Numbers Game: Chiefs vs. Chargers

So the Chiefs are 0-3 – and a solid 0-3 at that. Todd Haley’s famous “first quarter” of the season is a failure. So what’s to look forward to?

Well, the game at San Diego is more of what everyone expected of the Chiefs this season. We’ll look at the usual statistics in a short while. But the two biggest improvements in the game were the turnover ratio and field position. For the first time this season, the Chiefs won both of those battles.

In the opening games against Buffalo and Detroit, Chiefs opponents (on average) had to make two fewer first downs to get into scoring range than the Chiefs did. The Chiefs won the field-position war against the Chargers – or at the very least held their own. That is thanks to a couple of big returns on interceptions and a successful punt return.

The Chiefs started their scoring drives on their 35-yard line on average (if they had converted a score following Kendrick Lewis’ interception return the number would have been significantly better.) The Chargers, on the other hand, had to drive nearly 80 yards each time they scored a field goal or touchdown on average.

Broken down another way, the Chiefs gained 357 yards in field position to the Chargers 277 yards. Unlike the first two games, the Chiefs did not give up possession of the ball in their own territory. What it means is that the Chiefs offense went just 65 yards per scoring drive on average. The Chargers had to go 78. When the offense is as anemic as the Chiefs have been (including the opening half Sunday), every yard is important.

That is in contrast to the Bills’ 602 yards in field position to the Chiefs 255 in the opener, and the Lions’ 582 yards to the Chiefs 300 in the second week.

That brings us to the turnover ratio. Field position is frequently the product of shoddy special teams. In the first two games it was a product of shoddy offense (fumbles and interceptions). The Chiefs – though they are down minus-6 for the season, they were plus-1 for the game against the Chargers.

FIELD POSITION CHART

Game

Chiefs Average

Scoring Drives

Opp. Average

Scoring Drives

Buffalo

K-20

K-21

B-43

K-43

Detroit

K-22

K-20

D-42

K-45

San Diego

K-36

K-35

SD-28

SD-22

CHIEFS OFFENSE

Abysmal in the first half, acceptable in the second; there is no way to put a dress on the pig that the Chiefs offense was in the first half. You’re familiar with the numbers: no first downs, no play gained more than 4 yards and despite getting the ball at the San Diego 20 on one occasion and their own 43 on another, no points.

The second half the Chiefs offense gained 218 yards in 34 plays, an average of 6.4 yards per play. The Chiefs had the ball four times, scored three of those possessions. The fourth ended in an interception with less than two minutes remaining in the game and the Chiefs inside San Diego territory.

However, I discovered the discrepancy of gut reaction vs. analysis. I came away from the broadcast with the impression that Dexter McCluster might be a suitable replacement for Jamaal Charles. Not from the numbers. McCluster carried the ball nine times for 45 yards. While that’s an average of 5 yards per carry, six of the carries were for 3 yards or less. Factor in his receptions – none of which was longer than 4 yards – and you have a guy long on potential and at least this Sunday not long on production.

So far, there isn’t an obvious answer to how the Chiefs will run the ball. Thomas Jones had the most runs of 4 or more yards. He is clearly the most consistent runner, but he’s certainly not a home-run threat.

The Runners

vs. San Diego

4 or more

3 or less

Big runs

Winning plays

McCluster (9-45)

3

6

2

3 of 9

Battle (1 for 2)

0

1

0

0 of 2

Jones (14 for 31)

5

9

0

5 of 14

McClain (2 for 2)

0

2

0

0 of 2

Team (27 for 81)

8

18

2

8 of 26

*-Matt Cassel had one scramble for 1 yard. 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

3

6 of 12

McCluster (21 for 138)

11

10

6

11 of 21

Battle (5 for 15)

1

4

0

1 of 5

Jones (28 for 74)

10

18

1

10 of 28

McClain (6 for 17)

1

5

1

1 of 6

Team

30

43

12*

29 of 73

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

The Passing Game

Yes, the interception killed the Chiefs’ final chance. So berate Matt Cassel all you like. But his play against the Chargers was a massive improvement over the previous two games this season.

His second-half statistics, 11 completions in 17 attempts for 158 yards is a 9.29-yard average per attempt – just more than the 7.5- to 9-yard average he needs to start getting on a consistent basis. An interesting (though meaningless) comparison is to look at where Cassel was a year ago after three games compared to where he is this year after three games.

The only category any of the Chiefs receivers lead the NFL in after three weeks is dropped passes. Dwayne Bowe has the honors for the dubious distinction with four, tied with Brandon Marshall of Miami and Roddy White of Atlanta. But there was a promising development with Steve Breaston catching the long ball. If he can provide a little relief as a deep threat, Bowe will be even more effective. McCluster, though, did not have a catch of more than 4 yards in the game – an abysmal number for a breakaway threat.

Passing

Total

Less than 7

7-10 yards

10-plus

Avg/Att

@ S.D.

17-24-176-2TD-1INT

10

2

5

7.06*

Season

54-72-428-3TD-5INT

32

6

16

5.49*

* Includes sacks and scrambles

Cassel after 3 Games in 2010

Passing Total

Less than 7

7-10 yards

10-plus

Avg/Att

2010 after 3 games 58-106-650

24**

7

27

6.13*

*-Includes one spike (two for season). **-Includes three short-yardage first down or touchdown passes.

The Receivers

@ San Diego

Target

Catches

Yards

Big plays

Bowe

6

4

67

3

McCluster

6

5

17

0

Pope

3

3

32

0

Breaston

6

3

55

1

Battle

1

1

3

0

Jones

1

1

2

0

Colbert

1

0

0

0

Totals

24

17

176

4

Season

Target

Catches

Yards

Big plays

Bowe

22

11

185

8

McCluster

16

14

40

1

Pope

12

8

65

2

Charles

6

5

9

0

Urban

5

1

6

0

Breaston

10

6

88

2

Colbert

4

2

8

0

McClain

2

2

12

1

O’Connell

1

1

15

1

Battle

2

2

2

0

Cassel

1

1

-4

0

Jones

1

1

2

0

Copper

1

0

0

0

Totals

83

54

428

15

DEFENSE

The defense, despite a pair of key interceptions and allowing only 20 points, was only marginally better against the Chargers than in the first two games. It played with a long field. In the first half, it allowed the Chargers to control the ball on drives of 10, 15 and 13 plays.

The run defense gave up 117 yards rushing, successful on just 16 of 30 running plays for the Chargers. Just 14 successes if you discount the two kneel-downs at the end of the game. Playing without Eric Berry and early injuries to backup John McGraw and cornerback Brandon Flowers, the Chargers gashed them for 12 plays of 10 or more yards. That’s perhaps not surprising given Philip Rivers’ tendency to throw the ball downfield.

They did harass Rivers, sacking him twice. But again my gut reaction from the broadcast that the Chiefs were pressuring Rivers, the actual numbers show only three quarterback pressures after having 10 in the first two games.

Rushing

Runs/Yds

3-less

4-plus

Big play

Def. Succ.*

Avg.

San Diego

30-117

16

14

2

14

3.9

Season

99-369

59

40

8

54

3.8

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

Passing

Total

Less than 7

7-10 yards

10-plus

Avg/Att

San Diego

24-38-266-0-2

7

5

12

6.65

Season

65-93-796-8-3

20

14

31

8.21

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
San Diego 17-60 3.8* 11-68 6.18

* Does not count kneel-down at end of game.

Sacks by Down

Game

First

Second

Third

Total

Passing situation*

San Diego

1

1

0

2

1

Season

1

1

1

3

2

*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.


3 Responses to “Numbers Game: Chiefs vs. Chargers”

  • September 27, 2011  - Michael says:

    Bob, so right you. This was a huge improvement from the first two games considering all the adversity. Especially with Cassel.

    So, here is to all you Cassel hat’n mouth breathers out there; “…raspberry!!!!!” He did exactly what he had, and was told to do, to win that game. In the first half they (Muir, Haley, Zorn, whomever) told him to dump pass and hand off. In the second half (same) said let it fly man, and he did. With the exception of the over throw and the INT (epic fail), he had a much better game than rivers. And speaking of the INT, all of you want to run him out of town because of it. Well he who is without sin may cast the first stone. It’s so easy to bash and bad mouth from your arm chair. Just except the fact he is our QB and your life will be much better.

    BTW; nfl rewind is very inexpensive, I suggest signing up and re-watching the game. Might help with the anxiety and hatred.

    Can’t say enough about the defense. A sniper was in the stands pick’n off players left and right, and still held SD to twenty. STUDS!! Keep up the good stuff guys.

    GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  • September 28, 2011  - Michael says:

    Pardon, Kent.


  • September 29, 2011  - Kent Pulliam says:

    No worries, Michael.




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