Winning By Winning First Down

From Arrowhead Stadium

“I really felt like first down was going to be a critical down for us.”

Those were the words of Todd Haley after the Chiefs 31-10 victory over San Francisco on Sunday.

In fact, it was among his first words to the media horde after the game; that’s how much importance the Chiefs head coach saw in first down.

“Some of the other sexier downs get a little more talk and some of the other areas of the field get a little more talk,” Haley said. “But I think if you’re playing a team like San Francisco, who has been one of the top teams in the league on first down through two games on both sides of the ball that became a critical down for us.

“I feel across the board, both offensively and defensively that the guys understood that.”

Coming into the game, the Chiefs offense was ranked No. 30 in 1st down offensive efficiency, that’s the number of first down plays that gained four yards or more. The 49ers defense was ranked No. 8 in the league. Flipping it around, the Chiefs defense was ranked No. 17 while the San Francisco offense was No. 4, behind only Houston, Indianapolis and New England.

So first down was a big down for the Niners on both offense and defense and not so hot for the Chiefs over the season’s first two weeks.

On Sunday at Arrowhead, here’s how the numbers broke down:




1st Rushing


1st Passing

Total 1st


Total 1st



+4 Yards

CHIEFS 17 for 117 11 for 75




San Francisco 7 for 23 15 for 53




“First down was real critical for us,” said Haley. “We had to be physical, which we were. I think it’s clear you can see this team likes to run and hit across the board. They don’t mind getting in to it a little bit from a physical standpoint. That’s the way it’s got to be. Our guys understand it and they’re willing to go out there and slug it out a little bit, which worked to our benefit today.”

Said QB Matt Cassel: “It was a big point of emphasis to produce on first down. Especially, against this team that is pretty stout against the run and the play-action pass. We wanted to get off to a good start on every possession. Throughout the game we did a pretty good job of that.”

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