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Chiefs by the Numbers: Defense and rushing attack look strong after Week 4

Let’s take a look at what Next Gen Stats (and other metrics) are saying about Kansas City this week.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

In this series, we review the Kansas City Chiefs’ performance primarily using Next Gen Stats (NGS) — along with any other advanced metrics that turn up during the season.

Updated Patrick Mahomes NGS metrics

2022 2.80s 5.5 8.0 12.3 66.4 65.1 1.4
2021 2.84s 4.8 7.3 8.7 66.3 68.3 -2.0
2020 2.89s 6.3 8.5 11.4 66.3 67.2 -0.9
2019 2.82s 6.2 8.6 12.2 65.9 66.5 -0.6
2018 2.91s 6.4 9.2 12.2 66.0 64.8 1.2

We covered this in more detail in the article for Weeks 1 and 2. For definitions of the terms used here — and all analytics terms and metrics used in these articles — visit our Football Analytics Glossary and Metrics page.

With two more weeks of data, we can see that quarterback Patrick Mahomes is regressing to his 2018-2020 mean on Time to Throw, Aggressiveness Percentage and Completion Percentage.

What I find most interesting is his Intended Air Yards of 8.0 and Completed Air Yards of 5.5. This is clear evidence that Mahomes is taking what the defense is giving him; he’s not forcing the ball down the field.

My level of concern for the lack of downfield passing is pretty low. As you can see, Mahomes is still putting up an above-average passer rating in four of six quadrants that are 10 or more yards downfield. I believe that the Chiefs’ offense is just now starting to gel. Over time, the downfield passing game will open up.

Chiefs rushing review

I am a big believer in the idea that when evaluating the running game, offensive line performance is much more important than running back performance. If you looked at the Chiefs’ running metrics after the Week 3 game against the Indianapolis Colts, it was ugly. In that game, Kansas City’s obvious issues in the running game stemmed from the play of the offensive line.

But in week 4, the Chiefs offensive line made a statement.

With a 83.3% run-block win rate, running backs Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Isiah Pacheco were able to gain 155 yards on 30 carries — an average of 5.2 yards per carry. On Sunday night, they respectively amassed 20 and 18 yards over expectation, per Next Gen Stats.

Here are their NGS numbers over the season.

Att Yds
Clyde Edwards-Helaire 3.42 19.51 41 208 14 0.37
Isiah Pacheco 3.48 53.57 28 140 40 1.43

In this table, Efficiency (EFF) is the number of yards a player ran as a ball carrier divided by the rushing yards gained. The lower the number, the more the player is a North/South runner. 8+ Defenders in the Box (8+D%) is the percentage of plays in which a rusher faces eight or more defenders in the box. Rushing Yards Over Expected (RYOE) is the difference between actual rushing yards and Expected Rushing Yards on a individual play or series of plays — so RYOE/Att is that figure divided by the number of attempts.

So far this season, NGS has both Edwards-Helaire and Pacheco performing well. In Efficiency, both are among the top 25% of running backs. This shows us that the Chiefs have dedicated themselves to a more of a power running game.

While Edwards-Helaire has been extremely solid in his own right, the rookie Pacheco has looked even better by these metrics. Pacheco has seen an 8-man box on 54% of his runs this season. Still, he is 40 rushing yards over expectation for an average of 1.43 yards per attempt. That ranks him sixth in the league behind the backs like D’Andre Swift, Saquon Barkley and Nick Chubb.

Through four weeks, Kansas City’s running back room looks like it is in its best shape since Kareem Hunt

Chiefs receiving review

Kind of like the running backs, Kansas City’s wideouts were also questioned before the season began. After trading wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins, both fans and media wondered if the team’s revamped receiving corps could replicate Hill’s success for the past five years. So far, the results have been a mixed bag; we need to have more data before we come to a solid conclusion.

But one of the bright spots among the wide receivers has been JuJu Smith-Shuster. The former Pittsburgh Steelers wideout hasn’t found the end zone — or yet put up a huge game. Just the same... when the Chiefs have found him a way to get him the ball, good things have happened.

Throughout his career, Smith-Shuster has been known for his yards-after-catch ability. With the Chiefs, he currently has 124 YAC on 19 receptions — an average of 6.5 yards per catch. That puts him among the league’s top 20 receivers. What’s more impressive is that per NGS, his expected YAC per reception is only 4.8 yards. That ranks 10th in the league, alongside players like Deebo Samuel and Jaylen Waddle. Smith-Shuster should be getting the ball more often.

During Sunday’s game, there was an eye-opening performance from seccond-round rookie Skyy Moore. Against the Buccaneers, Moore was on the field for a career-high 22 snaps — and turned that into four targets, two receptions and 31 yards. Per NGS, he had an average separation from his closest defender of 3.35 yards per route run.

While this is a small sample size, Moore looks like he should be the third man in Kansas City’s three-wide-receiver sets. I’m excited to see him get more involved in the offense as the season progresses.

Chiefs defensive review

By all metrics, this is the best Chiefs defense of the Mahomes era. Kansas City’s defense currently ranks eighth in yards per play, sixth in sacks and first in pressure rate, per NFL Statistics. In the last few years, these have all been areas where the Chiefs have performed poorly.

Kansas City’s pressure rates seem to be coming from timely blitzes drawn up by defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo — and from Chris Jones.

On Sunday night, the star defensive tackle sported a 50% pass rushing win rate. That’s the highest single-game rate recorded for any player in 2022! While Jones was unable to sack Tom Brady because of the quarterback’s absurdly low Time to Throw of 2.35 seconds, he still put in a ridiculous performance.

The team’s sack leader is none other than blitzing savant L’Jarius Sneed, who has now recorded three — and on Sunday, had the week’s quickest sack. Per NGS, the Sneed’s strip-sack of Brady had the fastest time from the snap of Week 4 sacks — and is tied for the fifth-fastest sack this season.

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