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Breaking Down the Chiefs Offense

Posted Nov 29, 2013

Independent analyst Andrew Mason examines a Chiefs offense that posted its highest point total of the season last week.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In the week between the two legs of the Broncos and Chiefs' home-and-home series, Kansas City rolled to its best offensive day of the year -- one that was ultimately not enough to turn back San Diego.

The Chiefs racked up season highs in points (38), average per play (6.69 yards), completion percentage (68.4) and percentage of pass plays that got a first down (39.0), and notched their second-best average per pass play (6.85 yards).

But if the Chiefs' offense was to have an awakening, San Diego appeared best equipped to provide it. The Chargers are allowing a league-worst 6.42 yards per play this season, an AFC-worst (and second-worst in the league) 7.32 yards per pass play, and a league-worst percentage of pass plays that achieve first downs (40.2 percent).

Kansas City veered away from what it does best: keep it on the ground. And on a per-carry basis, the Chiefs have run the football better the last two weeks than at any point this season, averaging 5.8 and 6.3 yards per carry against the Broncos and Chargers, respectively.

But against the Broncos, Kansas City was slightly below its average effectiveness at moving the chains; just five of their 25 carries got first downs (20.0 percent, 2.8 percent below their season average).  The Chiefs average 4.46 yards per carry and get a first down on 22.8 percent of their rushes; Denver averages 3.91 yards per carry, and moves the sticks on 22.9 percent of their running plays, a discrepancy due to the Chiefs' more frequent runs on third-and-long.

Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles will get his yardage. The Broncos' task is to make sure it's the right kind of yardage, from their perspective.

"They know what we're going to do. They know what we're going to do," said defensive tackle Terrance Knighton.

"Defenses don't adjust as much as offenses do. They'll add a wrinkle. They'll see something that probably could have worked and they'll probably emphasize it this week. So, those first 15 plays will be critical to see where they think they can hurt us and what the trend of the day will be. And we'll just have to stop that. 

"But ultimately, it's about stopping Jamaal Charles, who's the main guy that gets their offense going."

And it's not a coincidence that the Chiefs' two losses came with their two lowest run percentages of the season -- 34.2 percent of plays against Denver and 30.5 percent of plays against San Diego.  Against Denver, that rate was understandable; Kansas City played 57 minutes and 33 seconds of the 60-minute game with a deficit.  But the run-pass balance was a surprise against the Chargers; the Chiefs led 14-10 at halftime and the teams exchanged scores in the second half.

"Our job up front is to try to eliminate the run game and try to take them out of that and force them to try to beat us with screens and quick throws and things like that," said Knighton.

"But if they get going running the ball, it'll be a long day. So, we'll definitely focus on (Charles) first."

NOTES:

* As was the case in Week 11, if the Broncos can typically handle Kansas City's receivers with one-on-one coverage, they will be free to attack Alex Smith, while also ensuring that a linebacker is available to contain Smith and prevent him from the explosive runs of which he remains capable. 

* Pay attention to the statuses of right tackle Eric Fisher and right guard Jon Asamoah. Neither played last week and both were limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday.