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Chiefs-Chargers snap counts: Bolton, Edwards-Helaire take big loads

How did Kansas City use its players in Thursday’s game against Los Angeles?

Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

On Thursday Night Football, the Kansas City Chiefs extended their record to 10-4 with a 36-28 overtime victory against the Los Angeles Chargers. As we do each week, let’s examine how Kansas City used its players in this important win.


Starters (offensive): WR Demarcus Robinson, WR Byron Pringle, LT Orlando Brown Jr., LG Joe Thuney, C Creed Humphrey, RG Trey Smith, RT Lucas Niang, WR Tyreek Hill, TE Travis Kelce, QB Patrick Mahomes and RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

Starters (defensive): LDT Jarran Reed, RDT Derrick Nnadi, RDE Frank Clark, LB Melvin Ingram, LB Anthony Hitchens, LB Nick Bolton, RCB Rashad Fenton, LCB Charvarius Ward, CB Mike Hughes, S Daniel Sorensen and S Tyrann Mathieu.

Did not play: QB Chad Henne and OL Austin Blythe.

Inactive: QB Shane Buechele, CB L’Jarius Sneed, DB Zayne Anderson, OL Kyle Long and T Prince Tega Wanogho.


Offensive takeaways


Even though backup offensive lineman Andrew Wylie was active for the game (after being listed as questionable on the final injury report), Lucas Niang returned to his starting role at right tackle. He joined left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., left guard Joe Thuney, center Creed Humphrey and right guard Trey Smith in playing every offensive snap. Nick Allegretti had one snap as a sixth offensive lineman. Otherwise, he and Wylie played only on special teams.

With Niang back on the field, the Chiefs used fewer “heavy” formations with multiple tight ends, averaging 1.28 tight ends on the field for each play. That was down from 1.47 in the Week 14 game against the Las Vegas Raiders. Travis Kelce’s use was on the low side of his normal range, while Blake Bell and Noah Gray saw substantial decreases from Week 14.

At running back, Kansas City went back to “bell cow” mode for Clyde Edwards-Helaire, giving him 70% of the snaps for the first time since the opening weeks of the season. But Darrel Williams’ use remained steady; it was Derrick Gore who lost offensive opportunities. After getting substantial offensive work against the Raiders, the rookie was used only for special-teams plays.

The reduction in tight end usage meant more work for wide receivers — and the team was without normal starter Josh Gordon, who missed the game on the Reserve/COVID list. So while Tyreek Hill and Byron Pringle were in their normal ranges of use, Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman — both of whom had appeared to be in the doghouse during some recent weeks — played a more substantial role than we’ve seen lately.


Defensive takeaways


Only two players in the secondary — safety Tyrann Mathieu and cornerback Charvarius Ward — were on the field for every (or nearly every) defensive snap; normally, three or four defensive backs get that kind of usage. As we’ll explain in a moment, this was partially because the team was more dependent on linebackers.

But with cornerback L’Jarius Sneed missing another game in the wake of his family tragedy, the Chiefs also adjusted the approach they used to fill the void. According to Pro Football Focus data, Mathieu was rarely used as a safety against Las Vegas. Instead, he spent a lot of his time as a slot corner — while safety Daniel Sorensen picked up the slack in the back end. Against the Chargers, Mathieu continued to get a lot of snaps as a corner — mostly in the slot — while Sorensen went back to primarily playing near the line of scrimmage. Juan Thornhill played most of his reduced snaps in the back end.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs gave the majority of the snaps at outside corner to Mike Hughes — with Deandre Baker taking the rest — while Rashad Fenton handled the slot during the times Mathieu was otherwise occupied. In all, it was a very unpredictable secondary — one that held Los Angeles quarterback Justin Herbert to a completion percentage of 57.9 and a passer rating of 82.8.

On Sunday, the Chiefs averaged 2.27 linebackers on the field for each play — the highest such number since the Week 7 loss to the Tennessee Titans. (As a comparison, the 1.58 they averaged against the Raiders was the lowest of the season). And they did it without Willie Gay Jr. — sidelined on the Reserve/COVID list — and also while keeping Ben Niemann’s usage in his normal range. Anthony Hitchens saw his highest use since Week 5 against the Buffalo Bills — while rookie Nick Bolton became the first linebacker this season to be on the field for nearly every snap; he missed only a single passing play.

Defensive lineman Chris Jones was also out with COVID. Defensive ends Frank Clark and Melvin Ingram both saw a little more use than they had against the Raiders — with corresponding drops for backups Alex Okafor and Mike Danna.

But in a world where Jones plays inside more than he does outside — which has been true since Week 9 except for the Raiders game — all three of the remaining defensive tackles had their use increase on Thursday night; all three matched (or exceeded) season highs.


Data


Offense

Offense All Pass Run
Total 69
(100%)
49
(100%)
20
(100%)
Orlando Brown Jr. 69
(100%)
49
(100%)
20
(100%)
Creed Humphrey 69
(100%)
49
(100%)
20
(100%)
Patrick Mahomes 69
(100%)
49
(100%)
20
(100%)
Lucas Niang 69
(100%)
49
(100%)
20
(100%)
Trey Smith 69
(100%)
49
(100%)
20
(100%)
Joe Thuney 69
(100%)
49
(100%)
20
(100%)
Tyreek Hill 57
(83%)
43
(88%)
14
(70%)
Travis Kelce 53
(77%)
43
(88%)
10
(50%)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire 48
(70%)
36
(73%)
12
(60%)
Demarcus Robinson 47
(68%)
36
(73%)
11
(55%)
Byron Pringle 45
(65%)
35
(71%)
10
(50%)
Mecole Hardman 31
(45%)
21
(43%)
10
(50%)
Darrel Williams 21
(30%)
13
(27%)
8
(40%)
Noah Gray 20
(29%)
9
(18%)
11
(55%)
Blake Bell 15
(22%)
6
(12%)
9
(45%)
Michael Burton 5
(7%)
2
(4%)
3
(15%)
Marcus Kemp 2
(3%)
0
(0%)
2
(10%)
Nick Allegretti 1
(1%)
1
(2%)
0
(0%)

Defense

Defense All Pass Run
Total 78
(100%)
39
(100%)
39
(100%)
Tyrann Mathieu 78
(100%)
39
(100%)
39
(100%)
Nick Bolton 77
(99%)
38
(97%)
39
(100%)
Charvarius Ward 75
(96%)
38
(97%)
37
(95%)
Anthony Hitchens 67
(86%)
30
(77%)
37
(95%)
Jarran Reed 62
(79%)
31
(79%)
31
(79%)
Mike Hughes 58
(74%)
32
(82%)
26
(67%)
Frank Clark 56
(72%)
29
(74%)
27
(69%)
Melvin Ingram 55
(71%)
32
(82%)
23
(59%)
Juan Thornhill 50
(64%)
27
(69%)
23
(59%)
Tershawn Wharton 50
(64%)
29
(74%)
21
(54%)
Rashad Fenton 47
(60%)
31
(79%)
16
(41%)
Derrick Nnadi 47
(60%)
19
(49%)
28
(72%)
Daniel Sorensen 38
(49%)
21
(54%)
17
(44%)
Ben Niemann 33
(42%)
9
(23%)
24
(62%)
Michael Danna 23
(29%)
10
(26%)
13
(33%)
Alex Okafor 22
(28%)
7
(18%)
15
(38%)
Deandre Baker 17
(22%)
6
(15%)
11
(28%)
Cortez Broughton 3
(4%)
1
(3%)
2
(5%)

Special Teams

Special Teams Snaps
Total 22
(100%)
Noah Gray 18
(82%)
Marcus Kemp 18
(82%)
Dorian O'Daniel 18
(82%)
Armani Watts 18
(82%)
Daurice Fountain 18
(82%)
Ben Niemann 17
(77%)
Michael Burton 13
(59%)
Daniel Sorensen 11
(50%)
Blake Bell 10
(45%)
Harrison Butker 10
(45%)
Byron Pringle 7
(32%)
Darrel Williams 7
(32%)
Dicaprio Bootle 7
(32%)
Deandre Baker 6
(27%)
Derrick Gore 6
(27%)
Tommy Townsend 5
(23%)
James Winchester 5
(23%)
Nick Allegretti 4
(18%)
Orlando Brown Jr. 4
(18%)
Michael Danna 4
(18%)
Anthony Hitchens 4
(18%)
Creed Humphrey 4
(18%)
Lucas Niang 4
(18%)
Derrick Nnadi 4
(18%)
Alex Okafor 4
(18%)
Trey Smith 4
(18%)
Tershawn Wharton 4
(18%)
Andrew Wylie 4
(18%)
Darius Harris 2
(9%)
Rashad Fenton 1
(5%)
Mecole Hardman 1
(5%)

All Snaps

All Snaps Off Def ST Total
Total 69
(100%)
78
(100%)
22
(100%)
169
(100%)
Nick Allegretti 1
(1%)
0
(0%)
4
(18%)
5
(3%)
Deandre Baker 0
(0%)
17
(22%)
6
(27%)
23
(14%)
Blake Bell 15
(22%)
0
(0%)
10
(45%)
25
(15%)
Nick Bolton 0
(0%)
77
(99%)
0
(0%)
77
(46%)
Orlando Brown Jr. 69
(100%)
0
(0%)
4
(18%)
73
(43%)
Michael Burton 5
(7%)
0
(0%)
13
(59%)
18
(11%)
Harrison Butker 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
10
(45%)
10
(6%)
Frank Clark 0
(0%)
56
(72%)
0
(0%)
56
(33%)
Michael Danna 0
(0%)
23
(29%)
4
(18%)
27
(16%)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire 48
(70%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
48
(28%)
Rashad Fenton 0
(0%)
47
(60%)
1
(5%)
48
(28%)
Derrick Gore 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
6
(27%)
6
(4%)
Noah Gray 20
(29%)
0
(0%)
18
(82%)
38
(22%)
Mecole Hardman 31
(45%)
0
(0%)
1
(5%)
32
(19%)
Tyreek Hill 57
(83%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
57
(34%)
Anthony Hitchens 0
(0%)
67
(86%)
4
(18%)
71
(42%)
Mike Hughes 0
(0%)
58
(74%)
0
(0%)
58
(34%)
Creed Humphrey 69
(100%)
0
(0%)
4
(18%)
73
(43%)
Melvin Ingram 0
(0%)
55
(71%)
0
(0%)
55
(33%)
Travis Kelce 53
(77%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
53
(31%)
Marcus Kemp 2
(3%)
0
(0%)
18
(82%)
20
(12%)
Patrick Mahomes 69
(100%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
69
(41%)
Tyrann Mathieu 0
(0%)
78
(100%)
0
(0%)
78
(46%)
Lucas Niang 69
(100%)
0
(0%)
4
(18%)
73
(43%)
Ben Niemann 0
(0%)
33
(42%)
17
(77%)
50
(30%)
Derrick Nnadi 0
(0%)
47
(60%)
4
(18%)
51
(30%)
Dorian O'Daniel 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
18
(82%)
18
(11%)
Alex Okafor 0
(0%)
22
(28%)
4
(18%)
26
(15%)
Byron Pringle 45
(65%)
0
(0%)
7
(32%)
52
(31%)
Jarran Reed 0
(0%)
62
(79%)
0
(0%)
62
(37%)
Demarcus Robinson 47
(68%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
47
(28%)
Trey Smith 69
(100%)
0
(0%)
4
(18%)
73
(43%)
Daniel Sorensen 0
(0%)
38
(49%)
11
(50%)
49
(29%)
Juan Thornhill 0
(0%)
50
(64%)
0
(0%)
50
(30%)
Joe Thuney 69
(100%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
69
(41%)
Tommy Townsend 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
5
(23%)
5
(3%)
Charvarius Ward 0
(0%)
75
(96%)
0
(0%)
75
(44%)
Armani Watts 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
18
(82%)
18
(11%)
Tershawn Wharton 0
(0%)
50
(64%)
4
(18%)
54
(32%)
Darrel Williams 21
(30%)
0
(0%)
7
(32%)
28
(17%)
James Winchester 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
5
(23%)
5
(3%)
Andrew Wylie 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
4
(18%)
4
(2%)
Dicaprio Bootle 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
7
(32%)
7
(4%)
Cortez Broughton 0
(0%)
3
(4%)
0
(0%)
3
(2%)
Daurice Fountain 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
18
(82%)
18
(11%)
Darius Harris 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
2
(9%)
2
(1%)

Editor’s Note: Arrowhead Pride obtains snap count data from the NFL’s game stats and information system, which allows us to break out snap counts by run or pass on offensive and defensive plays. Because GSIS data ignores plays that were nullified by penalties, total offensive and defensive snap counts will vary from other sources, which get their data from NFL Gamebooks