Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs offensive personnel create problems on the field by forcing their opponents to make difficult decisions not only with coverages, but also defensive personnel. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are headaches for opposing defenses for so many reasons.
Hill can line up anywhere and break big plays as an outside receiver, inside receiver or running back. His world-class speed stresses teams horizontally and vertically, forcing teams to worry about a huge amount of square yardage.
Kelce is a wide receiver in a tight end’s body. He’s big, fast, athletic and a smoother route runner than some receivers.
Those two alone force teams into coverage decisions. Through the first three weeks of the season that I’ve charted, teams used a variation of Cover 3 61 percent of the time and kept a safety in the middle of the field 78 percent.
On back-to-back plays in the second quarter on Monday night, the Chiefs showed the coverage and personnel problems their offensive skill players can create. The coverage decisions can be shown on this play:
Free Safety cheated to Kelce and Hill on wide side of the field. Bigger window for the curl to Conley in the boundary vs Norman. pic.twitter.com/q41SrSTvEd— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 4, 2017
The Chiefs ran the first five plays of this late second quarter drive from the left hash into the boundary, away from Washington cornerback Josh Norman. The first five plays in the drive were two screens, a hitch to Hill and a flat route to West all in the boundary from the left hash and a run play that put the ball on the right hash. They respect Josh Norman. This completion to Conley was the first play from the right hash to Norman’s side for the entire drive. Hill and Kelce are lined up to the wide side of the field. Norman is in the boundary with Demetrius Harris and Chris Conley.
The free safety is tilting to Kelce and Hill. Their ability to generate a big play is being honored as they close in on the red zone with a little extra attention. With Norman’s ability they’re trusting him to handle anything vertical from Harris or Conley. The way they play it he has a little more space to worry about, but he’s one of the best in the league and they trust him against either of those two players.
The short motion by Harris bring him inside Conley, and DJ Swearinger tightens down. He’s playing the flats and widens with Charcandrick West. The inside linebacker passes on Harris to the underneath coverage across the field as he gets a little depth. With Conley selling vertical, Norman is honoring it. Harris and West’s horizontal stretch leaves a big window for the Conley curl. The late arriving safety allows for extra yards after the catch.
That was Josh Norman’s last play of the day due to injury. The Chiefs come back the next play in 13 personnel. This is where the decisions get tough for Washington. Kelce is a dynamic receiver for his size and Travis and Harris are both former basketball players with great athleticism. How do you treat three large moving bodies with your personnel? Some choose to stay in nickel (six total DL/LB) some choose base (seven total DL/LB). The Redskins chose to get in base for this play.
As I mentioned last week, the Chiefs threw 10/12 times with three tight ends on the field the first three weeks of the season. Part of that has to do with personnel decisions. If there’s slower moving bodies on the field, use your size and athleticism to your advantage.
Curl-Post can be lethal. Ross Travis athletic enough TE to get out from inside of bunch. Gives Kelce space behind him. pic.twitter.com/h0cugOO60W— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 4, 2017
Washington ran Cover 3 on this play and blitz both the edge and inside linebacker set to the bunch forcing any scramble to go to the one receiver side should that happen. The corner on Conley at the bottom of the screen has to apply man principles based on the look. They’re locked up one on one.
Alex Smith moves the free safeties with his eyes to the left forcing him to honor his landmark and not cheat to the bunch, which he wanted to do at the snap. Smith is likely not reading much or anything. He’s merely creating space to work the curl-post concept with Travis and Kelce while also confirming coverage. You can see this better from the end zone view. Harris pulls underneath defenders with the under route, leaving more space for Travis and Kelce.
Travis and Kelce (yes, I know) manifest the personnel bind. That vertical release by Travis is the free safety’s responsibility. My guess is the linebacker, No. 53, also probably should’ve worked to underneath Travis, but hiding him behind Harris’ under from the point of the bunch helped got his attention elsewhere. Travis is athletic enough to get enough depth from the inside of the bunch to pull the free safety to him. The free safety drives to close on him.
The curl-post concept is designed to create window behind the curl if not honored. With the free safety out of the picture and the outside nod by Kelce, there was a bigger window for the athletic, smooth running tight end to go up and outsize the Redskins No. 1 (now No. 1) corner. The protection holds long enough for Smith to deliver a great throw for their first touchdown of the game. Washington might have been able to play it differently with nickel personnel. This is what they thought was their best bet in base personnel against three tight ends
The Chiefs can do so many different things to put in you in bind. Reid makes it hard for you to be right. On back-to-back plays last week, the Redskins were wrong in two different ways.