Numbers From Game No. 13

The last two weeks have exposed a problem that the Chiefs must solve if they hope to reach the playoffs – let alone make any kind of run.

They . . . must . . . stop . . . the . . . run.

I know. It’s not sexy. But consider this – give up a big play in the passing game, write it off to one guy getting beat. Give up 207 yards rushing as the Chiefs did Sunday against San Diego, and 11 guys got the crap beat out of them. Give up 368 yards rushing in the past two games against San Diego and Denver and that is 11 guys getting the crap beat out of them for two straight weeks.

Following the shutout loss to the Chargers, Coach Todd Haley said the Broncos and Chargers have not found any magic blueprint other teams could use to attack the Chiefs suddenly meek run defense.

“They ran a couple of the same plays,” Haley said. “We were in position, and we missed tackles – which is not something we have done a lot this year. When we have been in position, we have been a pretty good fundamentally tackling team. Yesterday (against San Diego) we did not do that. This time of year, your fundamentals just have to be right on point.”

He says the team does tackling drills – even 12, 13 games into the season when everyone is beat up and bruised.

The Chargers, with one of the league’s most prolific passers calling the signals, ran the ball 43 times. Take away quarterback Philip Rivers’ two scrambles, and you have 41 called running plays. That’s the most running plays any team has called against the Chiefs all season.

When the game was in doubt in the first half, the Chargers were successful running the ball (4 or more yards) 13 times on their first 19 called running plays. The Chiefs had a brief string of successes stopping the run at the start of the third quarter when they trailed by three touchdowns. But the defense was not efficient enough to get off the field, allowing San Diego to hold the ball more than 11 minutes in the quarter.

What’s disturbing about this trend is that the Chargers’ debacle followed a week where the Broncos shredded them for 161 yards in 23 carries.

Even less impressive for the Chiefs was the third-down conversion, allowing the Chargers to convert 11 of 15 third-down plays. The Chargers converted seven of their first eight third-down plays. Overall, the Chargers averaged third-and-6. The Chargers averaged 9.73 yards per third down play.

Because the Chiefs could not get off the field, the Chargers held the ball a massive 40-minute, 10-seconds of the game.

Defense against the run

Opponent

Runs/Yards

3-less 

4-plus 

Big play

Def. Success*

Avg.

@ San Diego

43-207

20 

23 

20 

4.8 

Season 

334-1,429

183 

151 

34 

167 

4.2 

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

Third-down situations

The Chiefs defense had some good down-and-distance situations to stop Chargers’ drives and get their defense off the field. Here’s the breakdown:

Third down situation  Result 
First quarter 
 
3-1-SD42  14-yard pass play FIRST
3-2-KC36  4-yard run FIRST
3-5-KC27  10-yard pass play FIRST
Second quarter 
 
3-3-SD44  Incomplete pass 
3-9-SD44  19-yard pass play FIRST
3-5-KC43  6-yard pass play FIRST
Third quarter 
 
3-10-SD21  15-yard pass play FIRST
3-7-SD39  17-yard pass play FIRST
3-4-SD42  Rivers sacked and fumbled minus-5 
3-10-SD11  3-yard run 
Fourth quarter 
 
3-6-SD32  20-yard pass play FIRST
3-13-SD49  15-yard pass play FIRST
3-2-KC28  Rivers sacked minus-2 
3-6-KC32  15-yard run FIRST
3-8-KC15  15-yard pass for touchdown FIRST
Average: 3rd-and-6 Average gain: 9.7 yards

Opponent’s first-down plays

The Chargers, taking a page from the Chiefs book, ran on first down every single time in the second half of the game. Perhaps that’s a good thing for the Chiefs considering that one-third of the Chargers first-down passes were for a touchdown.

Opponent

1st-Down Runs

Avg.

1st-Down Pass

Avg.

@ San Diego

22

3.36 

9* 

8.7 

* Three touchdown passes on first down

Chiefs sacks by down for season

Although Tyson Jackson recorded his first sack of the season, most of the pressure continues to come from linebacker Tamba Hali, whose sack-and-strip play was the second in two weeks and gives him 10 ½ sacks for the season.

First down

Second down 

Third down 

Total

Passing situation*

7

10 

12 

29 

20 

*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.

Offensive woes

As soon as it was learned that Brodie Croyle would be starting, the Chargers made a decision. They would load up against the run. If the Chiefs were going to beat them, a quarterback who had not played in nearly 15 months would have to do it.

“We were going to play more eight-man fronts and we were going to pressure more,” Chargers coach Norv Turner said. “We were going to make sure that if they’re going to make plays, we’re going to make it hard on the quarterback.”

They did plenty of that, but Haley, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and the Chiefs offensive line didn’t make it any easier on Croyle. Weis did mix in some pass plays on first down early in the game. When he did – opening the third series with a pass – Croyle was sacked (in a hurry).

Hindsight obviously gives you better vision. But against a team that you expected to load up against the run, starting off with a high-percentage, play-action pass might have served Croyle well to get his feet wet and tell the Chargers you weren’t afraid to put the ball in the quarterback’s hands.

Don’t get me wrong. Croyle didn’t help himself either. His last seven pass attempts were incomplete. The last 11 pass plays called for him in the game resulted in seven incompletions, three sacks and a penalty. He did not complete a pass in the second half.

But a team that prides itself on running the ball failed colossally. Teams that run the ball well don’t care if opponents know it, they still run it – and they run it effectively against a team that had surrendered a huge game the week before.

Counting three sacks, the Chiefs called 20 pass plays with Croyle in the game. Of those, nine were third-down plays. The average down-distance of the third-down passes called while Croyle was in the game was 3rd-and-11. Five were first-and-10 plays. Of those five, Croyle was sacked twice and a penalty on the other resulted in a first-and-15.

Croyle’s numbers were eerily similar to Cassel’s in the driving monsoon on Monday Night Football to open the season. The difference was Croyle got no support from the defense, special teams didn’t come up with a game breaker, and the rushing attack was non-existant.

Passing

Total

Less than 7 

7-10 yards 

10-plus 

Avg/Att 

Sunday 

7-17-40-0-0

2.36 

Opener 

10-22-68-0-0

3.09 

vs. SD

19-42-116-0-0

10 

2.76 

The running game

Chicken or egg, run to set up the pass, or pass to set up the run. It was obvious the Chiefs were attempting to be more physical than the Chargers and jam the ball down their throat with the league’s top running attack.

Obviously didn’t happen.

Counting Sunday, the Chiefs have opened with a running play nine times. They have gained an average of 3.2 yards per carry on their opening play of the game. They gained 4 on Sunday. If you are going to win ugly – or at least stay in the game ugly – you have to have a running attack that is consistent. On Sunday it was just ugly.

@ San Diego

4 or more

3 or less 

Big runs 

Winning plays 

Charles (10 for 40 yards) 

5

5 of 10 

Season (162-1,177) 

112

80 

39 

102 of 192 

Jones (3 for 1 yard) 

0

0 of 3 

Season (190-766) 

80

110 

17 

87 of 190 

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

Targets

Croyle targeted Dwayne Bowe for more passes than any other receiver, continuing a trend. But it is clear the Chiefs have to find another option that will help Bowe find room to operate. After being shut out against Denver, Bowe made just one catch against San Diego.

An off-season priority has to be finding another efficient wide receiver so that teams can’t load up to stop Bowe – or do what Denver did and take him out of the game by shadowing him with a top defensive back.

Receiver

San Diego

Season

 

Target

Catches

Target

Catches

Bowe 

7

108 

59 

Charles 

3

50 

36 

Copper  

3

27 

17 

Moeaki 

2

56 

38 

Tucker 

2

19 

Pope 

2

16 

Chambers 

1

30 

14 

Looking ahead

At St. Louis, the Chiefs will be facing a team that runs the ball 28 times per game and averages 3.8 yards per carry. We may find out whether the Chargers and Broncos have found the blueprint to attack the Chiefs run or whether the Chiefs defense can make the Rams one-dimensional and put the game on the shoulders of rookie quarterback Sam Bradford.

Offensively the Chiefs must run the ball – whether Matt Cassel is back in the lineup or not.


8 Responses to “Numbers From Game No. 13”

  • December 14, 2010  - harvey says:

    Great job Kent. I really think this game would have been better if we had started with quick short high percentage passes that might have then opened up the run.

    On defense, we needed to attack Rivers. Run a nickel with lots of blitzing and dimes. Rivers tends to become less than great when he is rattled.


  • December 14, 2010  - jim says:

    If anyone thinks stopping the run this week in StL is gonna get easier, then you’d better re-adjust your thought process. SJ39 will kill us.

    End of story.


  • December 14, 2010  - el cid says:

    Today’s Star quotes Haley that “you could not expect Brodie to do the job”. That may explain the game plan, I will steal this “quit before the game starts”. Is that legal in the NFL, Bob? To throw a game because the guy you put in at QB you know cannot succeed?

    Looking forward, If Cassel cannot go sunday, do the Chiefs throw the StL game with a QB the head coach knows cannot play the position? Do the Chiefs just give up the rest of 2010? Can all of you stomach that? How about it, Edward,have the lead in the conference and quit the season with 3 games to play? Shame on Mr Hunt for allowing this.


  • December 14, 2010  - Gerardo says:

    Impresive stats, how on Earth you get the same percentage of successful runs at 50% and don’t get the same result? it’s on the passing game and defense. But call play is awful, you need to kee p the oponent guessing. The example of Paul Hacket said it all, you think i’m running? I’ll show you run and then I pass or shovel pass or flea flicker or whatever!

    If we loose at St. Louis we need all the help we can get from Arrowhead pride!


  • December 14, 2010  - bobmac says:

    The entire defense looked beat up, overmatched, undersized and worn out. Early in the year it looked like our speed had significantly improved, that no longer appears to be the case. We have reverted to the defense being unable to get teams off the field. Lack of depth and big bangers has caught up with this group.


  • December 14, 2010  - Merwin says:

    Just wondering. With Cassel being out, I wonder if the coaches were being overly conservative in the game planning. There by not giving away any thing to the Chargers in case we have to play them again. But in reality I believe they were just out coached and out played by a team who had everything to lose and much to gain. As well as a team who has played extremely well in December with a lot of confidence.


  • December 15, 2010  - Marc says:

    Anyone think all the pads during training camp, and even now during the season is the reason that the Chiefs can’t tackle all of a sudden. The team is beat up and not built for the long haul.


  • December 15, 2010  - PAChiefsFan says:

    Excellent question Marc. The NFL is an extemely physical game and when you continue that physical pounding into the practice weeks between games even a well conditioned team is going to feel the effects.




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