May 14, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid walks on the field during organized team activities at the University of Kansas Hospital Training Complex. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Execution Is The Name Of The Game


As an Arrowhead Addict staff writer, finding new and interesting things to write about every week proves harder and harder during the offseason. Post draft and pre-training camp seems to be the most non-newsworthy time in the NFL. Luckily, I’m not above borrowing and expounding on ideas already posted by other Addict staffers.

If you checked out the site earlier this week, you saw an article by my fellow writer, Ladner Morse titled  “Chiefs 2013 Boils Down to Just One Word.” The executive summary of that article is that Mr. Morse surmises that the entire 2013 Kansas City Chiefs season will come down to one word: Protection. While I agree with Ladner that protection in all aspects of the game is extremely important, I think the actual key to success for the Chiefs this season is “execution.”

In working on this article, I thought about several angles to take on fleshing out my idea of “perfect football execution.” For this guy, it comes down opening drive touchdowns. Granted, a team has to execute throughout the entire game, all four quarters, every minute for 60 minutes (sometimes longer) and minimize mistakes to the greatest extent possible to have perfect execution. I get that. But having a opening drive, where the Chiefs receive the ball and then execute perfectly to march down the field and score a touchdown is just about the best thing ever.

Do you know when the last time the Chiefs scored an opening drive touchdown?

Actually, it was in the emotionally charged, Week 13 game against the Carolina Panthers, following the tragic murder/suicide of Kassandra Perkins, perpetrated by linebacker Jovan Belcher. If you don’t remember, in perhaps the best football performance by Brady Quinn, he led the Chiefs to their second and final win of last season after opening the game with a 74 drive that was capped off with a  two yard Peyton Hillis run for a touchdown. That hadn’t been accomplished by the Chiefs in 29 games. No, that’s not a typo. I’ll type it again so you know you read it right. 29 games. The last time the Chiefs scored an opening drive – in the regular season – was Week 16 of the 2010 season. As in, two seasons ago, as in execution has been non-existent in this organization for quite some time, as in there’s no time like the present.

The opening drive touchdown falls squarely on the shoulders of the offense, that much is certain. While I couldn’t find a stat to back up the theory that a team who scores a touchdown on their opening drive will ultimately win the game, the last two times the Chiefs have had opening drive scores for six, they won (actually, the last three times they did it they won if you count the preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals last season.)

The biggest aspect of the opening drive touchdown execution comes down to red zone efficiency. This obviously must continue throughout the game, however nothing is as deflating as driving down the field on that opening drive, only to stall inside the 20 yard line and having “Mr. Irrelevant 2010” trot onto the field and kick a field goal to send the broadcast into commercial with the tag line Chiefs – 3, Opposing Team – 0. How many times have the Chiefs done exactly this with Matt Cassel at the helm? Fear not Addicts, I think we’re in luck.

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has a career red zone quarterback rating (QBR) of 97.1. Since 2005, he has thrown 48 touchdowns when the play started between the opponent’s one and 19 yard line. Conversely, the man the Chiefs gave up two draft picks for has only turned the ball over three times during that same time period. Alex Smith has shown perfect execution in the red zone during his career. But, the quarterback doesn’t do it all himself.

The Chiefs’ undisputed number one receiver is the man known as Dwayne “The Show” Bowe. He has proclaimed he will lead the league in touchdowns and receptions this season, as well he should. I would be pretty upset if he told the media he was predicting a season of mediocrity for himself and his teammates. Looking at “The Show’s” stats over the years, it’s easy to see why the Madden video game franchise labels #82 as a “Red Zone Threat.” Since coming into the league in 2007, Bowe has pulled in 24 touchdowns inside the opponent’s 20 and added 30 first downs for good measure. While Bowe has been an inconsistent pass catcher at times and his execution has been called into question in the past, he has performed extremely well at the goal line.

The next piece of the Chiefs’ execution puzzle is the running game. Even though Jamaal Charles was snubbed by Pro Football Focus’ Top 101 players of 2012, I don’t see how you say #25 isn’t one of the top five running backs in the league. While Charles isn’t exactly an up the middle, bruising, goal line running backs, he’s managed to bang through eight red zone touchdowns in his short time with the Chiefs. I suspect that number will increase substantially this season with Charles catching passes out of the back field more than ever before in head coach Andy Reid’s offense.

The last piece, and perhaps the biggest question mark, is the tight end position. It seems Reid has taken an interest in more than one pass catching blocker this season with signing of unrestricted free agent Anthony Fasano and the drafting of rookie Travis Kelce in the third round of this year’s draft. Add incumbent tight end, Tony Moeaki into the mix and there is a very interesting combination of big bodied pass catchers for Alex Smith to choose from when the enemy’s backs are against their own endzone. Since coming into the league in 2006, Fasano has caught 18 balls for scores in the red zone. In fact, all five touchdowns the former Miami Dolphin caught last season were inside the 20 yard line. He could prove a viable weapon for Alex Smith to execute when the Chiefs look to end that opening drive with six instead of three.

After the first game of the preseason last year, hopes were high in the Chiefs’ Kingdom. The main reason for those high hopes was the opening drive touchdown pass from Matt Cassel to Peyton Hillis. However, until the Chiefs had another opening series touchdown several months later with a different quarterback under center, the execution that existed in that preseason game was non-existent with the Chiefs in 2012.

Hopes are starting to build again in the Sea of Red and those hopes rest mainly on this retooled, Andy Reid devised, Alex Smith led offense. If the hope is to stay high instead of fizzle out by Week 5, execution will be the name of the game at One Arrowhead Drive.

Until next time, Addicts.

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  • berttheclock

    Excellent point about the very important opening drive. However, two other times are critical and they remind me of college basketball. How a team finishes the first half and begins the second half is extremely important. One never wants to simply back out of the first half and, either give up points or fail to score. In addition, roaring out of the locker room for the second half sets the tone for the remainder of the game. So many fans concentrate only on the end of the game sequences, but, poor play in both that last part of the first half or a slow second half start can put a team into the dreaded “Hail Mary” end game time.

  • chiefdeorty

    Good read, I like how all you guys come up with stuff on the Chiefs. The name of this site is a good one because addicts do come and need to get their fix of the chiefs. Keep it coming! About the story I to agree with you and Ladner,Protection as well as execution is going to have to be there this year for us to compete for the AFC west title, which I don’t think is out of the question. The donkeys are going to be good but one of these days Peyton is going to start losing his stuff and just maybe our defense will help him along this year. If the team can start scoring on opening drives and put the pressure on the other team than that will create pressure which that was something that was a non factor last year. I have high hopes this year for the Chiefs which I do every year however there is something different about the season this year that I have not felt in quite awhile. I Like the players we have I do think for year one R&D have done a good job thus far bringing in some hungry guys to go along with the players that are left over that should be just as hungry and ready to have some redemption for last year. And one more thing we have now a QB that probably is the most ready to show his worth and has a hunger that is unmatched on the team and maybe the whole NFL! I hope so . GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jim Harper

    Right on target again, Jason. It is always an advantage if you can make your opponet play from behind with their first possession. We are going to see a whole new team this year. The players are as excited as we are, and that can be attributted to Reid. He is working them hard, but they are lovin it and responding in a positive manner. Alex Smith has taken on the leadership role immediately and his teammates are responding in kind. This offense is designed to give positive execution right away. Can’t wait! Go Chiefs!

  • Carlos Nevarez

    I remember the game v Carolina and how fun watching the Chiefs stay in the game the whole time,. Even when the *GASP* the other team scored a touchdown. As I’m sure I don’t have to tell you guys, there was nothing more disappointing than watching the team simply give up whenever we turned the ball over or missed field goal or whatever. It was interesting to see how the team could be when the were inspired, be it by tragedy, but still. They stayed in the game and didn’t just roll over. Brady Quinn had a good game but the team was so good already that he just kinda had to hold on for the ride. Now we have that same team, that’s playing with new found inspiration AND we have Alex Smith; how could you not be excited?

  • Carlos Nevarez

    It’s just too bad that it took a scumbag killing his gf for them to play inspired.

  • Darkwolf1414

    I know what you mean about the last opening “drive” to start the game was the Carolina game. However, the very next week against Cleveland, the Chiefs received the kickoff and it was a touchback. 1st offensive play of the game, Jamaal busts an 80 yarder for the TD. I was thinking, “Hell yeah, this is going to be a GREAT game!” Like I said, I’ll give you the Panthers game because technically the Browns game wasn’t a drive. It was Jamaal going BEAST! If you look at the yardage the Chiefs didn’t do horribly for the rest of the game but the scoring went pppphhhhhtttttt!