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45 Seconds with Alex Smith’s 78-yard TD pass to Kareem Hunt

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Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Welcome to the very first edition of 45 Seconds, a deep dive into one play (or roughly 45 seconds from play clock to whistle) from this week’s game. This idea may not work as well if we were fans of a different team. Fortunately for us, Andy Reid is one of the most creative play callers in football. The way he combines personnel groupings, his tendencies and defenses tendencies to maximize the abilities of his players is incredibly unique. Not many do it as well as he does. This should probably just be called the Andy Reid Appreciation Article.

This week’s play is Alex Smith’s 78-yard touchdown pass to Kareem Hunt in the fourth quarter of the Chiefs victory in Foxborough (!!!). Here’s is the All-22 of the play:

What if I told you the Chiefs ran this play twice on Thursday and both attempts were successful? The exact same formation, motion and the guy lined up next to Smith caught the ball. If you don’t remember a second vertical pass like the one Hunt caught, you’re not crazy. It was the exact same play, with two different options executed by the running back in the formation.

The concept the Chiefs ran is a drag route by the tight end (or reduced split receiver) with an H-Post by the running back coming behind it. The concept has been called simply H-Post to me in the past. The primary focus of this concept is the H-Post, and is a common inside concept that has been run for years. The drag gives the running back a little more clearance on the post. Marshall Faulk was excellent at it in his time with the St. Louis Rams.

On the snap, the running back runs out of the backfield at about a 45 degree angle. He then has to read the way the linebacker or safety is defending him. If the defender widens with the running back he makes another 45 degree angle cut. Ironically, the post isn’t the vertical part of the concept. From the running back spot, the post is the shorter concept angling to the post still, but from a shorter angle. Speaking of the vertical option, it comes into play if the defender stays inside (walls) the running back. If the defender walls, the running back releases vertically.

You’ll likely read the words “can’t be right” a lot in coming articles in this series. A lot of concepts are designed to put someone in a bind defensively. It’s up to the quarterback, and in this case also the running back to make it happen.

If the running back is talented enough, a defender can’t be right on an H-Post. And on Thursday night, Tyreek Hill got a first down early in the game and later, Kareem Hunt buried the defending champs on the same play call.

Reid dialed this up the first time in his first 15 plays, which are used to get a feel for how teams are defending you. The personnel group for the first go around was Chris Conley, Demarcus Robinson, Travis Kelce, De’Anthony Thomas and Tyreek Hill. A unique personnel group they didn’t use the rest of the night.

Robinson and Conley were lined up as outside receivers and both had vertical outside releases. Thomas did the honors on the fake flash, and Kelce ran a drag route. Hill, lined up next to Smith, widened and so did his defender, forcing him to take the post option. The Chiefs had their two best offensive weapons running an inside concept. Good job by Reid.

This was also first and 10 from the New England 38. A prime opportunity to take a shot. The Chiefs didn’t get the right look to take it, but still were able to move the chains with a gain of eleven. So now the Chiefs have faked a flash out of this formation and thrown it. So what do they do off of it? They have to run the flash now, right? They just doubled up instead. Here it is with Hunt again:

They line up in the same formation with a different personnel group. This time they use Conley, Albert Wilson, Kelce, Hill and Hunt. The motion man is now the World’s Greatest Decoy Tyreek Hill. His presence on the field is as important as it is when he touches the ball. The safety quickly rolls down to help contain the sweep, the defender walls Hunt and he burns them on the vertical release.

You rarely see an H-Post that far down field. It’s normally more of an up and down ball about 20-25 yards down field. The offensive line gave Smith enough to hang on a little bit longer, resulting in a big play. The Chiefs likely anticipated seeing a middle field closed coverage as well, which allowed for the play to work.

Regardless, Reid put his guys in the right spot, and got two great plays with the same concept by merely tweaking the personnel a little bit. Great execution by everyone. Quarterback, line, running back and coach.