Those who watched the Kansas City Chiefs game Sunday afternoon witnessed the NFL's top-scoring offense through seven weeks deliver blow after blow to one of the league's top three defenses (no matter what metric you go by).
49ers were giving up 4.2 yards per play for the season entering yesterday’s game. The NFL season average was 5.4 YPP https://t.co/xx6cPEdEiI— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) October 24, 2022
In this film review, we will look into how the Chiefs were able to have so much success with a primary focus on the offensive line and quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Diving into the film...
Since Mahomes took over the Kansas City offense in 2018, head coach Andy Reid and the rest of his offensive coaching staff have consistently brought their wisest game plans to these kinds of matchups. Sunday was one of the best examples of this.
By now, it's no secret to those following this team closely — the Chiefs' offense is actively having to work around pass-blocking deficiencies from their offensive tackles — and right tackle, especially. This is a far different approach than Reid used to take when the left and right tackle spots were manned by Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, respectively, and the interior offensive line was much weaker than it is now.
For starters, the coaches had a great beat on the kind of defenses the 49ers wanted to call within situational football. This kept their play-calls one step ahead of San Francisco for most of the day.
Looking at the OL and offensive gameplan from yesterday - KC had it dialed up here on the first 3rd-and-short of the game.— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 24, 2022
Play is set up to get the ball out quick vs. M2M and that's exactly what transpires. pic.twitter.com/rLN7emwtoT
In my opinion, the brightest revelation Sunday was Mahomes and these new wide receivers showing an excellent uptick in chemistry. Look no further than how he executed a back-shoulder completion downfield to both JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling at different points of the game.
#Chiefs/Mahomes offensive evolution.— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 24, 2022
First four years, WRs had to outrun man coverage or the play broke down.
Now they've added the back-shoulder ball to the arsenal and used it to both MVS and JuJu in SF. BIG development and a quick answer to pressure up front. pic.twitter.com/9TwEJjwwjt
While none of the current wide receivers can run by cornerbacks or simply get open as easily as former Chiefs wideout Tyreek Hill did, this capacity to make a slight adjustment and secure catches on the backside of vertical routes is something the offense never did with Hill or any other receiver when he was on the roster.
The back-shoulder connection is the most difficult explosive play to defend in all of football, so long as the quarterback and receiver get their timing down. It appears that maybe — just maybe — Mahomes has done so with his new weapons.
The most common way the gameplan involved setting the offense up for success against a great San Francisco defensive line was leaving a running back, tight end, wide receiver or some combination of those positions in to help the offensive tackles protect Mahomes.
It led to very good outcomes generally.
Understandably giving help on the edges for a key 3rd-and-11 (good coaching), but you still need a wideout to execute even if the OL does what they're supposed to.— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 24, 2022
Enter MVS. pic.twitter.com/6KRuS1PtSa
Other times, it was simply a matter of building in quick, short-area options for Mahomes to find — typically either tight end Travis Kelce or Smith-Schuster within five to 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. While it wasn't as common, the patented Andy Reid screen game was good Sunday — and perfectly displayed by running back Jerick McKinnon's third-and-20 conversion late in the game.
Beyond that, we continued to see the implementation of moving pockets for Mahomes that changed up the aiming point for the 49ers defenders post-snap. 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa mentioned postgame just how challenging it was to figure out how to play this Kansas City offense, and it's for all the reasons we have outlined thus far.
1) one of the many ways KC helped their pass pro out, sprinkling in sprintouts— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 24, 2022
2) this play looks awfully familiar and did not get called back via penalty pic.twitter.com/KlzLJ404jK
Of course, the best coaching in the world only goes so far if the players don't hold up their end of the assignment. Kansas City's offensive line stepped up in a big way for much of the game.
Left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. put together another solid performance after what was a very rough start to his season, and the group help up against the blitz well as a whole.
The last gasp - 3rd-and-6 and the OL perfectly picks up 5-man pressure. Adios 9, onto the bye. pic.twitter.com/pA4LIOtpPV— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 24, 2022
Let's not lose sight of the most significant factor, though — Mahomes played about as well as he could in San Francisco after a poor first drive. He repeatedly made smart decisions with the football and delivered passes with precision and arm strength very few can match.
Not a lot you can say that hasn't already been said a million times about Mahomes. I'll let the clip speak for itself. pic.twitter.com/IzmtURHGXE— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 24, 2022
Even a small skill no one really ever thinks about for quarterbacks, such as ball handling. Well, Mahomes does better than anyone else.
It's not something game commentators will spend much, if any, time discussing, but it matters, and it makes defending the Chiefs quite a bit more difficult than it already would be when they run plays involving cross-field motion.
The jet sweeps and shifts — especially those that wide receiver Mecole Hardman scored three touchdowns on — were another key reason the offense produced at an elite level. By the second half, Reid and Mahomes had the 49ers defense slow to react due to all the work they had put in with their approach to scheme.
It's like 743rd on the list of great things Mahomes does, but viewers should never take for granted how smooth and effortless stuff like this looks. Timing is a lot harder than it appears.— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 24, 2022
Zero clunkiness that would slow the operation down or sell it less. Also some +++ blocks. pic.twitter.com/fouFf29OEy
By putting the offensive line in positions to hold up in pass protection, Mahomes could find his favorite target throughout the game pretty much anytime he wanted. Tight end Travis Kelce gave San Francisco fits before and after the catch.
Give 'em an inch and they take a mile.— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 24, 2022
Clear man cov. pre-snap and a 1-on-1 for Kelce. Just a matter of giving Mahomes enough time to find him even after 87 was tackled by the DB. The chips on the edges by 1 and 83 help the cause. pic.twitter.com/cBfz0lKqe1
A more subtle depiction of why arm strength matters, a lot. pic.twitter.com/0gt0ZHJodn— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 24, 2022
As noted earlier, the reality is this offense will have to continue finding ways to work around issues blocking great pass rushers. On Nick Bosa's lone sack Sunday, it's possible that running back Isiah Pacheco was expected to help Andrew Wylie with a chip before releasing into his route. It's also possible Wylie was overmatched in a one-on-one situation he wasn't equipped to win.
Either way, it exemplifies why the Chiefs will have to continue providing extra help out wide in the future for the offense to function as a whole.
One to file under 'bad' yesterday up front. pic.twitter.com/OsDG9w580r— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 24, 2022
One way Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy can continue to help the offensive line's cause moving forward is by mixing the style of run plays that let their stout front fire off the line of scrimmage full speed into defenders.
This offensive line is BEGGING for more downhill, power/gap style run calls and it shows. That line of scrimmage displacement pic.twitter.com/uBCoD5VXUN— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 24, 2022
The way the offensive line is getting out of their stances when they elect to run the football from under center is reminiscent of the great Tennessee Titans offensive lines of the past several years — especially in the 2016-20 range.
While I wouldn't expect it to ever become their go-to approach, whether they try this type of thing more now that Pacheco is getting more carries is something worth watching.
The bottom line
The win against the 49ers was one of the more enjoyable Chiefs regular-season games for fans to watch in the past few seasons, and it was largely due to the offense and how it was able to impose its will against top-notch competition.
The Chiefs have shown that they can be the best offense in the entire league more than once this year — not only by statistics but also by the eye test.
The common denominator? When the offensive line succeeds, Mahomes, Kelce and the rest of the new offensive weapons can tear up any defense.
Entering the bye, the Chiefs will aim to heal up bumps and bruises accumulated across the board offensively. When they return, we just might see continued growth between Mahomes and the fresh faces of this unit.