Situations Add Up … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs

As the clock ticks down to Thursday’s start of the 2011 NFL regular season, we are left to wonder how things may be different in what we see on the field due to the unusual circumstances of the most recent off-season.

The owners’ lockout left the league in a lurch and there has been just six weeks since the doors were opened and the players and coaches could work together again.

“It’s the same for everyone in the league,” said New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan this week to the New York media. “But it’s going to turn out different for every team.”

The major factors in victory or defeat are not going to change, because they are so engrained in the fiber of the game. Field position, ball possession, limited mental mistakes , defense, the running game … those will remain the major elements in deciding a winner, and that’s not going to change no matter a lockout, strike or any other labor action that can be thrown in front of the players and coaches.

While the playing field with what happened in the lockout remains the same for all 32 teams, as Ryan said, the aftermath will not work out evenly. Todd Haley thinks it will be the teams that handle the game’s special situations that will have an advantage over teams that may not have been able to spend as much time on situational football because of the lockout.

“Situational football is always important, but I think there’ll be even a greater premium on it (this year),” Haley said. “I’m talking about third down, red-zone area, two-minute situational football, they will have a huge impact. And I think the teams that are able to be smart and handle those situations will have a chance to succeed.”

Even with less time together, Haley has spent a lot of time with the Chiefs working on special situations. The segments always involved down-and-distance, time left in the game, timeouts remaining, field position and the score of the game.

The mental side of the game has always been on the top of Haley’s “to-do” list. The problem in the 2011 pre-season has been that his players have not gotten the message. There were some embarrassing bone head decisions, plays and moments. The biggest came when a veteran QB like Matt Cassel attempted to call back-to-back timeouts when the rules do not allow that to happen, is an indication that some things apparently slipped through the cracks.

Offensively, the pre-season Chiefs were awful in execution and performance – not a good indication that they are ready to succeed in situational football. Here’s a breakdown on some of the key stats that provide an indication of being mentally into the game.

THIRD-DOWN OFFENSE

  • 2011 Pre-season: converted 17 of 60 third-down plays or 28.3 percent. That left them ranked No. 26 in the league.
  • 2010 Regular season: converted 82 of 210 third-down plays or 30 percent. They were 20th in the league.

This was not an area of great production last year and it was just as bad in this pre-season. Success on third down is almost always tied to how many yards an offense must move to reach a first down. A lock of success on first or second downs can make it difficult to convert a 3rd-and-8 or more.

Even in short-yardage rushing situations on third down, the Chiefs were not very good last year. They led the league in rushing but they were not anywhere near the top of the league on third and short rushing situations.

SCORING ZONE

  • 2011 Pre-season: they had 8 possessions inside the opponents’ 20-yard line and they scored a total of 33 points. There were 3 touchdowns and 4 field goals. That was offensive scores on 7 of 8 possessions or 87.5 percent. That was ranked tied for 27th in the league.
  • 2010 Regular season: they had 52 possessions inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, and they scored a total of 252 points. There were 31 touchdowns and 12 field goals. That was offensive scores on 43 of 52 possessions or 82.7 percent. That was No. 22 in the league.

The best offenses in the league last year averaged somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 to 98 percent scores on their red zone chances. The best offenses score a touchdown on two out of every three opportunities inside the 20-yard line.

The Chiefs haven’t produced like that in the red zone. If Haley’s correct about the situational plays taking on an even greater significance this season, then his offense has a problem. Cassel completed only 54 percent of his third down throws last year. Among receivers, WR Dwayne Bowe was tied for 9th in third down catching, with 25 receptions for an average of 16.8 yards per catch and 5 touchdowns.

GOAL-TO-GO

  • 2011 Pre-season: the Chiefs only had seven plays inside the opponents’ 10-yard line. QBs were 1 of 6 passing, for a total of nine yards. They also gave back 10 yards on a holding penalty on a play from the 7-yard line. They did not score any points in a goal-to-go situation. They were ranked 31st in the league.
  • 2010 Regular season: There were 28 situations, with 24 scores and 21 touchdowns. They lost the ball twice on downs and twice on turnovers.

If there’s one situational area the Chiefs need to turnaround it’s when the ball gets closer and closer to the goal line. For a team that runs as successfully as Haley’s offense did last year, the lack of production in that area comes down to poor execution.

GIVEAWAYS

  • 2011 Pre-season: in four games they fumbled the ball away 5 times and threw 3 interceptions, for a total of 8 giveaways. That was 8 giveaways in 264 offensive plays or one every 33 plays.
  • 2010 Regular season: they had only 14 giveaways last season in 16 games. They lost the ball six times on fumbles and threw eight interceptions. That was 14 giveaways in 1,063 offensive plays, or one every 76 plays.

As Haley frequently states, the Chiefs are not talented enough to overcome their own mistakes, and turnovers are largely mental screw-ups. It comes down to not protecting the football properly, or making bad decisions on throws. It’s poor execution and a lack of concentration.

There’s no debating the effect on the game’s outcome. In last year’s 16 regular season games, one post-season game and 4 games in the ’11 pre-season, the Chiefs are now 10-11. In the 10 victories they are plus-8 on the turnover ratio. In those 11 defeats, they are minus-4. Last year the Chiefs did not win a game where they finished on the negative side of the turnover ratio compared to the opponent.

PENALTIES

  • 2011 Pre-season: 30 penalties, 23 accepted for 197 yards. There was 146 yards nullified by penalties. Nearly half of that total was offensive holding penalties.
  • 2010 Regular Season: 90 penalties accepted for 771 yards. That was tied for the 18th most penalties walked off against a team.

The effect of penalties can vary. A team can rack up seven or eight flags, and they won’t have any effect on the game. But they can have one or two key penalties and it helps decide the outcome. In the pre-season, the Chiefs specialized in big penalties that killed opportunities and possessions, giving back those 146 yards and a touchdown.

“I think if you can be real efficient in those areas with your entire squad, with everybody being on the same page, then I think it may be just a little more advantage than it generally is, and it always is a great advantage,” Haley said. “That’s why we practice it. That’s why we work so hard. You always see us with situation periods, but even just the baseline situational football, third down, red, two-minute I think will be even a little more critical.”

If that’s the case, then the Chiefs are going to need to practice more and more and more, because there is a disconnect between the emphasis, the work and the performance in situational play.


9 Responses to “Situations Add Up … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • September 7, 2011  - Dave71 says:

    Jags release David Garrard-we are way under the cap & definetely should consider signing this guy-would instantly make our team better.


  • September 7, 2011  - Michael says:

    Dave71, it’s not about the money it’s about the people. P/H are looking for the “right 53″, which is a particular player profile (excluding baldwin obviously). Don’t expect them to blindly throw cap dollars at the first waver wire wanabe that’s out there.

    Bob, great article. Really puts a target on the areas of need. And, I can just hear all the boo-hooers commenting, “…Bob why are you so negative, do you really hate the Chiefs”. Well sweeping the contents above under the carpet will not fix it, neither will placating grown men being payed millions of dollars to play a sport.

    The lockout killed all the momentum the Chiefs had built up from last year. Combine this with the loss of conditioning time and player turn-over, chemistry will take a while. I just hope that it’s well before the bye week and not after.

    GO CHIEFS!


  • September 7, 2011  - Tenand6 says:

    GREAT information. The third down conversions, scoring zone and goal-to-go reflect on Cassel’s development. If those improve with Zorn on the staff, I’d say that becomes the best off season move.

    Good stuff, Bob.


  • September 7, 2011  - el cid says:

    Garrard is not the right guy, forget right 53. He is on the slide, bad back and about as accurate as Cassel. He just does not fit the direction the Chiefs offense is going.

    That said, can we let the “right 53″ die a natural death. Baldwin and Houston do not fit into the high character of Pioli’s supposed plan. He took a chance of their ability and Haley’s ability to control/break down players. Good for him. At some point in time, if you want to play with the big boys, you need talent, not necessarily a team of boy scouts (not a bad thing but does not seem to win a lot of superbowls).

    Hope Zorn works out, so far Haley has not been about to work with OC with any type of independant thought. Maybe Haley’s major flaw and eventual downfall.


  • September 7, 2011  - aPauled says:

    Last year many situations were played “in the box” because the Chiefs had little down-the-field or side-to-side ability which made success difficult even with perfect exectution.

    The additions of McClain, Breaston, and Baldwin give the Chiefs more tools in “situations”. McClain is a threat to run in addition to being a powerful blocker. Breaston can stretch the field. Baldwin can stretch the field as well as go over the top of defenders…once he is healthy. McCluster is healthy and seems to have several packages. Losing Moeaki is a setback.

    The Chiefs should be better prepared to succeed in “situations”…now that Exectution….


  • September 7, 2011  - jim says:

    The special situations spoken of are particularly difficult to get right when you have a talented but relatively inexperienced group of players. Those special situations are handled when you have the majority of your players in the system for 3 years or more.(read: Green Bay, Pittsburg, etc.) We’re not there yet, along with not being there with quality depth. Gettin there, but not quite yet.

    You would have liked to have had a succesful dress reheral prior to next Sunday, but it looks like that didn’t happen. We’ll probably be just as surprised as many of the coaches and players, and that’s sad.


  • September 7, 2011  - Rick says:

    .
    Um, Bob, didn’t the players union decertify and walk away from the negotiating table before the owners launched the lockout? Didn’t the players walk away from a deal very similar to the one they signed months later?

    Oh, and Garrard is not the answer. He isn’t very good and he knows nada about our system. Pass.


  • September 7, 2011  - Dave71 says:

    Gee, sorry for the Garrard comment. I guess I didn’t realize that TYLER PALKO would be a better backup to Cassel than an established, proven NFL starting QB. Glad you guys have such confidence in Palko.


  • September 7, 2011  - el cid says:

    You should be talking to Pioli or Haley. We can have opinions and they are worthless, just fun. Spend money, the Chiefs? Create a QB controversy for Pioli’s personal sellection at QB? Lastly, something few of us consider, why in the devil would Garrard want any part of KC? There is SEA, CIN, and SF all who need a STARTING QB, why would he waste time on KC?




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