Working The RBs … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs

The ball left Matt Cassel’s hand and was headed in his direction. Le’Ron McClain knew it was going to arrive in half-a-second and knew he needed to adjust his body to get in position to catch the ball.

As he turned, the ball arrived in his hands. At the same moment, the right shoulder of San Diego S Steve Gregory arrived in McClain’s chest.

“I turned, had the ball and he hit me,” McClain said of the play that went down during Monday night’s game at Arrowhead Stadium. “It all happened in a snap of the fingers. When I turned, I saw him out of the corner of my eye, so I knew I was going to get hit.

“Coach always says, if you know you are going to get hit, go ahead and hold on to the football so at least you can get something out of the play,” McClain added with a laugh. It was one of the bigger plays of the evening for the Chiefs offense.

The throw to McClain gained 14 yards and Gregory was penalized 15 yards for hitting a defenseless player. McClain disagreed with the penalty, saying the hit was neither wrong nor illegal. “No big deal,” he said. “I thought it was a good play.”

Those 29 yards moved the ball into San Diego territory. On the next play, Cassel connected with WR Jonathan Baldwin in the end zone for the Chiefs first touchdown of the evening.

“His (McClain) catch was one of the key plays of the game,” said head coach Todd Haley. “It was a tough catch for him and he knew he was going to get smacked.

“It’s one of the reasons I’m excited about that group of backs.”

When Jamaal Charles went down for the season with a torn ACL in the first quarter of the Chiefs game in Detroit on September 19, the Chiefs offense and particularly its running game was in tatters. An offense does not lose one of the best running backs in the NFL without negative ramifications.

Since that day, offensive coordinator Bill Muir and Haley have been piecing together the offense on the run. The bye week gave them a chance to take a closer look, but now that the games come fast and furious they are again pulling together a game plan each week.

“I think we are evolving, we are getting better,” Haley said of the offense, and specifically the running game. “I’m excited about that group. I feel like we’ve done a lot of things real well. We’ve done some other things not so well. I know there is room for growth and improvement. If I felt like we were maxing out right now, I wouldn’t be excited. I feel like we have a chance to continue to get better in a number of different areas in the run game.”

Thomas Jones, Dexter McCluster and now Jackie Battle all have led the running game to varying degrees of success. First it was Jones, who in the four games after Charles’ injury ran 47 times for 163 yards. At the same time, McCluster got increased opportunities in games two, three and four, with 24 carries for 122 yards.

Battle has really taken charge, starting with the fifth game of the year in Indianapolis and has 54 carries for 265 yards since then. On the season, the Chiefs rank No. 9 in rushing yards averaging 124.3 yards per game.

Here’s a breakdown of the NFL teams that have at least three running backs that have gained 100+ yards. The list does not include teams where a quarterback has run for 100 yards or more.















New Orleans





P. Thomas














D. Carter













T. Jones




New England























K. Williams













One aspect for the running backs that all but disappeared from the Chiefs offense because of Charles’ injury has been backs catching passes. Jones-McCluster-Battle have a total of 35 catches for 159 yards. Their best receiving yardage game did not come until Monday night, when McClain and McCluster caught five passes for 45 yards, including that 14-yard catch by McClain and a 13-yarder in overtime by McCluster.

Expect to see more attention on throwing passes to the backs in coming weeks.

“It’s part of something we are continually trying to develop,” said Haley. “It’s a difficult issue from an offensive standpoint from protecting, run fakes, tying the backs in there the best way they can help you (with pass protection.)

“I never feel like we are throwing the ball to the backs enough. It’s easy to fall into the trap of let’s keep those guys in and protect, protect, protect. I think the backs can be a dangerous weapon. You can see it from this team we are going to play (Miami) in Reggie Bush and (Daniel) Thomas.

“I’m excited about how the entire running back-fullback group has seized the challenge,” Haley said.

7 Responses to “Working The RBs … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • November 3, 2011  - KC_Guy says:

    That lack of RB production in the passing game has a name: Dexter McCluster. How many screens to him ended up with negative yardage? I think getting him the ball in space was a prime idea of moving him to RB full time – so far it didn’t work out at all.
    Battle and Jones are not the type of RB you want to throw to a bunch – I think those two are better running between the tackles, wearing down the offense over the length of a game. I’m actually amazed bay how many yards Battle has been churning out by just moving the pile for a yard or two after the hit and only then falling forward.

  • November 3, 2011  - bhive01 says:

    @KC_Guy, You could really see the lack of production on the plays that went to DMC in this game. They stuck out like sore thumbs and something clearly needs to change. DMC _is_ really great in space, but if he can’t get going vertical we usually end up losing yards. I think he is a great asset and I understand why they’re trying so hard to work him in, but so far they don’t seem to have found out how to use him effectively.

    McClain appears to have some pretty good hands and I’d love to see him and Battle get the ball through the air some more since we don’t seem to be able to get the running game going like we used to. Perhaps that will come with time? Miami would be a good team to try some new things if we can get up on them by a few scores.

    Just gotta beware of the trap game though…

  • November 3, 2011  - Carl says:

    Don’t take a win over Miami for granted. We are coming off two tough emotional games and a short week, while Miami has played some good teams close. Careful of an upset.

  • November 3, 2011  - ED J says:

    Totally disagree with you guys assessment on Dexter. Bottom line is we’re not using him properly and when we do we’re not excuting well. On screen plays we’re not selling the screen well enough he’s getting stuffed because defense are sniffing it out and swarming him no back is going be successful in that situation. Then Muir has to do better job of getting him out on more wheel rights and little dump offs across the middle much like he did in overtime. We need have 60 min game plan for him with little plays like that.

    One last thing teams are keying in on him we need also learn how to use him as a decoy at times to open those receivers up down the field.

  • November 3, 2011  - aPauled says:

    Scared the crap out of me when Dex was swinging the ball all over as he was spinning around in OT. I would like to see more plays for him…but from about our own 40 in. His style just provides too big of a risk for a turnover.

    Thomas Jones…he of the 3 yard avg (generous)…came into the game to block several times against SD. About all we can expect from him. But that’s fine, so much we can do with Battle then changing up with Dex or McClain in situations.

    Seems to me that we are running much better to the left than to the right. B-Rich the roadgrader of 2010 just doesn’t seem to be getting it done consistently in 2011.

  • November 3, 2011  - johnfromfairfax says:

    ED J makes good points. You can see the lack of production in the screen passes because the defense isn’t fooled. We were much more effective getting the ball to him when he was beyond the line of scrimmage and moving forward already. The flip side to that is that he has to not dance around and give up yards when he’s surrounded and turn it up and get positive yards when he can. One of the reasons Battle is becoming so effective is because he’s a north/south runner and cuts up quickly and does a decent job of shedding first tacklers and is always moving forward and falls toward positive yardage. The addition of Baldwin shouldn’t be underestimated in the total offensive equation. If this group can stay healthy it should only help us as the season goes along.

  • November 3, 2011  - Gerardo says:

    I really don’t see how is that the team having all that tape can’t see what we the fans do see. McCluster needs more of those short passes, Battle and Jones can handle the runs, short yardage Jones, most playing time form Battle. And what was that in the SD game? not mixing backs between quarters? sure gives some rythm but also bruces and wear doesn’t it?

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