It's probably about time we talk about the Kansas City Chiefs offense not being very good on third down. Because they aren't. The Chiefs offense is 3-of-20 on third downs this year, which is a 15 percent conversion rate. That's not very good.
vs. Texans: 3-of-13
vs. Broncos: 0-of-7
It really is incredible that the Chiefs were that close to beating the Broncos despite not converting a third down the entire game. This doesn't mean the Chiefs aren't scoring! Their 25 points per game is above the league average. But they're not doing it by converting third downs. That's a tough pace to keep throughout the season.
Of the three third downs the Chiefs have converted (not counting penalties), two have been passes and one has been a run. All three came in the Texans game:
Third and 13: 17-yard pass to Jamaal Charles
Third and one: 3-yard run by Alex Smith
Third and six: 11-yard pass to Travis Kelce
Of the Chiefs 20 third downs, just four of them have been third and five or less (two runs, two passes). That, to me, is the key stat here. They are in a lot of third and longs and Alex Smith is not good on third and long. He doesn't even throw it to the first down marker!
I really did create the ultimate Alex Smith stat, now known as ALEX for how far QB is throwing on 3rd down vs. sticks pic.twitter.com/xqOsWD5vmb— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) September 24, 2015
They have had a third and one three times and converted just one of them (two runs, one pass). Eight of those third downs have been 10 or more yards to go.
When Alex Smith was asked this week what the Chiefs can improve, the first thing he said was improving on first and second down. The Chiefs had 53 third and 10+ opportunities last year and converted just 13 of them. It's not a high percentage play and not one we expect the Chiefs to make on third and 10+. And as you can see in the chart above, Alex Smith seems to be more concerned about the safe throw rather than converting the first down. Third and long is not good.
The way to solve this is obvious: don't put yourself in third and long. Actually doing that is much harder. Here's a start though: last year, the Chiefs averaged 4.4 yards per rush on first and 10. This year, the Chiefs are averaging 2.8 yards per carry in the same situation. Get better there.