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Chiefs-Steelers snap counts: Gray, Gore and O’Daniel get work in blowout

How did Kansas City use its players in Sunday’s rout of the Steelers?

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

With many key players out after testing positive for COVID, the Kansas City Chiefs administered a 36-10 mauling to the Pittsburgh Steelers during Sunday’s Week 16 game, clinching at least one home playoff game as a result of winning their sixth consecutive AFC West title.

Let’s see how Kansas City used its players in this very impressive win.


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

Starters (defensive): LDE Melvin Ingram, LDT Chris Jones, RDT Jarran Reed, RDE Frank Clark, LB Anthony Hitchens, LB Willie Gay Jr., LCB Charvarius Ward, CB L’Jarius Sneed, S Juan Thornhill, S Tyrann Mathieu and RCB Mike Hughes.

Did not play:

Inactive: QB Shane Buechele, LB Nick Bolton, OL Lucas Niang and TE Travis Kelce.


Offensive takeaways


Starting offensive linemen Orlando Brown Jr., Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey, Trey Smith, and Andrew Wylie (subbing for right tackle Lucas Niang, who was inactive after failing to clear NFL COVID protocols), were in for every offensive snap until late in the fourth quarter, when Prince Tega Wanogho, Nick Allegretti and Austin Blythe and came in for Brown, Thuney and Humphrey.

Like Niang, starting tight end Travis Kelce was also inactive after failing to clear protocols, leaving Blake Bell, rookie Noah Gray and elevated practice squad player Nakia Griffin-Stewart to carry the load. The Chiefs chose to give the rookie most of the work — giving him his highest usage of the season — while Bell stayed in his normal range and Griffin-Stewart came in only at the end of the game. This meant that the Chiefs averaged fewer tight ends on the field than we usually see: just 1.13 per snap, which matched the season’s lowest figure. They made up for it by increasing their usage of fullback Michael Burton — who also saw a season-high — and giving Allegretti some extra snaps as a sixth offensive lineman.

Against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 15, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the team’s bell-cow back for the first time since the early weeks of the season. That might have continued against the Steelers — the Chiefs ran the ball on 52% of their offensive snaps, which tied a season-high — except that the second-year back had to leave the game in the third quarter after suffering a collarbone injury. Third-string back Derrick Gore picked up the slack, making some head-turning plays late in the game.

Wide receiver Tyreek Hill had been on the Reserve/COVID list since early in the week, missing all of the team’s practices until being activated to the roster on Saturday. As we saw with several Chiefs who were returning from COVID-induced absences — including Josh Gordon, who missed the Week 15 game on the COVID list — Hill’s use was substantially limited during the game. This allowed Byron Pringle to become the primary wideout, with Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman behind him. Even Marcus Kemp showed higher usage than he’s had all season.


Defensive takeaways


After seeing a reduction in his use against the Chargers, safety Juan Thornhill returned to his every-down role in the defense. Tyrann Mathieu likely would have been alongside him for every play, but he also left the game with a quad injury. Since Daniel Sorensen’s usage was only on the high side of his normal range — and with Armani Watts among the players on the COVID list — it appears that the Chiefs simply found other ways to deal with Mathieu’s late-game absence.

Cornerbacks Charvarius Ward and L’Jarius Sneed both returned from non-injury absences — but again, the Chiefs chose to limit their use in the game. Per Pro Football Focus, Sneed played almost exclusively in the slot, while Ward played outside. Reserve corner Mike Hughes once again carried much of the load outside — with Deandre Baker backing him up. When Kansas City had a big lead late in the game, elevated practice-squad defensive backs Dicaprio Bootle and Josh Jackson pitched in, too. While they had to spread it out among a number of players to do it, the Chiefs averaged 2.96 cornerbacks on the field for each play — a season-high figure.

Rookie linebacker Nick Bolton was on the field for every snap against the Chargers. But in Week 15, he was on the COVID list. Meanwhile, Willie Gay Jr. — out with COVID against the Chargers — was back. Gay was among the few Chiefs returning from a COVID absence who was used in a more-or-less normal way. After seeing his use spike in Week 15 as the Chiefs emphasized the second level of the defense, Anthony Hitchens was also back in a normal range. Ben Niemann was on the high side of his usual use — and for the first time this season, Dorian O’Daniel saw significant snaps in mop-up duty.

After the Chiefs ran up their big lead, defensive ends Frank Clark and Melvin Ingram were used substantially less. Michael Danna and Alex Okafor took up the slack on the outside.

After spending Week 14 on the outside a bit more often — and missing a game on the COVID list — PFF data says that jack-of-all-trades defensive lineman Chris Jones returned to doing most of his work on the inside — and like a number of his teammates, saw limited use after returning from COVID.

Among the other defensive tackles, Jarran Reed also got some time off late in the game — allowing Tershawn Wharton another opportunity to get more work. Derrick Nnadi had another week on the high side of his normal range — but for the first time this season, had less work defending the run.


Data


Offense

Offense All Pass Run
Total 67
(100%)
32
(100%)
35
(100%)
Trey Smith 67
(100%)
32
(100%)
35
(100%)
Andrew Wylie 67
(100%)
32
(100%)
35
(100%)
Orlando Brown Jr. 64
(96%)
32
(100%)
32
(91%)
Creed Humphrey 64
(96%)
32
(100%)
32
(91%)
Joe Thuney 64
(96%)
32
(100%)
32
(91%)
Patrick Mahomes 61
(91%)
32
(100%)
29
(83%)
Byron Pringle 54
(81%)
28
(88%)
26
(74%)
Noah Gray 48
(72%)
29
(91%)
19
(54%)
Demarcus Robinson 45
(67%)
20
(63%)
25
(71%)
Mecole Hardman 29
(43%)
16
(50%)
13
(37%)
Tyreek Hill 28
(42%)
20
(63%)
8
(23%)
Darrel Williams 27
(40%)
15
(47%)
12
(34%)
Blake Bell 25
(37%)
4
(13%)
21
(60%)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire 21
(31%)
12
(38%)
9
(26%)
Derrick Gore 19
(28%)
5
(16%)
14
(40%)
Michael Burton 13
(19%)
1
(3%)
12
(34%)
Marcus Kemp 11
(16%)
2
(6%)
9
(26%)
Josh Gordon 8
(12%)
8
(25%)
0
(0%)
Nick Allegretti 6
(9%)
0
(0%)
6
(17%)
Chad Henne 6
(9%)
0
(0%)
6
(17%)
Austin Blythe 4
(6%)
0
(0%)
4
(11%)
Prince Tega Wanogho 3
(4%)
0
(0%)
3
(9%)
Nakia Griffin-Stewart 3
(4%)
0
(0%)
3
(9%)

Defense

Defense All Pass Run
Total 70
(100%)
45
(100%)
25
(100%)
Juan Thornhill 67
(96%)
42
(93%)
25
(100%)
Mike Hughes 58
(83%)
37
(82%)
21
(84%)
Tershawn Wharton 44
(63%)
28
(62%)
16
(64%)
Michael Danna 43
(61%)
27
(60%)
16
(64%)
Alex Okafor 43
(61%)
27
(60%)
16
(64%)
L'Jarius Sneed 43
(61%)
28
(62%)
15
(60%)
Daniel Sorensen 43
(61%)
31
(69%)
12
(48%)
Charvarius Ward 43
(61%)
28
(62%)
15
(60%)
Ben Niemann 42
(60%)
27
(60%)
15
(60%)
Tyrann Mathieu 41
(59%)
27
(60%)
14
(56%)
Willie Gay Jr. 37
(53%)
18
(40%)
19
(76%)
Derrick Nnadi 36
(51%)
25
(56%)
11
(44%)
Chris Jones 33
(47%)
19
(42%)
14
(56%)
Anthony Hitchens 31
(44%)
19
(42%)
12
(48%)
Deandre Baker 27
(39%)
17
(38%)
10
(40%)
Frank Clark 27
(39%)
18
(40%)
9
(36%)
Melvin Ingram 27
(39%)
18
(40%)
9
(36%)
Jarran Reed 27
(39%)
18
(40%)
9
(36%)
Dicaprio Bootle 27
(39%)
17
(38%)
10
(40%)
Dorian O'Daniel 22
(31%)
17
(38%)
5
(20%)
Josh Jackson 9
(13%)
7
(16%)
2
(8%)

Special Teams

Special Teams Snaps
Total 26
(100%)
Zayne Anderson 18
(69%)
Marcus Kemp 18
(69%)
Ben Niemann 18
(69%)
Dorian O'Daniel 18
(69%)
Daniel Sorensen 18
(69%)
Elliott Fry 16
(62%)
Michael Burton 13
(50%)
Noah Gray 13
(50%)
Blake Bell 11
(42%)
Derrick Gore 10
(38%)
James Winchester 10
(38%)
Johnny Townsend 10
(38%)
Nick Allegretti 8
(31%)
Deandre Baker 8
(31%)
Orlando Brown Jr. 8
(31%)
Mike Hughes 8
(31%)
Creed Humphrey 8
(31%)
Trey Smith 8
(31%)
Joe Thuney 8
(31%)
Andrew Wylie 8
(31%)
Josh Jackson 8
(31%)
Michael Danna 5
(19%)
Byron Pringle 5
(19%)
Dicaprio Bootle 5
(19%)
Darrel Williams 4
(15%)
Mecole Hardman 3
(12%)
Anthony Hitchens 3
(12%)
Derrick Nnadi 3
(12%)
Alex Okafor 3
(12%)
Demarcus Robinson 3
(12%)
Tershawn Wharton 3
(12%)
Willie Gay Jr. 2
(8%)
L'Jarius Sneed 2
(8%)

All Snaps

All Snaps Off Def ST Total
Total 69
(100%)
72
(100%)
26
(100%)
167
(100%)
Nick Allegretti 7
(10%)
0
(0%)
8
(31%)
15
(9%)
Zayne Anderson 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
18
(69%)
18
(11%)
Deandre Baker 0
(0%)
27
(38%)
8
(31%)
35
(21%)
Blake Bell 25
(36%)
0
(0%)
11
(42%)
36
(22%)
Austin Blythe 4
(6%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
4
(2%)
Orlando Brown Jr. 66
(96%)
0
(0%)
8
(31%)
74
(44%)
Michael Burton 13
(19%)
0
(0%)
13
(50%)
26
(16%)
Frank Clark 0
(0%)
29
(40%)
0
(0%)
29
(17%)
Michael Danna 0
(0%)
43
(60%)
5
(19%)
48
(29%)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire 21
(30%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
21
(13%)
Elliott Fry 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
16
(62%)
16
(10%)
Willie Gay Jr. 0
(0%)
37
(51%)
2
(8%)
39
(23%)
Josh Gordon 8
(12%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
8
(5%)
Derrick Gore 19
(28%)
0
(0%)
10
(38%)
29
(17%)
Noah Gray 50
(72%)
0
(0%)
13
(50%)
63
(38%)
Mecole Hardman 30
(43%)
0
(0%)
3
(12%)
33
(20%)
Chad Henne 6
(9%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
6
(4%)
Tyreek Hill 29
(42%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
29
(17%)
Anthony Hitchens 0
(0%)
32
(44%)
3
(12%)
35
(21%)
Mike Hughes 0
(0%)
60
(83%)
8
(31%)
68
(41%)
Creed Humphrey 66
(96%)
0
(0%)
8
(31%)
74
(44%)
Melvin Ingram 0
(0%)
29
(40%)
0
(0%)
29
(17%)
Chris Jones 0
(0%)
35
(49%)
0
(0%)
35
(21%)
Marcus Kemp 11
(16%)
0
(0%)
18
(69%)
29
(17%)
Patrick Mahomes 63
(91%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
63
(38%)
Tyrann Mathieu 0
(0%)
43
(60%)
0
(0%)
43
(26%)
Ben Niemann 0
(0%)
43
(60%)
18
(69%)
61
(37%)
Derrick Nnadi 0
(0%)
36
(50%)
3
(12%)
39
(23%)
Dorian O'Daniel 0
(0%)
22
(31%)
18
(69%)
40
(24%)
Alex Okafor 0
(0%)
43
(60%)
3
(12%)
46
(28%)
Byron Pringle 55
(80%)
0
(0%)
5
(19%)
60
(36%)
Jarran Reed 0
(0%)
29
(40%)
0
(0%)
29
(17%)
Demarcus Robinson 46
(67%)
0
(0%)
3
(12%)
49
(29%)
Trey Smith 69
(100%)
0
(0%)
8
(31%)
77
(46%)
L'Jarius Sneed 0
(0%)
45
(63%)
2
(8%)
47
(28%)
Daniel Sorensen 0
(0%)
45
(63%)
18
(69%)
63
(38%)
Juan Thornhill 0
(0%)
69
(96%)
0
(0%)
69
(41%)
Joe Thuney 66
(96%)
0
(0%)
8
(31%)
74
(44%)
Prince Tega Wanogho 3
(4%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
3
(2%)
Charvarius Ward 0
(0%)
45
(63%)
0
(0%)
45
(27%)
Tershawn Wharton 0
(0%)
44
(61%)
3
(12%)
47
(28%)
Darrel Williams 29
(42%)
0
(0%)
4
(15%)
33
(20%)
James Winchester 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
10
(38%)
10
(6%)
Andrew Wylie 69
(100%)
0
(0%)
8
(31%)
77
(46%)
Dicaprio Bootle 0
(0%)
27
(38%)
5
(19%)
32
(19%)
Nakia Griffin-Stewart 3
(4%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
3
(2%)
Josh Jackson 0
(0%)
9
(13%)
8
(31%)
17
(10%)
Johnny Townsend 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
10
(38%)
10
(6%)

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