Chiefs vs. Chargers: Kansas City 's Game Plan Should Include the Wildcat

Christopher Hansen@ChrisHansenNFLNFL AnalystOctober 31, 2012

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 30: Jamaal Charles #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs crosses the goal line for a 37-yard touchdown ahead of Atari Bigby #26 of the San Diego Chargers during the game at Arrowhead Stadium on September 30, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs need a change. Maybe it’s a change in the front office or coaching staff as many have suggested, but such a move will have to wait because the Chiefs play on Thursday. The team already made one major change at quarterback, but the swap lasted less than a quarter before Brady Quinn got hurt and Matt Cassel returned.

A change that actually makes sense is one that deploys the Wildcat Offense. Yes, the offensive scheme that’s talked about too much and yet rarely used. Desperate times call for desperate measures and the Chiefs should be creative and take risks because this team has nothing to lose.

Why not use the speed and athleticism of Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster to try and generate more points? The Chiefs could even take Cassel off the field entirely and try to generate yards with only a creative running attack if they wanted.

The reality is there’s really not much the Chiefs can do except make a good game plan for the Chargers and go out there on Thursday night and compete. A good game plan is virtually impossible on offense with Cassel or Quinn under center. Believe me; I starred at my computer screen for several hours watching Kansas City’s passing game.

One thing is for sure, a good game plan doesn’t under and circumstances limit Charles to just eight touches. It doesn’t matter what the Chargers do, the Chiefs need to keep feeding Charles the ball. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like offensive coordinator Brian Daboll agrees with this approach, via Adam Teicher of the Kansas City Star:

You try to run or pass based some on what you think you can do and some on what they’re doing. If they’re doing a good job of stopping the run over and over, we’re going to try and move the ball in another fashion.  

A good game plan also doesn’t target Dwayne Bowe only six times or consist of Cassel throwing the ball 30 or more times. If the Chiefs are going to win, they need to give the San Diego Chargers a heavy diet of Charles and let Cassel throw the ball only when necessary.

The last thing the Chiefs need is to stick with what isn’t working. It’s doing the same things over and over that has gotten the Chiefs to this point. Stupid penalties, stupid play calling, stupid player usage and careless turnovers aren’t going to magically stop while continuing down the same path.

The Chargers could bring 11 defenders into the box if the Chiefs get creative, but that’s hardly any different than what is happening now. The Chiefs won their only game on the back of Charles and were competitive in the others when he was heavily used. It’s important to put the ball in his hands and let him make plays.

Even better, the Chiefs have Peyton Hillis who could be a dynamic third-option in the wildcat like he was at Arkansas. Daboll surely knows how to use the Wildcat because he was the offensive coordinator under Tony Sparano in Miami last season.  The pieces fit and the only thing stopping the Chiefs from getting creative is the Chiefs.

It’s also been a while since the Wildcat Offense has been prominent in the NFL and what better time to unveil it on Thursday Night Football?


Wildcat Jet Sweep

The Chiefs running backs are much faster than Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams were when they ran the Wildcat successfully in Miami, which makes it that much more dynamic. The Jet Sweep is a play in which the running back comes in motion and takes the handoff going full speed around the edge. The defense would have little to no time to hesitate if the ball was given to McCluster on this play.

The defense also has to account for Charles, who is extremely dangerous with the ball in his hands. The Chargers are already well aware of his ability to turn nothing into something when he turned a five-yard loss into a 37-yard touchdown.  

Wildcat Counter

It’s hard enough to slow down Charles when the defense knows they are going to run the ball. In Week 5, Charles carried the ball 31 times for 140 yards. The Chiefs ran the ball 53 times and passed just 17 times. Charles still averaged 4.5 yards per carry against a pretty good front seven in Baltimore.

The Wildcat Counter play would have Charles running in the opposite direction of McCluster. It’s like pulling a defense in two different directions and forcing them to make tackles and the two dynamic play makers in open space.

Wildcat Power

Of course, defense will adjust and load up the outside in order to slow down McCluster and Charles. That’s when you can use the Wildcat Power play. Instead of handing the ball off to McCluster, Charles would keep it himself and follow his pulling guard up the middle and through the heart of the defense.


Wildcat Play Action Pass

Of course, a passing threat keeps the defense honest. This isn’t a play you want to run a lot, but it might be good to dial it up to try and take advantage of the defense that is no longer respecting the pass. In this case, the running back would toss it to Tony Moeaki, who should theoretically be wide open.

Wildcat Jet Sweep Quarterback Pass

In your typical Wildcat the quarterback is lined up as wide receiver. The threat of a pass keeps the defense from selling out to stop the run and this play could actually be used more than once per game.

Cassel would take a toss from McCluster and either throw it back to McCluster in the flat or launch it deep to Bowe. There could be variations that give Cassel other passing options as well. What’s also nice about this is that the reads are simplified for the quarterback and he’s only considering a couple options.

Wildcat Using Hillis

There are several variations of what has become known as the Wildcat. Some of those variations involve players other than the two running backs. Hillis is familiar with these plays because he played in a Wildcat Offense in college with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. His offensive coordinator at the time, David Lee, was credited with bringing the Wildcat to the NFL.

There’s really very little difference between a handoff from Cassel to Hillis and one from Charles to Hillis. There is however an element of surprise when Charles hands to ball off to Hillis instead of keeping it himself or giving it to McCluster. A good example is at 7:31 in the above video.

In 2007, Hillis averaged 5.7 yards per carry at Arkansas, which was the same as McFadden and he also led the team in receptions. If the Chiefs want to get risky, they can even have Charles toss it to Hillis like McFadden did in college (7:55 in the video).

Give It a Chance

The Wildcat is not a gimmick and as such the Chiefs need to give it a chance to be successful. That doesn’t mean the Chiefs have to run every play from the Wildcat, but it needs to be a big part of the offense to really be successful. Just like any offense, some plays set up other plays.

When the Chiefs do go back to the traditional offense, it’s important to continue to running the ball so the defense doesn’t get tipped off simply by formation.

It’s a long shot. The Chiefs probably won’t do anything different than they have been doing, but if the coaching staff wants any chance of saving their jobs then they should at least consider the Wildcat or similar offense that puts takes the pressure off Cassel and puts it on Charles.


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