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Now there’s evidence: Andy Reid slows down his offense with a second-half lead

We’ve found some statistics showing that Kansas City might be doing just what fans have long suspected.

Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

In a couple of recent discussions regarding Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid’s perceived tendency to “take his foot off the gas” when he holds a late lead, I’ve brought up a statistic I discovered just over a month ago, when I was preparing an article about how the Chiefs have dominated the NFL since Reid took over the team — especially since quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been the starter.

It shows that since Mahomes took the reins, Kansas City has led all teams in point differential — and since Reid was hired in 2013, it is second only to the New England Patriots.

Point Differential, 2018-2022

Team Diff
Chiefs 641
Ravens 546
Patriots 455
Bills 439
Saints 427
Cowboys 347
49ers 297
Rams 260
Packers 257
Seahawks 211

Point Differential, 2013-2022

Team Diff
Patriots 1219
Chiefs 1110
Seahawks 779
Ravens 662
Saints 583
Cowboys 507
Eagles 437
Bills 428
Steelers 416
Packers 409

To me, the fact that the Chiefs have won their games by a larger total margin than almost every other team suggested that this narrative about Reid might be just a bit overblown. It’s not hard to believe that Reid seems to call a different game when he is protecting a second-half lead — but if his team leads all others in point differential, is he really doing something that other coaches don’t do?

Some argued, however, that this point differential statistic is skewed because the Chiefs have won so many games. In their view, this masks many narrow wins after Reid began protecting late-game leads — and says nothing about losses that might have happened as a result.

So I went back to the data. This time, I calculated each team’s average point differential only for the games it won — and also for the games it lost.

Winning Pt. Differential, 2018-2022

Team Diff
Patriots 17.0
Bills 14.5
Cowboys 14.1
Ravens 14.1
49ers 14.1
Rams 12.8
Saints 12.6
Buccaneers 12.6
Colts 12.5
Chiefs 12.0

Losing Pt. Differential, 2018-2022

Team Diff
Chiefs -6.9
Ravens -6.9
Seahawks -7.5
Chargers -8.9
Saints -9.1
Buccaneers -9.6
49ers -9.8
Cowboys -9.8
Colts -9.9
Broncos -10.0

What we see is that in their victories with Mahomes as the starter, the Chiefs fall from first to 10th in average point differential — but in their losses, they continue to lead the league. This is solid evidence that Kansas City topping the league in total point differential is more a product of what happens in its losses than its victories. It also suggests that common perceptions about what Reid does when he holds a second-half lead are based on at least some reality.

The data also appears to say that this isn’t just about Mahomes.

Winning Pt. Differential, 2013-2022

Team Diff
Patriots 15.6
Rams 13.4
Ravens 13.2
Bills 13.0
Cowboys 12.8
Eagles 12.7
49ers 12.6
Saints 12.4
Chiefs 12.3
Jaguars 12.1

Losing Pt. Differential, 2013-2022

Team Diff
Chiefs -7.4
Seahawks -7.5
Ravens -8.1
Chargers -8.4
Saints -9.5
Falcons -9.8
Patriots -10.0
Steelers -10.1
Cowboys -10.3
Broncos -10.4

Here we see that the pattern is very similar during Reid’s whole tenure with the Chiefs: in his wins, he falls from first to 9th in average point differential — but in his losses, he still leads the league.


While this data provide statistical (rather than anecdotal) evidence about Reid’s apparent tendencies when he holds a late-game lead, we shouldn’t get carried away. It still says nothing about his motivations in these situations. Does he do it because he is a gentleman who doesn’t want to run up a big lead, or because he believes it improves his chance to win not only that day’s game, but the games to come? We can only speculate about that.

But there is one thing we know for sure: during Reid’s time in Kansas City, no other NFL team has posted a better record. So while we can’t say why Reid does it, we can say it’s a successful strategy. While it’s possible that once in a while, the Chiefs might lose a game because they have acted to protect their lead, it’s hard to argue against so much long-term success.

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