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Film review: Chiefs’ running back-by-committee worked in Week 1

The Chiefs running back-by-committee approach could prove successful in 2022.

Syndication: Arizona Republic Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Kansas City Chiefs put up 44 points thanks mostly to Patrick Mahomes and the passing attack. The ground game was effective, and toward the end of the contest, with victory in hand, the Chiefs leaned on the running back group to run out the clock.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the starting back in a three-headed rotation also featuring Jerick McKinnon and rookie Isiah Pacheco.

The run game should be more involved on a weekly basis, as teams will prioritize Mahomes and Travis Kelce. The fresh legs of the committee approach paired with the skill set of the offensive linemen up front will be important for the long-term success and playoff chances for the team. Edwards-Helaire and McKinnon each also recorded three receptions apiece, with Edwards-Helaire converting two of his to scores.

Let’s go to the film

Edwards-Helaire shows patience and burst on this counter play from the Chiefs. Right guard Trey Smith and tight end Noah Gray (lined up as an H-back) each pull and get hats on their assignments. Smith is responsible for the first defender while Gray gets the number two defender in the hole. Edwards-Helaire allows the play to develop in front of him and accelerates through the gap created for a 7-yard gain on first down.

McKinnon’s best attribute may be his vision, which is saying something, given he is so agile and elusive. McKinnon takes the handoff heading right but sees open space back side. He cuts up the field to get vertical but then jump cuts to the left and gets himself downhill. Once in the open field, he nearly evades a defender that may have sprung him for six. Instead, he gets tripped up and delivers an 18-yard gain.

The 2022 seventh-round draft pick in Pacheco led all backs with 12 carries on the day. He was able to convert those into 62 yards and his first touchdown as a professional. The former Rutgers running back does a good job of getting skinny into the hole, displaying nice footwork in the hole to get through the mess.

Pacheco shows a nice little stiff arm once in the second level and then we see some of that 4.3 speed. He gets two hands on the ball as he goes down after his 22-yard gain, his longest run of the day.

Another good run from Pacheco that gains 11. Coming out of an offset I-formation, Pacheco gets finds a crease caused by guards Nick Allegretti and Joe Thuney along with center Creed Humphrey. Pacheco must only need the Gale Sayers “18-inches of daylight,” as he takes advantage of a slight opening and gashes the defense for a nice chunk of yardage.

Here we see an outside run with Edwards-Helaire taking the play horizontally. I love the way he takes a stutter step to make the Cardinals safety Jalen Thompson (No. 34) commit. Once that happens, Edwards-Helaire continues on his outside path, utilizing the wall that left tackle Orlando Brown and Gray create. He is able to turn the corner and sprint up the sideline, eventually attempting a hurdle but getting knocked out of bounds while airborne.

We had to add Pacheco’s first touchdown as a Chief in here. Pacheco was granted the late goal-line opportunity and took advantage. The rookie bounces to the right to widen the defense a bit and allow his tight end, Jody Fortson, to get leverage on his defender.

Pacheco hits the hole when it appears and finds little resistance as he crosses the goal line. Pacheco showed good instincts and some savviness as a runner. To see that from a rookie so early is encouraging.

The bottom line

The trio of Edwards-Helaire, McKinnon and Pacheco provides a blend of speed, size and open-field elusiveness no matter who is on the field. Edwards-Helaire and McKinnon also proved how they can be dangerous as pass-catchers while Pacheco can be impactful as a receiver as well even though he wasn’t targeted in Week 1.

The point here is that the Chiefs have put together a talented committee to handle the rushing responsibilities and at any moment can break one loose. The AFC West is going to be a gauntlet, so having a balanced offense will only help the Chiefs edge out their opponents.

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