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Film review: The Chiefs’ offense aggressively attacked Tampa Bay’s defense

The play-calling and execution of Kansas City’s offense stepped up to match the stage of Sunday night’s game.

Kansas City Chiefs v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

One of the biggest storylines coming out of the Kansas City ChiefsWeek 3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts was an animated conversation between quarterback Patrick Mahomes and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. One of them wanted to be more aggressive with the late-half play-calling; the other was defending the choice to play it safe.

But in that game, offensive conservatism wasn’t exclusive to that one moment. Whether it was predictable run action or basic pass concepts that rely on the wide receivers to work them themselves open, the entire game featured a vanilla offensive strategy.

The coaching staff thought that in Indianapolis, they could win that way — and without some special-teams errors, they might have been right.

But in the following week, the team would have a different mindset.

From the coaches to the players, the Chiefs’ plan to get some revenge against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was accompanied by a much more aggressive game plan and attitude. It started on the first drive.

Utilizing Travis Kelce

After the Bucs fumbled the opening kickoff, Kansas City took possession and rushed for five yards — setting up a second down in the red zone.

On this play, the Chiefs align in a trips formation that is bunched to the right side. The trio’s initial release into their patterns looks like a typical route concept from that look: one receiver runs to the flat, one goes vertical and the last runs a spot route. The “spot” — a short sit route — is given to tight end Travis Kelce.

But the play features a twist.

Once he pivots to sit — like he typically would — Kelce quickly shoots back out of his break toward the middle of the field. That’s all that is required for linebacker Lavonte David’s muscle memory to take over, making him step toward the spot route — just like he has done thousands of times. Kelce takes advantage, creating a lot of separation. The routes from the other side of the field open up the middle, giving Kelce room to score.

I liked that the Chiefs called this right out of the gate: early in the game, take advantage of a playmaker like David, who wants to quickly defend the play he thinks he is seeing.

On a rare occasion where the running game wasn’t effective, the Chiefs faced a third-and-10 on their second drive.

There’s nothing fancy about this play design — or anything unique about the look. It’s just a simple Sail concept that the team has run many times in order to get Kelce on an out route at the first-down marker.

Tampa Bay knows this. Their Cover 3 defense places cornerback Carlton Davis III and linebacker Devin White in position to sandwich this pattern at the catch point.

With an aggressive mindset, Mahomes doesn’t shy away. Instead, he wastes no time at the back of his drop, using the power from his last step to rifle a pass to his tight end before White can get there. At the same time, the ball is far enough inside to keep Davis from taking Kelce’s head off.

A few big runs later, the Chiefs have a 14-3 lead.

Expanding the library of routes

On the third drive, we saw wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s biggest play of the young season.

On this first-down play, Mahomes sees the defense shift from a Cover 3 look into a two-high shell. His initial reads are to the right — but once he realizes how far the play-side safety has shifted, he quickly pivots back to try Valdes-Scantling on a long seam route between the two deep safeties.

With David’s good trailing coverage, this ball can only be where it ends — and the receiver makes a great turning catch.

Later in the game, we see a third-down play where Mahomes goes to the seam route against good trailing coverage — but this time, it has to be a low, back-shoulder throw to Kelce, who adjusts to complete the play.

I find this significant — because in the Chiefs’ offense, we don’t typically see the seams utilized vertically like this. So either head coach Andy Reid or Mahomes made it an emphasis for this game — which gives future opponents another area of the field they fear can be exposed in Cover 2 looks.

Laying it on thick

With a 31-17 lead in the third quarter, it was a good time to see if Reid would keep calling the game aggressively — or with possession of the ball and a two-score lead, revert back to conservatism.

On a second down, the Chiefs use orbit motion to set up wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster on a quick screen — but instead, Mahomes fakes that way before looking down the sideline to a wide-open Valdes-Scantling, who initially acts like he is blocking.

This play-call is a good one — simply because it takes advantage of a Tampa Bay defense that is full of aggressive playmakers.

Later in the drive, the Chiefs take advantage of the linebackers’ attention on Kelce, which gives tight end Jody Fortson plenty of room to score on a slant route. Kelce’s alignment on the other side — along with three other receivers — grabs David’s focus. Since it’s his responsibility to drop into that throwing lane, Fortson is able to get it done.

The bottom line

This game was a result of an aggressive game plan married to an (always) aggressive quarterback. Specifically in the passing game, receivers were schemed open more than in Week 3 — and if they weren’t, Mahomes seemed more prepared (or perhaps willing) to take a shot anyway. That could have been the result of improved pass protection.

It’s impossible to expect the same level of strategy every week, but it was good to see this team prove it can still succeed against the best of the best.

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