Deeper Analysis: Chess and Checkers

The Chiefs have earned their 8-0 record. Alex Smith has been performing almost perfectly to get us there. Be patient as I build the case.

The theme of 2013 seems to be "going for it on 4th down in opponent's territory". This has been advocated by TMQ and Football Outsiders, among others.

Their argument is that field position can be more important than points on the board. If you take 3 and then kickoff, the opponent will probably start their next drive on/around the 25 yard line w/ their full playbook available. But if you go for it on 4th and short on the 1 or the 5 or even the 10 yard line, even if you don't make it, you pin your opponent in their own territory. They have limited choices from their playbook because they need to reduce risk, and are likely to go 3-and-out, and you will have excellent position after their ensuing punt with a significantly increased chance to get 7 points.

Or to put it another way, it is a gamble, and the percentages say you are better off going for it than just taking the 3, because NFL scoring averages based on field position make it clear that you will have more opportunities for high-percentage scoring drives if you have significant field position advantage (the opponent constantly starts around the 10, you constantly start around your 45).

Alex Smith is boring as a QB, right? He rarely throws downfield. He takes too many sacks because he holds onto the ball too long.

But he rarely turns the ball over. 4 TOs total, in only 3 of our 8 games. 2 of them came in the blowout of the Giants.

Consider Colquitt and Succop.

Colquitt is a master at pinning opponents inside the 20. He can do it from almost anywhere on the field, using a booming distance punt, or a long hang-time punt, or a coffin-corner punt, or a backspin punt that avoids going in the end zone. So all Smith needs to do is get 1 or 2 first downs and he has directly contributed to getting the opponent in a field position that produces a high percentage chance of a Chiefs' win.

And once Smith gets the ball back around midfield, it only takes 1-2 first downs to get the ball into Succup's FG range.

If I'm correct in this (and I might be way off), Reid and Smith are playing 3-dimensional chess when the pundits think they are watching checkers. Reid is playing the percentages to give us a better chance to win, and Smith, Charles, and the Defense are combining to turn that better chance into reality.

It won't work every time, of course. But everything is working together:

  • Careful QB
  • Strong Defense
  • Excellent ST (great coverage, good return team, pro-bowl quality kickers)
  • Running game that can move the chains
  • Arrowhead Enthusiasm to increase Home Field Advantage
  • Playing win percentages to help get Home Field in playoffs, where defense + crowd noise + deliberate offense can win 9 times out of 10

Maybe it was more of a lucky accident than a deliberate strategy. Either way, it has been a fun ride so far, and should continue to be fun for weeks to come!

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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