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Could the Chiefs’ collapse lead to greater emphasis on 2022 run game?

On Monday’s “Out of Structure” podcast, we talked about the Chiefs’ unwillingness to trust the run game on Sunday.

AFC Championship - Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

On the latest episode of Arrowhead Pride’s “Out of Structure” podcast, we discussed the debacle that was the AFC Championship, in which the Kansas City Chiefs blew a 21-3 first-half lead and lost in overtime to the Cincinnati Bengals.

(Listen to the podcast above or by clicking here. It is also available on Spotify.)

The Chiefs’ offense scored only three points in the second half. After a first half that featured an efficient ground game on early downs, Kansas City continued to use the run game as an accessory to the offense rather than a focal point.

In the second half, the Bengals adjusted their defense on second and third downs to counter the Chiefs’ unwillingness to run on any down besides first — even if they were in favorable second-and-2 or second-and-3 scenarios. They would drop eight players into coverage, rattling quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Instead of matching the Bengals’ adjustment by leaning on the rushing attack that averaged 5.8 yards per carry between running backs Jerick McKinnon and Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the Chiefs continued to trust Mahomes to make the right decisions and find the throwing windows there were.

Unfortunately, he did not — and it might be a lesson to learn about how the Chiefs offensively strategize heading into 2022.

One of the most common ways Kansas City gets into a running play is calling a run-pass option (RPO) — but it might be wise to take the option to choose away from Mahomes depending upon the situation.

On this play late in the third quarter, it’s second-and-3, and the Chiefs call an RPO. As they did all second half, the Bengals drop an extra player into coverage — this time, it’s towards the pass-route side. Mahomes still isn’t expecting it, despite seeing Cincinnati do it for the previous two drives of the half — and he forces the throwing option.

The run option is the right call here, but Mahomes is confident in his abilities and wants to have the ball in his hands. At some point, head coach Andy Reid needs to save Mahomes from himself, which could mean not running RPOs as much anymore. Not only can it lead to a forced throw, but the run blocking also can’t get downhill because they are afraid to draw an illegal man downfield penalty.

The bottom line

The Chiefs are at their best when Mahomes has the ball in his hands, and he is slinging it to his best receivers — but when teams strategize to make that as hard as possible on Mahomes, the offense needs to have the counterpunch in their back pocket.

The offensive line is ready to be a dominant group in the run game, but it needs an offense willing to trust those abilities when most needed.

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