On Saturday, the Kansas City Chiefs were moving the ball with superb efficiency on offense. Suddenly, everything changed.
Patrick Mahomes was down. His ankle and knee were in two different directions from his torso. This looked incredibly serious.
Were the Chiefs' Super Bowl hopes over? Was this going to linger into next season? How could the team respond emotionally with its best player being out?
All of this floated through my head throughout that moment, but head coach Andy Reid doesn’t have the time to dwell on stuff like that during a game. Reid had to immediately manufacture a game plan around backup quarterback Chad Henne, who would need to lead the offense enough to win a game.
We only saw Henne for one drive, and he led what could become one of the most famous drives in Chiefs’ history, should Kansas City win a title. The Chiefs were pinned at their own two-yard line but went on a surgical 12-play drive that culminated in a touchdown that gave the Chiefs a two-score lead. The playcalling, execution, and composure of everyone involved were excellent.
Without that drive, the Chiefs might not be playing in the AFC Championship. In the biggest moments, Reid dialed up a perfect drive to keep Kansas City operating enough to win this game. Let’s break down how the Chiefs went down the field.
Play #1: First-and-10, KC 2
THREAD: Breaking down "The Henne Drive" play-by-play, it was an expert drive by Andy Reid— Nate Christensen (@natech32) January 24, 2023
Play #1: motion Kelce to #3 in Trips, Jags were rotating SS down in Cover 3 all game. Hitch route to Kelce to get out of endzone, good drive starter pic.twitter.com/14oxyLfgGh
With the Chiefs backed all the way at their 2-yard line, the Chiefs needed to start their drive by getting out of the end zone. With Henne in, Jacksonville likely expected a run to get them out of the end zone, but Reid wanted to give Henne an easy pass to get him in rhythm.
Reid motions Travis Kelce as the No. 3 receiver in a trips formation. The Jaguars rotate their strong safety down into a robber zone, giving some help on Kelce vertically. Kelce runs a short hitch route against an out-leveraged linebacker, giving Henne an easy pass to get the Chiefs out of disaster territory.
Play #2: Second-and-4, KC 8
Play #2 2nd/4— Nate Christensen (@natech32) January 24, 2023
Jags started traveling in C1 to any jet motion KC ran (adjustment), so KC runs IZ from the gun right behind it. Jags rotate weakside safety down into box, but Henne's slight fake leaves safety late into fit, great job sealing DT by Creed and reach by 62 pic.twitter.com/5DF8lUj4rZ
Reid was using jet motion with wide receivers Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore often, giving Henne easy coverage indicators. If the nickelback traveled with the receiver, it was Cover 1. Otherwise, it was Cover 3. On this play, the nickel travels with Toney, but the Jaguars rotate their weak safety down into the run fit, helping their backside run fit.
Henne gives a slight fake to flash that he’s reading that safety, who plays contain on Henne just enough for Kansas City to run inside zone on the strongside. Left guard Joe Thuney has a beautiful block reaching the WILL linebacker, and center Creed Humphrey seals the nose tackle well. Great blocking to get a first down.
Play #3: First-and-10, KC 16
Play #3, 1st/10— Nate Christensen (@natech32) January 24, 2023
KC goes UC, uses that jet motion again to get nickel to travel with Toney, run OZ right behind it to the weakside, taking advantage of the Jags 2i/wide front
Great combo by Creed/Joe frontside and reach by Trey to MIKE, they had an awesome drive pic.twitter.com/bWTtdqdDR2
A similar play on first down, but the Chiefs go under center. They run the same jet motion — but from a 2X2 formation. The nickel once again travels with Toney. The Chiefs run outside zone to the weak side — away from the tight end — and get a good gain to keep their drive going.
Humphrey and Thuney combo block the defensive tackle well, and right guard Trey Smith climbs all the way to the MIKE to cut him off. All three interior linemen were terrific run blockers on this drive, which helped take pressure off Henne.
Play #4: Second-and-3, KC 23
Play #4, 2nd/3— Nate Christensen (@natech32) January 24, 2023
Disaster almost strikes. Jags walked safety over TE constantly and played straight C3 behind. Henne reads this fine, frontside stack not open, uses that to open Dig window, 52 has an awesome bull rush to knock Trey back, get hand up for deflection. Close one pic.twitter.com/R926oC92BG
This play was a near-disaster, but I still think the play call and process of this play are good. Henne almost gets picked here, but he runs this play well. The Chiefs are in a 2X2 with a weak-side stack formation, and the Jaguars respond with Cover 3. Henne looks to the stack to see if that’s open, but he gets off that quickly when it’s covered.
Henne works all the way to the back-side dig to tight end Noah Gray, who’s open on the route. This play almost fails because Smith loses in pass protection, getting pushed right back into the pocket. The defensive tackle is able to get Smith leaning and gets his hand up to bat the ball. The Chiefs were fortunate it wasn’t picked.
While it almost ended badly, Henne still executed this play just fine. The dig was open against the coverage the Jaguars were running, and the timing of this play was great. Even if it almost failed, Henne was running the offense well.
Play #5: Third-and-3, KC 23
Play #5 3rd/3— Nate Christensen (@natech32) January 24, 2023
KC gets in bunch, has strong safety leverage himself inside against Kelce to deal with that, Jags in Cover 1 (main 3rd down call), 37 and 31 don't communicate Banjo quick enough
Not same formation but yes the same Tyreek sprint out to Toney pic.twitter.com/qUa8mGkSIF
It’s the first third-down attempt with Henne, and the Chiefs give him an easy throw to move the chains. The Chiefs get into a bunch, and the Jaguars respond with Cover 1. Kelce’s the inside receiver in the bunch, and he runs a short inside route to hold the safety inside. The Chiefs roll Henne out, and the Jaguars aren’t ready to Banjo — or switch — that route concept that frees Toney for an easy first. Very simple concept, but against a man coverage team, this play works.
Play #6: First-and-10, KC 31
Play 6, 1st/10— Nate Christensen (@natech32) January 24, 2023
Another good play by Henne, experience showing up
KC has McKinnon motion weak, Jags show SH with SS walked down (again), motion IDs man when linebacker pushes to flat, taking the option route with Kelce vs. Jenkins
Andy helping give Henne answers pic.twitter.com/8OSHbarWRt
Reid was doing a good job giving Henne answers to what the Jaguars were doing from single-high. The Chiefs motion McKinnon out to form an Empty formation, which forces the Jaguars to make a check against it. They push their MIKE linebacker to run in man coverage with McKinnon, which means the Jaguars are in Cover 1. With this answer, Henne works to Kelce on the option route, which is something he’s going to win every time.
Henne once again reads this play well, but the use of motion gave Henne answers whether it was man or zone, and then he could pick his matchup based on that. Sounds simple, but for a backup quarterback, giving him the answers to the test presnap is helpful for him to succeed.
Play #7: Second-and-6, KC 35
Play #7 2nd/6— Nate Christensen (@natech32) January 24, 2023
Skyy runs jet motion both ways, Jags travel nickel both ways, good call because nickel late on 2nd motion, but 49 gets far upfield to force Skyy right back inside, Creed doesn't get to 23 to seal him off, FS reads this and fills well, good defense by Jacksonville pic.twitter.com/gvPh0mXzHG
This play doesn’t work, but I like the play call. Reid has Moore run a jet motion in both directions, and the nickel travels with Moore both ways. That nickel doesn’t respond to the second motion quickly, which should help the Chiefs block up this jet sweep well.
However, the Chiefs don’t block this well. Tight end Noah Gray loses his block front side against a defensive end, which forces Moore to work this inside. Humphrey can’t reach the MIKE linebacker in time to cut him off, and the weakside safety reads this well and blows it up. The play call gets a good look, but Jacksonville defends it better.
Play #8: Third-and-3, KC 38
Play 8, 3rd/3— Nate Christensen (@natech32) January 24, 2023
Love getting into splitgun look, motion McKinnon to #2, Jags declare man with WS moving down and double A-gap look
Great full slide to pressure, Henne's hot with 49 free, finds Kelce on a spot route (his hot read), Andy gaves answers, good box out by 87 pic.twitter.com/15J6rrc2YO
I love this play call by Reid. The Chiefs get into a split gun formation, putting Toney and McKinnon in the backfield next to Henne. Reid motions McKinnon to the No. 2 receiver weak side, and the Jaguars move their weak safety to cover him. This indicates man coverage, so the Chiefs have Kelce run a spot route right at the sticks, and Kelce boxes his defender off for the first down.
The protection is great as well. The Jaguars show a double-A-gap pressure, and the Chiefs respond with a full slide to that right. This is the correct protection against this look, but it leaves the defensive end unblocked on the back side.
Henne’s responsible for this, and he knows he has to work to his hot read (Kelce) quickly. He gets lit up, but he executes this protection perfectly to move the chains. The Jaguars also got called for roughing the passer, turning this into a massive gain.
Play #9, First-and-10, JAX 43
Play #9, 1st/10— Nate Christensen (@natech32) January 24, 2023
Interesting formation by KC. 13 personnel, 4 strong in Empty, short stack, and TE slight detach to chip. Jaguars run poach coverage and man on backside with S, DE drops to take away flat, frontside concept not open against quarters. Andy's one weird call imo pic.twitter.com/PMeu9rlsYj
Reid was on a heater this drive, but I didn’t love this play call. The Chiefs roll out 13 personnel (one running back and three tight ends) but get into an empty formation. They have four receivers on one side and tight end Blake Bell's isolated backside. That backside receiver typically has to beat man coverage, so putting Bell there is an interesting choice.
The Jaguars run a Poach coverage from quarters, using their weak safety to carry any vertical over route that comes his way. The Jaguars defend everything front side well, and Henne has to try and work to his back-side read, which is covered by a dropping defensive end and safety.
It was the one bad play call on this drive.
Play #10: Second-and-10, JAX 43
Play 10, 2nd/10— Nate Christensen (@natech32) January 24, 2023
Andy runs offset zone going weak, Pacheco runs into frontside B gap, DT does good job falling into gap to condense space, Pacheco gets stuffed, but keeps his eyes up to get outside, huge run
Credit OBJ and Thuney for seal on frontside DE, huge block pic.twitter.com/HX75bF16Q4
Reid dials up a run to hopefully force third-and-short, so he calls an offset zone run with Pacheco. Pacheco doesn’t read this out well, running right into Smith when there was no hole there. This could’ve been a disaster, but Pacheco bounces off of that well, works all the way outside — and he generates a massive run off of it.
Left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. deserves a ton of credit on this play. He’s responsible for sealing that front-side defensive end off, and he pushes his man six yards off the ball. This allows Pacheco to work all the way outside and get the Chiefs in the red zone.
Play #11: First-and-goal, JAX 4
Play 11, 1st/goal— Nate Christensen (@natech32) January 24, 2023
KC gets UC, puts all 3 TEs in bunch (v common formation this year)
KC runs iso/lead right at A-gap, Pacheco sets up 94 well with patience, good push by Trey to get hips around, super close to a TD and good blocking pic.twitter.com/jWWWSLPeTd
The Chiefs go under center on first-and-goal and call a simple iso run for Pacheco. They’re running right into the A-gap, and Smith has an excellent push to clear space. Pacheco reads this well, setting up a defensive tackle before cutting left. He had a chance at a touchdown here but gets tripped up. It’s a good block by Smith, and the vision from Pacheco to get the ball at the one-yard line.
Play #12: Second-and-goal, JAX 1
Play 12, 2nd/goal, the TD play— Nate Christensen (@natech32) January 24, 2023
Love this design from Empty. McKinnon at #2 in stack declares man from Jacksonville, his motion has someone travel but 48/37 don't have idea who's on Kelce (in a wing) and who's hook player, slightly late and easy TD in space for Kelce pic.twitter.com/aR34uV1KlT
This play ends a terrific drive by Reid and the offense. The Chiefs get into another empty formation but have McKinnon as the No. 2 in a stack formation. The Jaguars have to declare their coverage with their MIKE linebacker, who travels with McKinnon, indicating man coverage. McKinnon runs a motion to once again reveal man coverage.
The Chiefs have Kelce as a wing on the formation, which makes it difficult for the Jaguars to know who has Kelce and who’s the hole player in zone coverage. This slight miscommunication gives enough time to cause confusion, and the Chiefs get an easy touchdown on a pick route.
My favorite play of the weekend goes to the Chiefs’ Pickle. pic.twitter.com/O9GnVBOLNJ— Honest NFL (@TheHonestNFL) January 23, 2023
This play also had a zone coverage beater on the back side, which is open. Henne reads this right, but wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was open on the drag route. Reid dialed up the perfect play in the red zone, capping an excellent drive by him.
The bottom line
When the Chiefs needed it the most, Reid reminded everyone once again that he’s one of the best designers and play callers the NFL has ever seen. When he needed to steer the car without Mahomes, he couldn’t have had a better drive.
Henne and the offense executed this drive to perfection, but Reid helped his quarterback out by getting rid of the ball quickly, using motion to help him read coverages and blending in a good run game on top of that. Everything worked on that drive.
We’ll see how Reid adjusts for some limitations in Mahomes’s game because of the injury, but regardless, if he doesn’t dial this drive up, the Chiefs might lose. Reid deserves a ton of respect for how he handled this drive — something most coaches couldn’t pull of in a playoff game.