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Grading Andy Reid: Chiefs playoff game vs. Patriots

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Turn out the lights, the party's over. The late, great Don Meredith summed it up the best. The Chiefs season is over.

Even steeped in the sadness after the loss to New England, there is reason for hope in Kansas City. This will be the last grade of the season for Andy Reid, and I'm happy for two things:

  • The Chiefs finally won a playoff game
  • I'm very fortunate to have been able to write about something I love with a great audience.  Writing about Reid's decision making process this season has been a real treat for me.
Remember last week we said there would be 300 points possible for the Divisional playoff game due to the significance of the game. Below is the grading criteria.

Grading Criteria (Points Possible)
  • Starting Roster (45)
  • Player Preparedness / Discipline (45)
  • Offensive Play Calling (90)
  • Game Altering Decisions (75)
  • Clock Management (45)
  • Challenges +/- a range of 15 points.

Starting Roster

There is only so much Reid could do with the depleted roster the Chiefs put on the field against the Patriots. Key contributors Jeremy Maclin, Spencer Ware, and Justin Houston were either out or seriously hobbled for the game. The team fared relatively well in New England considering what was missing.

Starting Roster Grade:  45/45

Player Preparedness / Discipline

The Chiefs committed one turnover which ended up being a crushing fumble by Knile Davis. The sad thing about the play is that Davis had two arms on the ball and appeared to be doing everything fundamentally correct on the play. I label this fumble as much bad luck as a good play by New England ... but Davis does have a fumbling reputation.

The Chiefs committed five penalties in the game. The Chiefs would have led the league in fewest penalties if they would have kept this pace for the entire season, so it's a good number.

All in all, the Chiefs offense was prepared for the game (maybe except for that final drive). The defense botched a couple of potential interceptions. We're all left to wonder what could have been.

Player Preparedness / Discipline Grade:  35/45

Offensive Play Calling

Really Good Cheeseburger of the Week:

On a third and four Reid (or Pederson, whoever calls plays) called a gutsy option run. The fake handoff to Davis really sets this play up. I love this.

Run/Pass Ratio: 31 Run, 52 Pass. 37% Run, 63% Pass. Can anyone else believe the Chiefs ran 83 plays in this game? Reid could have elected to run the ball more, but the mixture isn't surprising given the nature of the game.

Third Down Conversion Rate: 12/20 = 60%. This is a great third down conversion rate. I'm surprised the Chiefs didn't do better offensively the way they were completing plays on third down.

Red Zone Entries: 4. If the Chiefs were going to win they needed more red zone opportunities than this.

Red Zone TD Rate: 2/4 = 50%.The Chiefs were going to need better efficiency in the end zone to have a shot in this game.

Reid didn't have much to work with personnel-wise as the Patriots did a great job removing Travis Kelce while also containing Alex Smith.

Offensive Play Calling Grade:  75/90

Game Altering Decisions

  • Fourth and goal from the six, first quarter, 1:55 Remaining, Chiefs down 7-0. With the benefit of hindsight, the Chiefs should have gone for it here. Field goals weren't going to win in New England. Also to note is the Chiefs had converted an unholy amount of third downs during their first drive. They should have remained aggressive and gone for the TD.
The remainder of the Chiefs decisions to go for it on fourth down were functions of desperation, and not any particular decision that was forced on Reid. The fourth and goal mentioned above is the only real question I have with Reid in the decision making portion of the grade.

Game Altering Decisions Grade:  60/75

Clock Management

How many people skipped right ahead to this section?

During the first half Alex Smith appeared to be unable to get the plays called in time, which resulted in two timeouts burned on the first drive. Perhaps this had something to do with Reid's postgame comment about headset troubles.

That brings us to 6:29 left in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs were down by 14 points. The goal here is to score as quickly as possible because you are down two scores. The worst part of the drive was the Chiefs inability to get a play off before the two minute warning, costing them a valuable stoppage of the clock. This was inexcusable.

Let's go over all of the potential outcomes for the Chiefs during this drive.

  1. The Chiefs score quickly, and stop the Patriots quickly - optimal.
  2. The Chiefs score less quickly, but still have time to stop the Patriots - less optimal.
  3. The Chiefs score without much time remaining, and are forced to attempt an onside kick - least optimal.
After the game, Reid said the Chiefs didn't want to leave Tom Brady with too much time. If the Chiefs want to become a complete team they will need to figure this out in the offseason. I'd like to know how much control Alex Smith has. I honestly don't believe he is incapable of running the offense.

I'd also like to talk about item number three from above. No coach in their right mind would want to be in a position to have to rely on an onside kick to win the game. The entire notion of the Chiefs wanting to onside kick the ball instead of rely on their defense against the Patriots makes no sense .. but that's what the Chiefs said after the game.

Clock Management Grade:  15/45

Challenges

There weren't any plays for Reid to realistically challenge in this game so no points will be added or subtracted from his score.

Divisional Playoff Grade: 230/300 = 77%

2015 Season Total Grade:  84%

Reid's final grade for the season is a B. Considering the historical context of this season -- first playoff win in 22 years, 11-game winning streak -- I can see the argument for an A.