Crunching Some Numbers … Tuesday Cup O’Chiefs

Doing the laundry so I can get away to Indianapolis for the NFL Combine and crunching some numbers …

I think it was former New York Jets head coach Walt Michaels that is given credit for saying a few years back that statistics were like loose women, “you can get them to do whatever you want.” And it was British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli from the late 1800s who is given credit for saying there were three kinds of lies: “lies, damned lies and statistics.”

In these quiet days of the football calendar – waiting to see if the league and players can figure out how to carve up $9 billion a year in revenue – it seems a good time to look back at some numbers from the 2010 NFL season. Specifically, taking a look at the statistics from the Chiefs season and where Todd Haley’s team was among the league leaders and where they were among the least productive teams in the NFL.

It starts with this post on the statistical categories where the Chiefs finished either first or second in the league. On Wednesday, we’ll touch the categories where they finished 31st or 32nd among the league’s 32 teams.


Rushing yardage: The Chiefs ran for 2,627 yards in the regular season, or an average of 164.2 yards per game. That’s the third best rushing season in franchise history, trailing only the run games of 1978 and 1981. The league average for the ’10 season was 114.5 yards per game, almost a 50-yard difference for the Chiefs.

Comment: Here’s what happens when an offense can run the ball like the Chiefs did last season – the defense plays better, the quarterbacks throws the ball better, the offensive line provides more protection and on and on. When an offense can run the ball, the ramifications are huge for all parts of the team. It’s the biggest reason the Chiefs were able to win 10 games.

Percentage of rushing plays called in the second half and overall: In the second half of games, the Chiefs were 54.8 percent running plays. Overall, they were 52.3 percent with the run on their offensive plays. The Chiefs had 1,063 offensive plays and ran the ball on 556 of those. The NFL average for the season in both categories was 43 percent.

Comment: When you lead the league in rushing, you are going to lead in categories like these. It’s remarkable that the percentage of run plays in the second half and overall did not exceed 55 percent. It’s a good indication that despite the emphasis on the run game, the offense did not get too out of whack. It’s also easier to do when a team is winning 10 of 16 games.

Percentage of 1st down rushing plays that gained 4 or more yards: On the season, 50 percent of the Chiefs running plays on first down gained 4 yards or more. The league average was 42.9 percent. It broke down as 278 rushes on first down, with 139 going for 4+ yards.

Comment: Ditto on everything from above – if a team wants to run the ball it must be successful on first down. The Chiefs were.

Opponents passer rating vs. the blitz: the Chiefs sent an extra rusher on 179 of the 620 passing plays they faced. Opposing passers completed 81 of 165 passes (49.1 percent) for 1,095 yards (average of 6.6 yards per attempt), 4 TDs and 5 INTs. That’s a passer rating of 66.1. The league average was an 82.8 passer rating when they blitzed.

Comment: On the blitz the Chiefs were able to get 14 of the 39 sacks they had on the season. Give credit to defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel’s ability to draw up defenses with an extra rusher that were effective. That allowed rookie defensive backs Javier Arenas and Eric Berry to contribute five sacks on the season. But even though they only pulled down the passer 14 times on those 179 passing plays, they made life difficult for the quarterbacks in completing passes and moving for any yardage.

(T) Rushing plays allowed of 50+ yards: No opposing runner got outside the Chiefs defense for one of those mega runs. The longest run they gave up all season as 38 yards. On average, NFL teams allowed at least one run for 50 yards or more.

Comments: this was a problem area for the Chiefs defense in ’09, but they plugged the holes in the defense for the ’10 season and gave up considerably fewer long runs. In all they only gave up three running plays that went for more than 25 yards over 16 games.


Fewest giveaways: Only the New England Patriots had fewer giveaways over the season than the 14 for the Chiefs. New England gave away 10 fumbles and interceptions. The NFL average on the season was 27.

Comment: The guy who deserves major kudos for this number is QB Matt Cassel. He lost the ball eight times on the season, or 57 percent of the turnovers. But in the ’09 season, Cassel was responsible for 26 giveaways (16 interceptions, 10 lost fumbles.) Give credit to Haley, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and most especially Cassel for that significant improvement.

Giveaway points allowed: With those 14 giveaways during the regular season, opponents were only above to score 27 points once they got the ball back. New England led the league, giving up just 24 points on its 10 giveaways. The league average was 79 points.

Comment: When Haley talks about the Chiefs playing complementary football, this statistic is one of the best indicators of the job getting done. Five of those turnovers came on the Chiefs side of the 50-yard line, thus giving the opponent a very short field to the end zone. Those five produced 24 of the 27 points.

Play selection/rushing on 1st down: The Chiefs went with a running play on 60.7 percent of the total 1st-and-10 plays they had on the season. That was 252 of 415 plays. The only team that ran more often on 1st-and-10 was the New York Jets, at 64.1 percent. The NFL average was 52.3 percent running plays.

Comment: When you are going to run the ball as often as the Chiefs, the fact they were 60-40 in play calling run to pass on first down was actually lower than I would have predicted. The question becomes how effective were the run plays on first down? The Chiefs averaged 5.7 yards per run on 1st-and-10, the best average in the league.

(T) Fewest interception returns of 20 yards allowed: Of the eight interceptions thrown by the Chiefs, only one was returned for more than 20 yards. That was Stanford Routt’s 22-yard return for a TD in the regular season finale for Oakland. The average in the league was five returns for 20+ yards.

Comment: Again, this doesn’t just happen. First, Cassel took better care of the football and threw fewer interceptions. Second, when the ball did get away, the Chiefs offense did stand there and watch – they got after the ball. That’s something that Haley and his staff has stressed for the past two seasons, making the offense turn into defense when there has been an interception in practice.

(T) Fumbles lost: the Chiefs gave away just six fumbles on the season. They were tied with St. Louis and Houston, finishing one lost fumble behind league leader New England with five. The NFL average was 11.

Comment: The Chiefs offense had five of those six fumbles, so they coughed it up every 213 plays. That’s a pretty remarkable and is not something that just happens. Haley and the coaching staff work hard with the players on ball security from the off-season program through weekly practices. The 2002 Chiefs hold the NFL record for fewest fumbles lost in a season when they gave up just two.


Chiefs Hall of Fame RB Ed Podolak remains in serious but stable condition at a hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona, after suffering injuries after being struck by a car.

The accident happened early Sunday morning as Podolak was crossing the street near his hotel and was struck by a car.

Podolak’s daughter Laura told the Des Moines Register newspaper on Monday that her father was “stable and alert. My Dad is in good spirits and is continuing his recovery.”



  • BENGALS – named James Urban wide receivers coach.
  • DOLPHINS – named Bryan Cox as pass rushing coach.
  • TITANS – hired Dave Ragone as wide receivers coach; hired Art Valero as assistant offensive line coach; released assistant secondary coach Tim Hauck.
  • VIKINGS – used the franchise player designation on LB Chad Greenway.

One Response to “Crunching Some Numbers … Tuesday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • February 22, 2011  - Thomas says:

    We wish Ed Podolak a speedy recovery. Get better soon.

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