The Chiefs had a dilemma before the season started. The wide receivers lacked speed and the ability to separate from defenders. The offensive line struggled to keep a clean pocket for Alex Smith. So the coaching staff had two choices: 1.) Let Smith get beaten like a piñata or scheme to get the ball out quickly. The Chiefs chose option No. 2 and after the loss to the Titans, they scaled back on the five and seven step drops.
The key to any passing game is to get the quarterback in a rhythm and get to manageable third down situations. If the offense is facing third and four or better, they are in good shape. The Chiefs coaching staff has done an impressive job putting an offense together that lacks so many pieces to be explosive. So the team has to scheme the explosive plays.
The Chiefs have gone up against some of the best defensive fronts in the NFL and they've stayed in every game. They have figured out a way to take advantage of their strengths, hide their weaknesses and still attack quality defenses while juggling so many challenges. The key has been getting defenders out of position with false reads in both the run and pass as well as scheming to maximize the yards after the catch.
Here are a few examples in the run game
This play comes from the Chiefs first matchup with the Broncos in Week 2. The Chiefs have run multiple variations of this play throughout the season. It provides a cutback lane for the running back with the two players motioning over. AJ Jenkins runs the ghost motion with the reverse while Dwayne Bowe gives the appearance of a receiver coming into the flat to catch a pass. Both are decoys on the play but their purpose is to pull the defenders away and create an easy running lane.
Jenkins has taken two defenders with him and Bowe has taken Broncos safety TJ Ward with him. The other Broncos defenders reacted to the reach blocks and fought to maintain outside position allowing a cutback for Davis.
This next play is a fake pitch mixed with a counter. The fake pitch to AJ Jenkins and De'Anthony Thomas takes the front side to flow with them and allows for a run lane that Knile Davis and Jamaal Charles can hit the counter with. The Chiefs ran this for a touchdown against the Dolphins and for an 18-yard gain against the Bills.
The final running play is about a defense respecting the Chiefs bunch formation. The Chargers dedicate four defenders to the bunch that includes Junior Hemingway, Dwayne Bowe and Travis Kelce. So four defenders are already out of the picture at the snap of the ball. If the line can maintain their blocks on the off tackle run to the right it is essentially three on three at the edge with Charles needing to make a defender miss. Charles ended up scoring a 16-yard touchdown on the play.
Here are a few examples in the pass game
This play has been a staple of Travis Kelce's success. Anthony Fasano runs a vertical to clear out the crossing route for Kelce. The Chiefs have run this with great success with multiple players. On this one in particular, Kelce scored a 20-yard touchdown.
On this play there are going to be two different reads to get the defense to vacate their spot. The Chiefs run a play-action off tackle fake with Charles, who is able to take the heart of the defense with him on the fake. Kelce steps out for the bubble screen and Bowe runs a slant.
Bowe is given space to work after the corner backs off. Kelce's defender bites on his bubble creating an easy throwing window for Alex Smith.
The three tight set is a tough to defend. Most teams use it to create a numbers advantage to run. The Chiefs were able to use it to create a favorable throwing window for Kelce's touchdown against the Jets. Demetrius Harris runs a cross on the play while Fasano runs a sit down route against the safety near the goal line. Kelce will run a post over top.
Fasano is able to pull the safety up by coming into his zone. Kelce fakes his defender with a double move that turns into a post for the touchdown.
The last play has been one of the more explosive plays for the Chiefs this season. They have run it in back to back weeks. The first time came when Kelce ran it against the Jets last week. Kansas City brought it back again this past Sunday against the Bills. This time Kelce is the bubble screen look. Fasano and Hammond run the clear out for AJ Jenkins with the cross over the middle.
Fasano takes two defenders with him. Kelce keeps a defender at the line and Jenkins has good spacing on the pass. Jenkins was able to pick up 27 yards on the play. Kelce picked up 34 yards on his two weeks ago.
The Chiefs make lack the explosive numbers of others in the league but it isn't for a lack of trying. The proof is in the film room.