Numbers: Chiefs vs. Lions

The best decision of Sunday afternoon came early in the first quarter.

I opted to go stand 90 minutes in the rain to tour the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts at its open house. Boy am I glad I didn’t stick around for the Chiefs game, and even if I had recorded it I probably wouldn’t have watched it.

Besides getting a first-hand look at Kansas City’s newest wonder of the world, I got some insight into the Chiefs season as I was watching a performance at the Muriel Kauffman Theatre. The local School of Rock house band was onstage performing and an older woman (though who am I to say older!) walked into the performance and whispered to an usher: “I hope this is not representative of the type of performances we will be seeing here.”

I feel much the same way about the Chiefs.

So, not having seen the game – nor having any desire to watch the debacle – here is a somewhat dispassionate look at strictly the numbers.

OVERALL OFFENSE

Coordinator Bill Muir seems to have gotten it much better against Detroit than the Bills in the opening week. The Chiefs tried to assert themselves running, and for most of the first half it was working. How well it will work going forward without Jamaal Charles is problematic. But with the lineup the Chiefs will be fielding at wide receiver and this porous defense that has so far yielded eight touchdown passes, the Chiefs must continue to try and run. If for no other reason, it will shorten the opportunities the other team has to score.

The Chiefs ran the ball seven times before throwing a pass. Ten of the first 12 plays and 15 of the first 17 plays were runs. When the Chiefs punted the ball away with 6:26 remaining in the half, they had more time of possession than the Lions and trailed just 7-3. Then the game got out of control. The Lions scored in two plays and led 14-3. The next possession the Chiefs opened their drive with the 45-yard completion to Dwayne Bowe. To this point, the Chiefs had averaged 6.8 yards per running play. Take away the 24-yard gains by Dexter McCluster and Jamaal Charles and they still were averaging 4.7 yards per carry.

Inexplicably, they passed the next three plays. Two passes were incomplete and Matt Cassel was intercepted – leading to a Detroit field goal making it 17-3.

No real quibbles with the next possession, trying to pass in the two-minute drill because it is Coach Todd Haley’s style to try and get something in the two-minute drill. But the Chiefs were going to get the ball at the start of the second half, and coming out down 17-3 they could have pulled without a touchdown (one score) if they had taken advantage of the opportunity. Instead, another interception led to another field goal by the Lions.

It hardly would have made a difference because five turnovers and the inability of the defense to get off the field negated all the other numbers.

Running Game

As stated, it was better. Without Charles the Chiefs may have to go back to last year’s formula with Thomas Jones carrying the load in a two-back formation with lead blocking from Le’Ron McClain. Dexter McCluster, who couldn’t stay healthy as a rookie, will have to provide the explosive play option that Charles did a year ago.

vs. Detroit

4 or more

3 or less 

Big runs 

Winning plays 

Charles (2 for 27)

1

1 of 2 

McCluster (8 for 51) 

5

4 of 8 

Battle (2 for 6) 

0

0 of 2 

Jones (12 for 40) 

5

5 of 12 

McClain (4 for 15) 

1

1 of 4 

Bowe (1 for 12) 

1

1 of 1 

Team (29 for 151) 

13

16 

5 

12 of 29

Winning runs are runs that gain 4 or more yards or result in a first down or touchdown.

Season 

4 or more

3 or less 

Big runs 

Winning plays 

Charles (12 for 83 yards) 

6

6 of 12 

McCluster (12 for 93) 

8

8 of 12 

Battle (4 for 13) 

1

1 of 4 

Jones (14 for 43) 

5

5 of 14 

McClain (4 for 15)

1

1 of 4 

Team 

22

25 

10* 

21 of 47 

* Includes big play by a non-primary ball carrier.

Passing Game

Cassel, who threw only seven interceptions all of last season, already has four. Bowe’s big-play capability was on display again, but it came in the midst of a part of the game when the Chiefs had been pounding Detroit with the run (see a familiar theme here?). While the NFL may be becoming a passing league, Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli hasn’t procured the weapons that would allow the Chiefs to become a passing team – whether quarterback or receivers.

The continued absence of rookie WR Jonathan Baldwin prevents the Chiefs from having a real deep threat who can stretch the field. Tight end Leonard Pope was the third-favorite target from Cassel, but the Chiefs have been running tight ends on and off their practice squad in search of some other options.

Matt Cassel Statistics

Passing

Total

Less than 7 

7-10 yards 

10-plus 

Avg/Att*

@ Det.

15-22-133-0-1

5.54

Season 

37-58-252-1TD-4 Int

22 

4 

11 

4.06 

* Includes sacks.

The Receivers

@ Detroit

Target

Catches

Yards

Big plays

Bowe 

8

101 

4

McCluster 

5

-2 

0

McClain 

2

12 

1

Pope 

3

0

Breaston 

2

0

Urban 

3

0

Totals 

23

15 

133 

5

Season

Target

Catches

Yards

Big plays

Bowe 

16

118 

McCluster 

10

9

23

Pope 

9

33 

Charles 

6

Urban 

5

Breaston 

4

3

33

Colbert 

3

McClain 

2

12 

O’Connell 

1

15 

Battle 

1

-1 

Cassel 

1

-4 

Copper 

1

Totals 

59

37

252

10

THE DEFENSE

As bad as the Chiefs offense has been, 10 points in two games, the defense can’t point any fingers (89 points in two games). Romeo Crennel’s guys need to be more efficient.

The one mitigating circumstance in the defense’s defense is field position. In the second half, when Detroit scored touchdowns on four of six possessions, the average starting field position for the Lions on their scoring drives was inside the Chiefs 40. Following the turnovers the average starting field position for the Lions was the Chiefs’ 25.

Against the run, which I believe is the cornerstone to a great defense, the Chiefs have been somewhat successful. In 30 runs, Detroit was held to 3 yards or fewer 22 times. That’s outstanding.

But one of those successful plays was on a 1-yard quarterback scramble (they didn’t get to him in time to sack Matt Stafford). Two other 1-yard runs were touchdown plays. So don’t count those as successful plays against the run. Still, holding a team to just 3 yards per run is success.

Against the pass, not so much. The Chiefs were burned by nine plays that were more than 10 yards and 17 of the 24 completions were of 7 or more yards. That’s a combination of lack of rush and lack of coverage. Eric Berry’s presence would not have made up for all of that.

Running Game

Opponent

Runs/Yds

3-less 

4-plus 

Big play

Def. Succ.*

Avg.

Detroit 

30-89

22 

19 

3.07 

Season

69-252

43

26

6

40

3.70

* Defensive success does not include short runs for a first down or kneel-downs at the end of a half or game.

Passing Game

Passing

Total

Less than 7 

7-10 yards 

10-plus 

Avg/Att 

Detroit 

24-40-322-4-1

9

7.8

Season

41-55-530-8-1

13

9

19

8.0

First down plays    

Opponent

Runs

Avg.

Pass

Avg.

Detroit 

11-43

3.91 

17-114 

6.71 

Buffalo 

30-150

5.0

25-193

7.72

* Includes one quarterback scramble.

Chiefs sacks by down

Game

First

Second

Third

Total

Passing situation*

Detroit 

0

Season 

0

0 

1 

1 

1 

*Passing situation defined as second- or third-and-long (more than 6), two-minute drill or second half when down by more than two scores.

PREPARATION

This has nothing to do with numbers.

But here’s my take on Todd Haley’s approach to training camp and the season and the criticism he’s taking for it.

Clearly the Chiefs weren’t ready for the season to begin. Perhaps it was because of Haley’s approach, perhaps not. Break it down two ways: the injury factor and the results factor.

The two-week results are abysmal and that can’t be questioned. But as the team heads into the third regular-season game, the pre-season approach of easing into the season should be discounted from here on out. The Chiefs are preparing each week the same way they did a year ago when they won the division.

On the injury front; one starter was lost in the final pre-season game, one each in the first two regular-season games. Cassel may not be playing at full effectiveness because of rib injuries in the final pre-season game. Haley’s approach to ease into the regular season with emphasis on the fourth game was based on historical NFL injury statistics that support statistics that show players that miss practice time (off-season or training camp) are more likely to be injured than players who do not.

One could ask Giants coach Tom Coughlin whether the loss of starters Thomas Terrell or Jonathan Goff in the pre-season was result of taking a normal training camp mode of operation. Players get injured – whether in the final week of the preseason or the first week of the preseason. The Chiefs starters were no more exposed to multiple plays in the pre-season than any other starters, the Chiefs just exposed their guys in the final game rather than the third game.

And if the communication is all that the Chiefs indicate it is, GM Scott Pioli knew in advance what Haley’s plan was and allowed it to play out.


9 Responses to “Numbers: Chiefs vs. Lions”

  • September 20, 2011  - napahank says:

    Kent
    Your analysis was spot on! I see the results on the field as a “wave upon wave” of bad breaks. Losing Tony, Eric and Jamaal WHEN we did is huge.

    I will not say what our outcome in Detroit would have been if Jamaal would not have been injured, or at least at the very end of the game; however, I would have given KC a much better chance.


  • September 20, 2011  - Thomas Salmon says:

    I like nothing more than analysis of a game that was not watched by the author. Kind of like Helen Keller commenting on the music of Beethoven and the paintings of Picasso! The Chiefs performance was not beautiful, and was actually uglier than the stats reflect. Sheesh!


  • September 20, 2011  - el cid says:

    On a different subject, I am going to buy a book. War Room by Holly. The author spent the last football season, apparently, in Pioli hip pocket. Quotes by Clark and Pioli, that sort of thing. I hope it will tell a bit about Pioli’s thinking because he cannot be the idiot I think he is. We all know the Chiefs do not talk to local media and indirectly to us but they seem to be blabbermouths to ESPN, a internet site in NE, an AZ newspaper, so this is our first chance to get an inside look.


  • September 20, 2011  - Steve says:

    El cid – thanks for the tip on the book. For folks trying to find it, War Room by Michael Holley, a Boston Globe writer who followed the Patriots, Chiefs, and Falcons in the 2010 season and into the 2011 draft. Amazon says it releases in November.

    Kent – thanks for the analysis of the numbers and your take on the preseason prep.


  • September 20, 2011  - Niblick says:

    I heard Kevin Keitzman on 810 talking about the book. I guess the media get copies earlier. It goes on sale in early October. I won’t go into what KK said, because I might not get it exactly correct. They were very interesting comments by Pioliin the book. I also plan to buy the book when it becomes available.


  • September 20, 2011  - el cid says:

    Got to keep a open mind but what is with Pioli? Keeps KC in the dark but spills his guts to a NE area writer. Getting the book as soon as available and will let you know later this fall.


  • September 21, 2011  - Kenny Low says:

    Nice article Kent.


  • September 21, 2011  - Kent Pulliam says:

    Thanks for reading, appreciate all the feedback. Kent Pulliam


  • September 21, 2011  - Matthew says:

    Kent – Watch the game before you do an analysis.




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