The official league year will start next week, so it’s time to move forward, right?
Not just yet. I looked at 10 statistics from 2019 that we should remember as we look forward to 2020:
The Chiefs’ offense scored touchdowns on 54% of their red-zone trips
That percentage is significantly less than the 72% — where the 2018 Chiefs finished and was the second-highest in the league. One factor that may have contributed was significantly fewer opportunities for the 2019 team: 50 attempts compared to 71 in 2018.
There is reason to believe that the Chiefs’ percentage in 2020 will resort back to a rate closer to the 2018 team. During the Super Bowl run, the Chiefs scored touchdowns on 80% of the 15 red-zone drives they had. Expect next year’s offense to perform better inside the opponents’ 20-yard line as long as they are at full strength.
Byron Pringle gained 14.2 yards per reception
With wide receiver Sammy Watkins possibly playing elsewhere in 2020, the initial reaction is to replace his position with a legitimate free agent or an intriguing draft prospect. One option that needs to be given more consideration is third-year receiver Byron Pringle.
His playing time in 2019 was reliant upon injuries to other receivers — but he took advantage of the opportunities he received. Pringle caught 12 of his 16 targets on the season and averaged 10.6 yards per target. We saw a glimpse of Pringle’s potential as a starting receiver in Week 5 against the Indianapolis Colts. Receiver Injuries forced him to play the most offensive snaps he did all year — which resulted in 103 yards and a score.
Chiefs’ defense allowed a 37% conversion percentage on third downs
That regular-season percentage was good for 12th in the league — but it got even better in the postseason. The rate dropped to 33% for those three contests combined.
Some notable single-game performances:
- Week 14 at New England: Allowed a 16.7% conversion rate on third-down. On 12 plays, the Patriots averaged 0.2 yards per attempt.
- In both Denver Broncos matchups combined, the Chiefs’ defense allowed a conversion rate of 26% on third-downs — including four sacks and an average distance to go of 9 yards.
While third-down conversion percentage is a difficult statistic to replicate every season, the success in 2019 is a great sign for the first year of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s tenure.
35% of Damien Williams’ rushing production came on two carries
Running back Damien Williams left a good taste in the mouth of Chiefs fans with his last carry of the season. His Super Bowl performance was historic — but it’s important to recall his season-long production.
Williams battled through injuries during the first half of the season: he totaled a 2.1 yards per attempt rate in his first six games. When you look at the box score, his numbers considerably picked up in his last five regular-season games. That’s because 35% of his rushing yards came on two runs, a 91-yarder against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 9 and an 84-yarder on the Los Angeles Chargers defense in Week 17.
Williams’ inconsistent 2019 season should be remembered as the running back position is evaluated this offseason.
Patrick Mahomes averaged 5.1 yards per carry
That rate was the fifth-highest rate among starting quarterbacks in 2019. He looked especially effective on the ground after he returned from his knee injury: Mahomes scored all four of his season’s rushing touchdowns from Week 10 on — including two extremely memorable ones in the postseason.
Mahomes brought out his wheels in the most important scenarios. Including the playoffs, he converted 10 of the 12 times he ran on a third-down attempt. A potential innovation to the run game could simply be encouraging Mahomes to scramble more when the opportunity is there.
Harrison Butker was 13/13 on field goals between 40-49 yards
Shoutout to Buttkicker dot com. In a league where plenty of teams need a reliable kicker, Harrison Butker can be trusted as much as anyone.
The Chiefs’ offense was at full strength for 14% of the regular season
The offense had wide receiver Tyreek Hill, left tackle Eric Fisher, running back Damien Williams and the rest of the usual starters on the field simultaneously for approximately 14% of the snaps in the regular season.
You can never expect an NFL team to go through the season at full health — but the injury list in 2019 became ridiculous for the Chiefs. Tight end Travis Kelce, center Austin Reiter, and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz were the only starters that didn’t miss a game. The team will hope for better luck in 2020.
Mecole Hardman had two of the 10 fastest plays by a ball carrier in 2019
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Hardman had the seventh and 10th-fastest plays by a ball carrier last season. The only other player with multiple instances inside the top 10 was New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley.
Surprisingly, Hardman’s receiving mate, Tyreek Hill, did not have a play included. The Chiefs absolutely have the fastest duo of wide receivers in the NFL going into 2020.
Tanoh Kpassagnon was third on the team in pressures with 16 and tackles for loss with 11
After the injuries to defensive ends Alex Okafor and Emmanuel Ogbah, Kpassagnon was put in a position where he needed to succeed. It’s fair to say he was significant for the defense down the stretch.
Kpassagnon’s most important performance was the AFC championship: He totaled two sacks and a pass defensed. Going into his contract year in 2020 (his age 26 season), it’s possible that Kpassagnon could take another step forward.
Chiefs’ offensive line allowed the third-fewest sacks in the NFL with 25
Even with multiple injuries along the front five, the Chiefs were able to keep Mahomes off the turf as much as any team in the league. While the offensive line deserves credit, this stat should point to head coach Andy Reid’s neutralization of the opposing pass rush and Mahomes’ ability to evade defenders in the pocket.