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.