As I was perusing the AP Game Day thread for the Kansas City preseason opener, I noticed a bit of curiosity as to how often the Chiefs' offense had begun a game with a touchdown drive, or when was the last time that had happened.
The question inspired me to take a look at some of the basic facts of the drive and when and where the Chiefs had repeated such stats last season.
Do remember, though, this is the first drive of a preseason game against a rather-maligned-and-rebuilding New Orleans Saints defense. We are comparing it statistically to Chiefs drives from last season against legitimate competition in meaningful outings.
What follows below is simply trivia. And somewhat trivial.
(photo via www.washingtonpost.com)
Scoring on the First Possession
Last year, the Chiefs managed to score two touchdowns on the very first drive of the game (i.e., they were first to get the ball and they also scored).
One of them, at Cleveland, was an 80 yard touchdown run on Jamaal Charles' first touch of the game -- not much of a touchdown "drive."
The other drive featured in the search result came in a home contest with Atlanta but, as you can see, the Chiefs already had 3 points, so it could not have been their opening drive. In fact, the touchdown itself was not scored until early in the 2nd quarter.
So we have two touchdowns so far on opening drives. How 'bout if we widen our search to any-and-all touchdowns in the 1st quarter? The Kansas City had four of them last year. Yes. Four. 4. Fore!
In case you were wondering, that put the 2012 squad in next-to-last place among NFL teams.
Just to rain a bit on the Smith/Reid parade, if you look at the defensive totals in the same link above, you will notice the Saints defense was second-worst in 1st quarter touchdowns given up. Preseason, how we love thee.
Of the team's four 1st quarter touchdowns, three of them were already examined in the first search. The one that wasn't occurred against Pittsburgh, but it came on the second possession of the game. And, of course, one of the four touchdowns wasn't scored in the 1st quarter at all.
Technically, then, the Chiefs had three first quarter touchdowns. Two of them came on their first drive of the game; one of those was an 80 yard run by Charles.
Thus, in 16 games last season, Brian Daboll's offense opened their first possession with a touchdown "drive" once.
Congratulations to Alex Smith and Andy Reid. You can go home now. Have some barbecue.
Multiple 1st Downs
Kansas City garnered six first downs and took six minutes off the clock in their first preseason drive, going 80 yards from their own 20 to the opposing end zone in 14 plays.
Last year, the Chiefs managed to accrue six first downs in three drives.
Two of them -- one home, one away verse San Diego -- can hardly be thought of as meaningful. Down 6 - 27 at the start of the 4th in the home bout, Kansas City drove 80 yards for a score, taking a little over six minutes off the clock, and making the game a two-possession one with eight minutes to go. It is plausible that the Charger defense played soft, content for the clock to tick as the Chiefs took 13 plays to travel down-field.
Much the same, the second drive, this time on the road, went 80 yards for the score, but did so in 10 plays, taking four minutes off the clock. At the end of it, Romeo Crennel's team had lessened their deficit to an unmanageable 18 points with 4:26 to go. Again, San Diego was content with this result.
The one "real" drive, then, occurring in a close contest, came much like the one important drive in our first category: against the Carolina Panthers.
Brady Quinn again led the day, marching his squad from their own 13 to a touchdown, taking almost 10 minutes off the clock in an astounding 17 plays, and securing a 10 point lead for the Chiefs late in the 3rd quarter.
How was Quinn and Co. on 3rd down that drive? Believe it or not, 1-for-3. It took two rather-ballsy 4th-and-1 decisions from within field goal range to manufacture the score.
(photo via assets.sbnation.com)
3rd Down Conversions
At New Orleans, Smith was 2-for-2 on 3rd downs in the opening drive. How many other drives did the Chiefs have last year that resulted in a touchdown and included at least two 3rd down conversions?
Well, to find out, we can conduct a search for drives that ended in a touchdown and featured seven or more plays.
Why seven? Because converting two 3rd downs takes six plays, with the succeeding 1st down snap making seven.
In case you were wondering, Smith had 11 such drives with the 49ers last year in half a season.
That gives us nine drives to look at for Kansas City. The first one we have already examined above and Quinn was 1-for-3 on 3rd down. Another one came earlier in the same game. The Chiefs went 2-for-3 on 3rd downs, with one 3rd down snap never taking place due to a defensive penalty, and one 4th down attempt being necessary to score from the 1 yard line.
Against the Chargers, the Chiefs were 2-for-2 in 3rd down attempts on one drive -- the same one we also examined above that took 13 plays and went 80 yards. Again here, an extra 3rd down attempt was marred by a defensive penalty, resulting in an automatic first down on a daunting 3rd-and-15.
The other San Diego drive had but one 3rd down conversion.
At Arrowhead, another three 7+ play touchdown drives took place when Atlanta came to visit -- the first being the relevant one as the second drive did not require two 3rd down conversions, while the third managed three (!!), but came in the final minutes of the game with Matt Cassel's squad down 17 - 40.
To round up, we have two final drives. One occurred against Buffalo and brought the Chiefs' 25-point deficit to 18 with 1:14 to go. We won't count that one.
The other came at Qualcomm Stadium in the 4th quarter, but required Cassel to face only one 3rd down.
In sum, Kansas City put together three drives that included a touchdown preceded by at least two 3rd down conversions.
The Phoenix and Big Red will have their work cut out for them here!
Workin' 'dat Clock
How 'bout drives that took at least 14 plays?
The Chiefs had four last year, with one ending in a touchdown. That's not alarming though. 14 play touchdown drives are rare (there were 64 last year; or two per team) and require a mix of things to occur.
On Friday, it needed a defense that was content to give you whatever you want underneath, and a patient offense that was content to take it. That, in itself, can be a rare thing unless you are playing with a large deficit.
It can also be a symptom of other things going wrong, such as an inability to do well on 1st and 2nd downs, and a reliance on several clutch 3rd-and-long conversions to keep a drive going -- an unstable way of running an offense, if that is the case.
So how 'bout touchdown drives that took at least 6 minutes off the clock? By my count, there were 74 such drives in the NFL last year.
Kansas City had three. Alex had six in 8.5 games with San Francisco. Tom Brady had seven all of last season. It is safe to say that if you are looking for a guy who can be methodical in his approach to a drive and take time off the clock, Smith is your best choice.
It is yet to be seen, though, whether dump-offs to Jamaal Charles will be a staple of the Smith/Reid offense, or just a smart decision in the face of a defense giving you exactly that. We do know Reid will try to push the envelope with Smith at some point.
Regardless, it is comforting to know the offense can execute a long touchdown drive. Adding a few explosive, deep elements via Dwayne Bowe will make those underneath routes open up even more, and Smith and Charles will have huge grins on their faces all the way to postseason play.
For now, based on the 2012 Chiefs offense, Smith and Reid have room for improvement. Lots of room.
It would be hard to perform any worse, after all, than the Kansas City offense of last season; but our emerging duo will not -- and cannot -- settle for being better. They cannot even settle for competence, though that is what they showed last week and it was a thrill to watch.
They will have to put consistent points on the board against defenses of varying talent in meaningful games. The "meaningful" won't happen 'till September, but the "talented defense" is coming to Arrowhead this Friday, and they know a thing or two about Alex Smith.
I think I'm in love...
To finish, this had to be mentioned. Screw Alex Smith.
I suddenly need to watch every Kansas City local broadcast for this fine young lady below:
(photo via well-timed screen shot from my laptop)
'DAT NOSE. My goodness.
Yah, that's right. I'm a "nose guy." You wanna fight about it?