Breaking Down the Staples of the Kansas City Chiefs' Running Attack
While the Kansas City Chiefs are a predominantly pass-heavy team, as proponents of the misnamed West Coast offense often are, the run game plays a vital role in keeping their opponents' defenses from keying in on starting quarterback Alex Smith
Kansas City passes 55 percent of the time, a number that jumps to 61 percent if you remove all of the rushing attempts by the quarterback position.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has always leaned heavily toward the pass in his play-calling, even throwing on 75 percent of the offense's snaps at times.
Given the Chiefs' dearth of weapons in the receiving corps and their struggles with the vertical passing game, continuing a pass-heavy approach may be unsustainable for the Chiefs as the season wears on.
Kansas City has made excellent use of compression formations to give itself more room horizontally to the wide side of the field, but as defenses begin to bring safeties closer to the box, daring the Chiefs to beat them over the top, even that space begins to disintegrate.
Fortunately for the Chiefs, they have a Pro Bowl running back waiting to shoulder some of the load in Jamaal Charles.
Charles, who has spent several seasons criminally under-utilized by Brian Daboll and Todd Haley, has plenty of speed to beat defenses to the edge and surprising power for his size.
Reid has favored concepts in the run game over the years, specifically with zone running. Reid loves to run both inside and outside zone runs, as well as the stretch play.
All three types of runs are geared toward running backs with speed and great vision, as the running back will be reading the blocks of the offensive linemen to find his cutback lane.
I created the diagram below for an easier visualization of where the running back keys his cut on each of the plays.
In traditional zone blocking, there are usually two double-teams focusing on defensive linemen—one on the weak side of the play and one on the strong.
Depending on the flow of the play, either the inside or outside blocker on the double-team will try to work his way to the flowing linebacker at the next level. This concept presents cutback lanes for the running back to take advantage of.
An excellent breakdown of proper blocking from the offensive line can be found here.
However, I disagree with the contention from the narrator that the play in the video "shouldn't have been called." The quarterback simply should have motioned the tight end to the play side when he noticed the defensive end had outside leverage.
For Reid, the formation has traditionally dictated the play.
In a two-back set, as shown in the diagram, Reid tends to favor running the stretch play to the strong side of the formation to take advantage of the extra blocker—the tight end. This gives the running back the possibility of an additional cutback lane.
When opting for an inside zone run, however, Reid has heavily favored running it to the weak side of the play (the left side of the play diagrammed above or the side of the formation opposite the tight end).
As the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, this was a play Reid liked to run once LeSean McCoy was drafted.
When Reid-led offenses line up in single-back sets, they traditionally feature the stretch run (both to the strong and weak side of the play) and the draw. When Reid was coaching the Eagles, they would often set up bootleg and waggle play-action passes from single-back sets with the weak-side stretch.
The Eagles would run the stretch to the weak side two or three times from the same formation, typically on second down with five to eight yards to go. Then, in the third or fourth instance, the quarterback would fake the handoff and bootleg back to the strong side of the formation.
At this point, the slot and strong-side outside receivers would run deep crosses, the tight end would run a mid out or a sail route, and the weak-side outside receiver would run a shallow dig.
As you can see from the diagram, the play is set to roll to the strong side. The primary routes are colored in red. If the sail and the dig are covered, the quarterback looks for a cross to see if the defender(s) was picked by the route, freeing up a receiver deep.
If nothing is open, the quarterback simply takes off for available yardage or throws the football away.
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