
2. Run left some MORE!
3. Block better up the middle, please! If you insist on running there.
4. Stop getting sacked, and fewer penalties! Oh, and another game without INTs would be nice.

Game 5: Indianapolis Colts (Away)

1st Down- If they can’t stop it, keep doing it. KC managed an amazing nine 1st downs on 1st down, and converted one 1st & short into a TD. There were 33 1st down plays for the Chiefs and 63% of them were run plays. The Indy defense was as effective as a screen door on a submarine. Only one zone didn’t get attacked on 1st down; left side Pass.

2nd Down- Another run heavy down, with excellent results. If the result wasn’t a 1st down, at least it moved the ball a significant portion of the way there, setting it up for 3rd & short. Of the 22 2nd down plays, 7 were converted (32%).

3rd Down- If it weren’t for the 2-3rd & 20+ to go plays and the sack, this would have been an incredible conversion rate of 72.7%. Instead it’s still an excellent 57%. In most cases it was for considerably more yards than needed too. A pass heavy down, but the situation was ripe for play-action or at least keeping the defense off balance. Converted 5 of 7 3rd & short (3 yards or less).

Passing- 257 yards, 72% completion, 4 TDs. Solid. Made short, mid, and long passes. Passing to the right a lot, but nobody was stopping it. Bowe & Breaston did the heavy lifting, but 8 players caught passes. A nearly mistake-free game, against the worst team in football. Don’t get cocky. Remember rookie Curtis Painter had 277 yards with 10.3 Yds/att versus Cassel 257 and 8.9. Serviceable, not great.

Rushing- Battle & Jones combined to grind out a win on the ground, with 174 yards on 29 carries between them. The O-Line must have eaten their Wheaties because they helped make the rush up the middle the best average gainer of 5.65 yards. It would have been 6.5 yard average if it weren’t for the two kneel downs at the end of the game! The left side was a respectable 5.08 yard average. The right side has at least been consistent all year. Again, it was Indy. Do it again.

Other- No INTs! A spike in the number of plays over 10 yards, but no increase in those over 20 yards. That might mean the poor defense is more to blame rather than a dominating offense. Considering how much better the Chiefs offense was, I’m surprised the score was that close.

Previous Week-
1. Better completion percentage on 2nd downs.
Result: Yes! Far more runs than passes, but still a better passing game.
2. Run left some MORE!
Result: Almost a perfect run distribution, resulting in 194 rushing yards!
3. Block better up the middle, please! If you insist on running there.
Result: Thank you, yes! 6.5 yard average (without the kneel downs)!!!!
4. Stop getting sacked, and fewer penalties! Oh, and another game without INTs would be nice.
Result: No 1st down sacks, and no INTs! The penalties were bearable because we won.

Next Week- Things to look for :
1. Continued strong rushing effort, with an improvement on the right.
2. Open up the middle in the passing game. It’s been effective but underutilized.
3. Increase the number of 20+ yard plays.
4. Shift the 3rd downs to short yardage rather than long (a small improvement but crucial).

Game 6: Oakland Raiders (Away)

1st Down- A good mix of pass & run. Jones was the recipient of a lot of 1st down runs that went nowhere. I’d tend to blame the player because Battle didn’t seem to have a problem taking those same plays an extra couple yards. For a big guy, Jones gets stopped without much effort.

2nd Down- There were more runs than passes, and that was a good thing because Cassel couldn’t complete a pass on 2nd down. 6 of 9 passes were incomplete, 1 was completed for a loss of 3 yards. Only 1 was caught for a 1st down. Horrible. 5 of the 14 run plays were for 1st downs (not bad). Considering 1 of those 2nd down runs was a kneel down, it looks a little better.

3rd Down- An even mix here too, with decent results. Considering 13 of 15 plays had more than 5 yards to go, the 46.6% conversion rate looks pretty good. I’d be a lot more comfortable trying to convert these with shorter yardage. It looks like they’re more lucky than good at this point.

Passing- Thank God for Defense! Cassel barely did enough to qualify as a quarterback, completing only 50% with a paltry 5.4 yrd/Att. and 2 INTs (1 was a Hail Mary). Like a kid faking his way through an exam, Cassel did just enough to not lose this game. He did nothing to win it. Bowe and Breaston caught enough 1st downs to keep the offense sputtering along.

Rushing- The left side was the workhorse this time, with the other zones having enough breakthrough runs to keep the defense guessing. The two kneel down plays up the middle skew the numbers a bit, but overall the only true positive was the left side rush.

Other- This was not a win for the offense. The defense pounced on a Raider team in disarray and throttled them into submission, allowing the Chiefs offense a chance to do their keystone cop routine without the threat of a loss. I’m at a loss for how ineffective our passing game was considering we never trailed and never were forced to be one-dimensional. A win, but a loss at the same time.

Previous Week-
1. Continued strong rushing effort, with an improvement on the right.
Result: Nope. An overall drop-off with the right side playing its worst this season.
2. Open up the middle in the passing game. It’s been effective but underutilized.
Result: Nope. Only 3 attempts over the middle (inc, 6, & 18 yards).
3. Increase the number of 20+ yard plays.
Result: Nope. Only 2. Maybe I should count the defense to make it sound better.
4. Shift the 3rd downs to short yardage rather than long (a small improvement but crucial).
Result: Nope. Only 2 of 15 plays were from 3 yards or less. Two. Seriously?

Next Week-
1. Is Matt Cassel actually a QB? He appears to have receivers, but can’t consistently get them the ball in a place where they can succeed.
2. Will Battle officially get the bulk of the RB carries since he can break a tackle?
3. Will the right side of the line learn how to block?
4. Do we have any playmakers on this team (on offense) besides Bowe?

Game 7: San Diego Chargers (Home)

1st Down- If it wasn’t going for a 1st down or a touchdown, it wasn’t going anywhere. I swear most of the calls were simple run up the middle plays that hit a brick wall. Didn’t work? Try again. Still didn’t work? Try again. No luck? Really? OK. Punt. The Pass was actually far better, but still only a 50/50 option. When it succeeded it gained good yards. The failure to gain any significant yardage doomed successive downs to be from further out (obviously), with obvious results. The penalties didn’t help in that regard either.

2nd Down- Due to the longer yardage, the mix was skewed toward the pass. The results were similar to 1st Down; good or terrible. Of the 14 pass plays, 5 were converted (good). 8 were incomplete, intercepted, or Cassel got sacked(terrible). 1 was completed for 3 yards. The running plays were actually a decent attempt at two-putting, trying to get the ball a bit closer to the goal without actually getting all the way there (except once).

3rd Down- If there is one nice trend developing over the last few games, it’s the ability to convert 3rd downs into 1st downs. Considering how frequently those conversions are from long yardage makes it even more impressive. This game was no different. 8 of 14 plays were from greater than 5 yards out. Half of those were from greater than 10 yards out (thank you penalties). Converting 7 of 14 was excellent. The bad part was the two sacks that occurred.

Passing- Not bad, but could have been much better. The nearly 60% completion rate is OK considering that when the ball was caught it went for good yardage. Nice passing over the middle, and this time it was utilized. 5 of the 6 completions in that zone were for 16+ yards. The big drawbacks are the sacks and INTs. Those factors take what would be a solid outing and turn it into a highly questionable one.

Rushing- When it wasn’t so predictable it was moderately effective. Nearly half the rushes were up the middle for a meager 2.6 yrd avg. It wouldn’t have even been that good if it weren’t for the one breakout play of 18 yards by Battle. Without that it would have been 1.5 yards per carry. FYI, that’s really bad. It could be argued that SDs defense was geared specifically stopping the run on first down, but that raises the question of why we’d keep going where they’re strongest.

Other- Neither team got anything clicking, which is either a testament to the respective defenses or a condemnation of the offenses. Too many negative plays for the Cheifs (Sacks, INTs, Penalties) conspired to make a solid defensive performance at home against a division rival an overtime nail biter.

Previous Week-
1. Is Matt Cassel actually a QB? He appears to have receivers, but can’t consistently get them the ball in a place where they can succeed.
Result: Hmmm. Maybe. He had a good game throwing down the middle anyway.
2. Will Battle officially get the bulk of the RB carries since he can break a tackle?
Result: Yes, he did. His results were average at best. Too many calls to ram the wall.
3. Will the right side of the line learn how to block?
Result: Nope, but everyone else forgot how so it makes them look better right?
4. Do we have any playmakers on this team (on offense) besides Bowe?
Result: Baldwin had a nice game with 5 catches for 82 yards.

Next Week-
1. Have we seen the extent of the improvement for this team?
2. What exactly is the offensive identity we’re going for?
3. Will we ever have more 3rd & short attempts than 3rd & long?
4. Will our QB ever have 10+ yards per attempt?

Game 8: Miami Dolphins (Home)

1st Down- An even mix of pass & run that resulted in nothing but futility. Most of the passes were to the right...and incomplete. The two nice gains came when the game was already decided. The run wasn’t completely dreadful for once, but that could be because they were playing the pass since we were behind throughout the game.

2nd Down- 10 of the 24 plays were for 10+ to go. Of the other 14 plays, 5 were incomplete passes and 3 were runs for losses. Only 3 of the 24 plays were converted. Ick.

3rd Down- One could point to the 8-20 conversion rate as a bright point for the game, but it would be fools gold. The confounding play-calling makes it apparent we’re more lucky than good. 3rd & 10= Cassel runs up the middle? 3rd & 9=McCluster runs up the middle? Throw in the 2 times Cassel was sacked on 3rd & short and you get an idea of how this game fell apart without a single turnover being committed.

Passing- Cassel connected on 3rd downs, but seldom anytime else. His passing yards are inflated by the meaningly completions late in the game. Even worse, half of those passes were incomplete too. He couldn’t even complete a pass when they were giving it to him. At first glance his numbers were poor, but they were in fact dreadful.

Rushing- A trend that seems to permeate all Chiefs games is the “33% Rule”. 1 of 3 running plays gain 1 yard or less. That trend continues in this game. It is somewhat abated by the better results from the other rushes, but it is a disturbing trend nonetheless. The positive numbers might be from the defense playing the pass, yielding modest gains to milk the clock. Overall, the running game was decent, but we needed better then that.

Other- How we can get whipped by 28 points at home without committing a turnover boggles the mind. 8 penalties for 80 yards and 5 sacks for 26 yards don’t seem like they should be completely to blame. I’d say this was a total team cluster.

Previous Week-
1. Have we seen the extent of the improvement for this team?
Result: It would appear so.
2. What exactly is the offensive identity we’re going for?
Result: Apparently either “Run, Run, Inc pass” or “Inc pass, Inc pass, Run up the middle”
3. Will we ever have more 3rd & short attempts than 3rd & long?
Result: Not today.
4. Will our QB ever have 10+ yards per attempt?
Result: Not today. Maybe never.

Summary:

It is clear that many things needed to be fixed, and it looks like a great deal has already been accomplished.

  1. Head Coach. Romeo Crennel takes over for the ineffective Haley.
  2. Offensive Coordinator. Daboll comes in for Muir. Hopefully with enough creativity to call more than one play.
  3. Offensive Line. The running game and QB play was harmed as a direct result of line play, and Eric Winston arrives as an immediate upgrade. Hudson steps in at center for another apparent upgrade.
  4. Running Back. Jammal Charles is back. Peyton Hillis has arrived. A stronger O-Line is expected. Great things will be expected. Great things.
  5. Quarterback. Cassel went down mid-season and appears to be the appointed starter heading into next season. In the past, I’ve held my tongue on Cassel, but the data I’ve compiled shows too much inconsistency and poor decision making ability. It’s still possible that better play calling, a revamped O-Line, and a strong running game can resurrect his career but I now doubt it. Stanzi and Quinn had better be ready to play some minutes this season if another QB is not somehow acquired.

Draft day: The results I put together don’t give any defensive information so I won’t assume to speak for that side of the ball. I will note on offense that the run game needs to have a consistent 1st down ability of 4-5 yards per carry. Without that, Cassel will be asked to perform beyond his demonstrated ability. 1st down will be critical for success! DeCastro, please. No other holes or weaknesses would be apparent on offense other than depth at a few positions.

In conclusion, with the return of key offensive and defensive elements, an incredible free agency period, and the potential in the upcoming draft the Chiefs have the ability to do amazing things on offense. The only question that remains is whether we have a QB capable of playing consistent, mistake-free football.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.

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