In the NFL, many times a game boils down to a few plays that were or were not made. Often, you hear fans complaining that their team was only a play away from winning the game. While that is true, that is also why said team is not very good. They don't make the big play when the crucible is at its hottest.
Last Sunday, the Chiefs made those plays against the San Diego Chargers, despite a bevy of missed opportunities earlier in the day. For the purposes of this film study, we will look at three plays which previous Chiefs' teams might have screwed up.
Play #1: 3rd and 11 from the KC 34 ... 2:43 left in the 4th Quarter ... Chiefs lead 20-17
The Chargers line up here with a 3x1 set. On the far right we see Keenan Allen lined up against Jamell Fleming. Fleming is getting his first career start and has had an up-and-down game to this point. On this play, the Chiefs are in man coverage with a Cover 2 look from the safeties. In the next frame, it is clear Kansas City was trying to make sure nothing went deep.
Here we see the route combination. Antonio Gates is going across the field, clearing out on a deep crossing route. Malcom Floyd and Eddie Royal are both running go routes, driving the corners down the field with them. It is important to note the space they have forced the Chiefs to vacate. This play is designed for Allen to be the first read. The hope is he leaves Fleming in the dust and can pick up the first down with the vacant room on the field.
Luckily for Kansas City, Fleming does a great job. He allows Allen to catch the ball but is running right behind him, getting himself in good position for the tackle. Of course, Fleming's position means nothing if he can't make the tackle, but the youngster wraps up and brings Allen down. The tackle halted the drive and forced a field goal attempt, allowing the Chiefs time to win the game with a kick.
Play #2: 2nd and 10 at KC 8 ... 1:47 left in 4th Quarter ... Game tied 20-20
The Chiefs are lined up in a 3x1 set of their own here, with Alex Smith in the shotgun flanked by Jamaal Charles. Kansas City is in its 2-minute drill and driving for what turns out to be the game-winning field goal by Cairo Santos. Here, we see why mobility and intelligence in a quarterback are a beautiful thing.
As you can easily see, Mike McGlynn is being beaten without regard by Corey Liuget. Liuget is coming in on Smith, who has no obvious route of escape with Dwight Freeney holding the edge outside. Smith could run right, but if he gets tackled it is likely a safety and the game is over. Instead, Smith tucks the ball down and avoids a lunging Liuget, literally preserving the game.
Here is the final part of this play, with Smith scrambling for a gain of nine yards. Smith was also facemasked on the play, tacking on a first down and 15 more yards. I took this picture to show the man on the left side of the screen, who if you watched the play on film, never turned around to see Smith scrambling but realized his man was running toward the line of scrimmage and instinctively blocked him. I love Jamaal Charles.
Play #3: 1st and 10 at SD 20 ... 0:21 left in 4th Quarter ... Chiefs lead 23-20
The Chiefs are in a Cover 3 scheme. In all reality, Bob Sutton has basically called a Prevent defense to keep from anything getting over the top of the defense. Still, the Chargers and dangerous. On the top of the screen, we see the speedy Eddie Royal lined up against Fleming, ready to run a Go route. Fleming is in zone coverage and passes Royal off to Parker. Philip Rivers sees this and unloads a bomb as we see in the next frame.
The ball is in the air, and Parker has eyes on it. Parker should have help in theory from the safety in the middle of the field, but Kelsie McCray is slow in coming over. Now, the newly converted safety finds himself in a one-on-one battle with Royal. This is not an easy play for Parker. He's in a backpedal with a very fast receiver bearing down on him, knowing the slightest mistake could spell doom.
Parker does a fantastic job of high-pointing the ball and meeting Royal at the spot. The star represents the football, which ends up being knocked away. The throw could not have been better, but Parker stood tall and made the play. These are the kinds of things that come down to good coaching and athleticism. Great to see Parker rising to the occasion.
The Chargers have not beaten the Chiefs at Qualcomm Stadium since 2013.