Last week, the Kansas City Chiefs made a statement with an impressive win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Coming into that game, there was somewhat of a lack of confidence surrounding the Chiefs’ offense – specifically, the run game after a sub-par performance in Week 3 against the Indianapolis Colts, which saw the team rush for only 58 total yards.
Kansas City squashed many of those concerns in Week 4 as their run game came alive during their 41-31 win on Sunday night. Arguably, the most eye-popping stat of the night was in the rushing department, where the Chiefs out-rushed the Bucs 189-3.
The Chiefs’ offensive line deserves a ton of credit for this, but the team’s running backs deserve praise as well for bouncing back following a poor performance the week prior. Although Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s 92 rushing yards on 19 carries and a touchdown contributed the most to the team’s success on the ground, the player who may have Chiefs Kingdom the most excited out of the backfield was rookie running back Isiah Pacheco.
Pacheco was the team’s second-leading rusher, finishing the game with 63 yards on 11 carries for an average of 5.7 yards per attempt. He ran hard, looking explosive as he hit the hole with power and physicality – a staple of his game that Pacheco shared with reporters on Thursday.
“Most definitely,” Pacheco said when asked if he would describe himself as a ‘violent’ runner. “When I’m on that field, that’s the only place you are allowed to hit somebody as hard as you can without getting in trouble.”
The Chiefs knew that they were getting a physical runner when they drafted Pacheco in the seventh round out of Rutgers University. However, the knock on him was always his lack of patience – a drawback that comes with his aggressive running style. Because he runs so strong and suddenly, he tends not to give enough time for his blocks to develop, thus missing opportunities for a more significant gain. This is something Pacheco is aware of and continues to work on.
“When it comes to the film session, it tells you to be a lot more patient, and that’s the best way to see it,” Pacheco said. “When you’re in the film room, you get a better feel for the reads that I could have hit, which hole I could have went which way. So, definitely — like you said — taking that time and being patient will help me and keep listening to coach on that note.
There is a learning curve for every rookie, and Pacheco is no exception as he integrates patience and the nuances of an NFL playbook into his overall game. These things have caused him to play slower than he wants to at times but are also facets of his game that should improve as he gains more experience.
“Understanding (the playbook) a little better helps me play faster,” Pacheco continued.
“If I’m out there (and) I’m kind of confused, and I don’t really know the play, I’m not going to be able to play as fast as I can. When it’s (time) to come out there and practice, it’s (time) for me to listen to the play and listen to the words that speak to me. When I hear those words, you go out there and execute it as fast as I can.”
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes has taken notice of Pacheco’s growth after just four games in the NFL and hopes that the rookie running back continues to evolve in order to take his game and the team to another level.
“Yeah, with all rookies you have to continue to evolve them more and more and keep them in tuned to the game plan” Mahomes said. “I think Isiah was a good point of that of not only – we always knew he could run the ball, he can catch the ball, make plays happen, but knowing where he’s at in protection, knowing how to run this run versus this based off the blocking and defensive looks, I think that’s starting to come together for him.
“Now it’s time for him to continue to build, to continue to get better in that sense because you can be physically talented but in order to set blocks up and really be a great running back in this league, you have to have that next step and that’s the mind of a running back and being able to execute every down.”
Fortunately, Pacheco has the right mentality to tackle this challenge as he is willing to put in the work required to improve on these parts of his game.
“(Just) understanding the playbook (and) just taking it day-by-day. Listening to the older guys in the running back room, taking notes and when I get in there, just making the most out of the opportunity.”