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Film review: Chiefs’ offensive line paves way for big rushing performance

Against the Eagles, Kansas City had a big day on the ground — and the offensive line deserves most of the credit.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The headline coming out of the Kansas City Chiefs’ 42-30 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4 was how unstoppable wide receiver Tyreek Hill was. He lit up the Eagles’ secondary for three touchdowns — but even then, he may not have been the most impressive aspect of the Kansas City offense.

That’s because the most dominant performance came from the offensive line. They constantly got push at the line of scrimmage, opening huge holes for Chiefs running backs to run through. In total, the team racked up 200 yards on the ground — the fifth-most for a game in the Andy Reid era.

I watched the front five on every snap to show you just how good their play really was.

Cohesion

Four games into the first season of this line playing together, you can see improvement from Week 1 to now in communicating — and understanding each other’s skill sets.

On these two big zone runs, center Creed Humphrey and right guard Trey Smith have the key blocks; each executes their own with help from the other.

They fire out to double-team the defensive tackle lined up over Smith, but they also need to reach the play-side linebacker and block him to turn this into an explosive run. To do so, Smith helps Humphrey by powerfully shoving the tackle inside just enough for Humphrey to more easily flip his hips, getting the leverage that puts him in an excellent position to take the block himself.

As Smith passes the block to Humphrey on each run, he gets his eyes on the linebacker and releases to successfully seal him. On the first, he can seal him inside; on the second, he adjusts his block to seal him outside after the linebacker widened. Each time, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire reads the leverage perfectly.

You see the same scenario with double-teams on this play — but with multiple duos. On the right side of the line, Smith quickly gets control of the defensive tackle, allowing right tackle Lucas Niang to come off and get his hands on the linebacker.

On the left, Humphrey successfully passes the nose tackle to left guard Joe Thuney — which gives him room to get his hands on the back-side linebacker. He doesn’t completely seal the defender — but does so well enough for a nine-yard gain.

On this 16-yard gain, great blocks by left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and Thuney open up a huge lane.

Brown attacks the defensive end’s inside shoulder to turn him out and away from the run. Thuney sets up outside of the defender over him, gets hands on him while keeping his eyes on the back-side linebacker and passes him onto Humphrey as soon as he can. Humphrey’s able to get to that block because he passes his initial one onto Smith.

The line consistently executed these traditional zone runs for big plays against the Eagles.

Individual blocks

It was great to see the blockers working together — but there were some notable individual plays, too.

On this creative way to run Power — a gap-scheme run that has the back-side guard pull into the run lane — Smith is tasked with pulling and taking on the play-side linebacker. He does so, nearly taking the defender off his feet and shoving him back four yards.

This play didn’t gain much — mainly because Brown doesn’t engage his down block with the correct leverage. You’d like to see him better attack the defender’s outside shoulder, which would allow him to more easily drive the defender inside.

This inside zone run had a running lane big enough for a car to drive through — thanks to great blocks by both guards.

With some help from Humphrey, Smith reaches the nose tackle and flips his hips to seal him from the ball carrier. On the other side, Thuney is in an advantageous position pre-snap to wall off the defensive tackle — so instead of just sitting back and sealing him, he widens the running lane by attacking and gaining ground on the defender.

There are a handful of good blocks on this toss play that goes for 10 yards.

To start, Smith ensures no initial penetration by successfully reaching the outside shoulder of the 3-technique tackle lined up to his right. Then Niang pulls into open space and effectively attaches to the play-side linebacker; Niang rightfully sets up to seal him from the outside because it’s a run to the perimeter, but an inside cut by the ball carrier allows the defender to disengage and make the tackle.

It’s also worth pointing out the good blocks made by each of the three tight ends on the field. Noah Gray nearly takes the slot cornerback to the sideline.

Pass protection

We still saw some flaws from the line in pass protection; both offensive tackles struggled to handle the outside speed rush.

On the first sack, Niang just doesn’t get deep enough on his pass set; his lack of depth prevents him from sinking lower and effectively using his hands. Instead, he just reaches out with little resistance.

He also had a holding penalty after allowing the defender to win around the outside.

Brown has a similar struggle on a few snaps; he doesn’t get depth quickly, allowing his edge defender to win to the outside.

When Brown does try to give himself leverage on an outside speed rush, Eagles defensive end Josh Sweat counters with an explosive inside move that allows him to get into Mahomes’ face and force an interception.

The bottom line

On Sunday, the Chiefs won the battle in the trenches against a talented defensive line, converting every short-yardage conversion scenario and blowing open some huge running lanes — all from combining individual talent with players successfully working together.

The pass protection was not as impressive — but with time, it will get better. Besides... the more effective the rushing attack can be, the fewer third downs the Chiefs will face — meaning the defense will be less able to predict whether a given play is a run or pass.