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Chiefs offensive trends through 3 weeks and how defenses are attacking them

The sample size is starting to build as we get more games to chart. There are some interesting trends both with the Chiefs and how defenses choose to play the Chiefs. Here are some notes on the Chiefs offense for both the Chargers game and through three weeks.

Previously: Week 1 | Week 2

Change in blitz charting

There’s a change in how we’re going to talk about blitzing. Some people have asked why my blitz counts are different than the likes of Pro Football Focus. Simple answer, my criteria for a blitz is different. As an example, a four man rush with two stand up edges and two down lineman is not charted as a S/W blitz. They are very likely accounted for in the protection. Any four man front for the most part (even with a stand up EDGE), I’m treating as a common rush.

For the sake of clarity, I’m introducing a new way to talk about rushers and pressure. Instead of getting caught in the definition, we’re going to talk about how many rushers the Chiefs faced. If there is something of note regarding the blitz design the defense dialed up, we’ll talk about it.

First 15 plays vs. the Chargers

  • There were Chiefs on the move a lot early. Here’s the list of Chiefs with a motion in the first 15 plays:

Demetrius Harris
De’Anthony Thomas
Albert Wilson
Anthony Sherman
Travis Kelce
Tyreek Hill

That’s a lot of moving pieces. It was late into the first 15 that the Chiefs finally moved Kelce and Hill.

  • The Chiefs ran the ball nine of the first fifteen plays. A very heavy run ratio early.
  • Personnel Groupings in the first 15 plays:
    02 (Two tight ends, no running backs, Hill played the H)
  • Five of those personnel groupings were in the first six plays. They wanted an early sample of how different personnel groups were going to be played.
  • The Chiefs utilized 11 different formations in the first 15 plays.
  • The Chargers used a variation of cover 3 on all 15 plays.
  • The Chargers sent five rushes once in the first 15 plays. All other plays were 4 or less rushers.

Chiefs Offense

  • The most utilized formation this week was this 2x2 formation:
  • The formation was used for the RPO I wrote about in this week’s 45 seconds.
  • In this formation the Chiefs were in 11 personnel for all but one. They were on 02 personnel for one play, and it was a vertical stretch concept with Hill running a seam out of the backfield. There was a coverage bust that Smith missed and wound up throwing in the flat to De’Anthony Thomas. That was also the only true pass play out of that formation. The rest were either run plays or the RPO I wrote about which they ran three times, passing only once.
  • The Chiefs often isolate Travis Kelce in a reduced split 3x1 formation. This week it was most often Demetrius Harris. Why? I don’t know for sure, but I did notice that the Chargers played a press bail technique on Harris when he was over there a few times.
  • The Chiefs were trying a lot of different run plays early. They were pulling more lineman this week than the last two.
  • The most used run play was outside zone.
  • Why was the middle of the game so sloppy offensively? A lot of things. Penalties, bad first down plays (both run and pass) and sacks.
  • On 2nd and 9+ plays the Chiefs went 4/6 for 25 yards and also had three plays negated by holds.
  • Tyreek Hill lined up in all five spots that I chart (X, Y, Z, F, H). He utilized in a lot of different ways this week.
  • The Chiefs were screen heavy this week. Also, a few of their vertical concepts were merely run-offs designed to hit a single underneath receiver. These were utilized a lot middle to late in the game and likely had to do with the 3rd and longs they were getting into.

Chargers Defense

  • The Chargers were in a variation of cover 3 all but three plays this week. They did mix up some things with how they aligned such as pressing the boundary receiver some and shading to Travis Kelce a little as well. They didn’t disguise it much but did have a few wrinkles here and there.
  • They sent five rushers four times all game, sacking Smith twice.
  • The Chargers personnel decisions were more traditional than what we’ve seen teams defend the Chiefs with. They were in their base defense on 20 snaps. They treated tight ends like tight ends, where the two previous weeks teams were utilizing lighter personnel groups to counter the Chiefs athletic tight ends and also keep more speed on the field for Hill. They were also pretty consistent with how they used it.
  • Look at this picture:
  • That defender with his heels on the 43 yard line is a linebacker. I had to check twice. It’s a linebacker. The Chargers were using some odd depths and alignments with their linebacker group.

Chiefs offensive trends through Week 3

  • The Chiefs have been in 13 personnel (1 RB, 3 TE) 11 times this year. They’ve passed on nine of those plays. Why? Excluding the Patriots game, teams have used their base personnel against this group. My guess is Andy Reid sees the athleticism of the tight end group as a whole and the diversity of Kelce and Hill as opportunities to take advantage of less athletic personnel groups in pass coverage. This can also be a way to get Kelce potentially lined up against a linebacker if he’s split out.
  • The Chiefs have had two running backs on the field for 19 plays. They’ve ran 14/19 times. Interestingly enough though, the five pass plays were all consecutive.
  • 3rd and 8+ has not been kind to the Chiefs. They have converted 1/15, taking four sacks.
  • The Chiefs have had 12 explosive plays (20+) with an even 1:1 ratio run to pass. That’s good balance.
  • Five different players have recorded and explosive play: Hill, Kelce, Hunt, Conley and West.
  • The Chiefs have not looked particularly good against five and six man rushes. However, the fear of Hill and Kelce have limited the Chiefs’ exposure to it. Teams are hoping to get home with four and keep guys in coverage to help defend all the Chiefs’ weapons. I’m still back filling the pressure numbers, so more on that in the future.
  • The most popular personnel group is 11 personnel. The most common lineup being Conley, WIlson, Hill, Kelce and Hunt.
  • The Chiefs have lined up or ended up (motioned out) only eight times in empty formations. Charcandrick West has been in for all but one of them. That one play resulted in a sack.
  • Stay shoveling, Andy. Six plays, two touchdowns,
  • By my records the Chiefs haven’t ran a 4th down play yet.
  • The Chiefs have made 82 pre-snap shifts and motions this year.

Opposing Defenses Through Week 3

  • The coverage du jour has been variations of Cover 3, which has been used 61 percent of the time. There have been various techniques and tweaks to how they run it but it it helps teams with the speed of Hill, run support to the edge (buzzing safeties), and keeping a safety in the middle of the field with Kelce. It’ll be interesting to see if this trend continues.
  • There has been a safety in the middle of the field 78 percent of snaps this season. Middle field closed coverage seems to be what teams feel most comfortable with against the Chiefs.
  • Teams have only been in base defense 50/173 snaps I’ve charted. I have yet to see a beefier personnel group through three weeks.
  • As I mentioned earlier, teams seem to want to rush four. There’s so many moving pieces and parts to the Chiefs offense that I think teams want to make sure they are staying disciplined and not getting too exotic. They’d rather keep more players in front of the weapons the Chiefs have.

Want to know something? Ask.

  • If there’s anything you think my charting might have captured, please feel free to ask. I want to know what you guys want to know. If there’s ways I can make this better, I want to.

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