2013 Chiefs DVOA Analysis: Week 11

AA - Double Take


Week 11 proved to be disappointing for the 2013 edition of the Kansas City Chiefs. The question is, was Sunday’s game against the Broncos just an example of the Chiefs not playing up to their full potential or did it perhaps reveal some inconvenient truths about this team? I suppose arguments can be made both ways but before we undertake such a debate, some sort of unbiased form of measurement is always useful in characterizing the Chiefs strengths and weaknesses . That’s exactly what we do here, using Football Outsider’s weekly statistical analyses.

As the chart below suggests, the Chiefs are, generally speaking, playing well in the team sense, but in more cases than not, flawed on Offense both as a unit and at the individual player level. Looking at the individual team units, we see that, relative to the rest of league, the Defense and Special Teams are pretty efficient while the Offense is performing below average. These rankings in fact represent a consistent theme for the Chiefs all season long; they have yet to show signs of significant improvement in any area and, if anything, are showing signs of deterioration in what had previously been major areas of strength. This notion of stagnancy is further confirmed by the Chiefs #2 Variance ranking, which is just another way of saying they are a team that does not change much from week to week.

DVOA 11 - 2013 Table A

Looking at the  next chart, we get further confirmation that, outside of our two Tight Ends, nobody on offense is doing anything of any real significance to make this offense really go. Even Jamaal Charles’ effectiveness comes off looking pretty pedestrian when one considers that his OL is ranked 2nd in run blocking efficiency. Can any team expect prolonged success when both their Quarterback and all their Wide Receivers perform well below average compared to their league peers? Considering that modern NFL rules are designed to be pass friendly, it is hard to see how.

DVOA 11 - 2013 Table B

If you were to guess where this team’s weakest link is, when considering both the rush and pass, you would probably say it is our Pass Offense and that would be wrong. The Chiefs weakest point is in fact Rush Defense which is 24th in the league in DVOA. Surprised? The Chiefs Rush and Pass category rankings are as follows:

  • 19th ranked Pass Offense
  • 8th ranked Rush Offense
  • 3rd ranked Pass Defense
  • 24th ranked Rush Defense

Because the NFL favors the pass so much, I am not overly concerned that the Chiefs are not among the best run defenders so long as they have a strong pass defense, which they do. Still, if you struggle to stop the run, especially late in the season, it increases the likelihood that you are going to lose some otherwise winnable games and I just don’t believe the Chiefs have a whole lot of wiggle room in the Win Loss column as things currently stand. Further, when one considers the big picture . . . Offense, Defense, Run, Pass . . . it’s hard to escape the sense that the Chiefs might just be a slightly above-average team, 9-1 record aside.

The more obvious concern is the Chiefs chronic inability make strides in the passing game. Why has it been so ineffective and why does it not seem to be improving? Is it Alex Smith’s inconsistent accuracy? Is it that Smith plays too tentative? Is it that receivers are not getting open? Dropping balls? Is it lack of protection? All the above? What is it going to take to see improvement and what’s the first thing that can realistically be improved?

What about the fact that the Chiefs have only had one sack in the last three games? What has gone wrong there? It seems to me that teams are figuring out how to slow down the Chiefs pass rush and that the Chiefs have yet to come up with their own counter-strategy. Anyway, I am not sure what the exact answer is to any of these questions but it certainly is frustrating, from a fan’s perspective, that the people whose job it is to figure out and overcome such problems do not seem to be making any significant headway.

Is it too critical to say that the Chiefs are totally predictable? Is it too much to expect an occasional surprise from this team? A different look from week to week? A new wrinkle here or there?

I believe Sunday’s game against the Chargers could very well be the defining moment of the 2013 campaign. If the offensive lines of the
Browns (19th), Bills (18th), and Broncos (1st) have figured out how to stop the Chiefs’ pass rush, I’d say the chances are pretty good that the Chargers OL (5th) will be able to do the same unless the Chiefs manage to come up with some better strategies for getting to the quarterback. If the Chiefs are unable to get to Phillip Rivers, my confidence in the Chiefs ability to beat the Chargers plummets dramatically.

In spite of their record, the Chargers are not terribly different from the Broncos. The Chargers currently rank #2 in Offensive Efficiency and Phillip Rivers is among the top 5 in both DYAR and DVOA and even owns a better completion rate than Peyton Manning. Though the Chiefs succeeded in keeping Manning & co from scoring more than 30 points, they nevertheless failed to keep Manning & co from scoring more points than the Chiefs were able to put up. Considering each teams strengths and weaknesses, I can easily envision a similar outcome this Sunday.

Even though the Chargers rank near the bottom of the league on Defense this year they are at least smart enough to figure out where the Chiefs strengths and weaknesses lie and likely follow the same game plan that previous opponents have successfully employed to keep the Chiefs from scoring points. If the Chiefs play to their offensive strength, running the ball, the Chargers can be expected to load up the box with 8 or 9 guys. Do the Chiefs have an answer for that? Ten games into the season, the answer seems to be no.

Am I being too harsh here? Win or lose, as said earlier, this Sunday is going to be a statement game for the Chiefs. To keep our hopes for this season alive, there needs to be two signs of change: 1) when the Chiefs have the ball, noticeable success in the passing game, particularly in the Red Zone and 2) on Defense, the return of pressure and sacks.

That’s my Double Take. What’s your take Addicts?

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  • Kansas City Rob

    There is little doubt that 3 weeks from now a much clearer picture of where the Chiefs are at will show itself. The fact that they started 9-0 has perhaps, raised our expectations too high, then again, maybe not. I do feel on the big picture the arrow is pointing up. The fact that we had so many injuries at tight end hurt our offence.

    • DoubleD

      The Chiefs are most definitely a better team than they have been in the last few seasons, particularly in pass defense since the loss of Brandon Carr. At the same time, I don’t feel they are as strong with the 2nd level and open field run game as they used to be. Most definitely Dwayne Bowe has not played like a dominant #1 WR since 2010. I believe Jamaal Charles is a phenomenal player but he needs more of a supporting cast to really excel and right now he does not seem to be getting too much help in open space, mostly just 6-10 yards runs that the offensive line provides (but only in non-critical down / distance situations).

      My primary hopes are that our TE’s continue to show up, that maybe Kyle Williams can quickly get up to speed and be a difference maker, and then maybe the rest of our WRs can begin to follow suit. That, and more sack/pressure production out of our Defense.

      • toperspective

        Charles is the only thing opposing defenses need to focus upon. As of week 11, there is no down field passing game.

        • DoubleD

          Hard to argue with that.

      • scomstock55

        he just isnt getting the ball enough…period. Given sufficient carrys/touches he WILL break big plays….

  • Chris Tarrants

    Honestly I have the same feeling I had last season, every time we get the ball on offense my gut tells me that we are going three and out. It is better in a sense from last year in that I don’t fear a turnover every time. We need some serious help in the WR department as well as Alex Smith to either step up or step down and let one of the other guys play. I am really excited about the prospect of this team after next years draft! Dorsey has done an awesome job so far and although I’m excited for this season I’m super stoked for next.

    • toperspective

      Dorsey did a terrific job filling out the roster with waiver claims and FA signings. However, at this point in time last years draft is a big question mark for me. I think Fisher was the correct pick but how have the rest panned out?

      • Chris Tarrants

        Kelce is a stud just hurt, Johnson looks like a solid lb, fisher will be a solid tackle, and Sanders Commings is finally playing and his size alone sets him apart from most safeties

        • toperspective

          Kelce, Johnson and Commings could be good but they haven’t done anything yet. Obviously injuries have been a big factor. Reid obviously isn’t high on Davis yet. Anyway, it could end up being a good draft but as of now I’m not going to declare Dorsey a stud drafter.

          • Chris Tarrants

            Agreed that the draft is still up in the air, but from what Doesey has been able to do with this franchise in this little bit of time means that he has my respect and until he pulls a Pioli type move I give him the benefit of a doubt that he will do everything in his power to make this team better ever year

          • toperspective

            No argument here. You mean the great Pioli that dopes are trying to credit for this teams success?

        • scomstock55

          isnt Commings going to be a CB?

  • toperspective

    Good, honest article. And regarding the ineffective passing game – yes, all of the above.This team needs offensive play makers besides Charles. The rest, including AS are all meh. Speed is lacking and if you’re going to have possession receivers they should be able to catch the ball.

  • Calchiefsfan

    I think the inconvenient truth is that the Chiefs offense isn’t playing up to its potential. They’re leaving a lot of points on the field with missed opportunities. Last week was painfully evident of that. Dropped passes, critical fumble, some questionable play calling all contributed. Reid keeps implementing more stuff every week so maybe that’s part of it. I do know our receivers need to step it up.

    Great article DD, love the stats. Though I don’t think they tell the whole story for the Chiefs, especially the D. What I want to know is what is a QB’s rating when he has to unload in less than 3 seconds as opposed to being able to hold it for more than 3 seconds. Manning is one of the few QBs who can be effective getting the ball out quickly, most QBs aren’t. Case in point Jeff Tuel, if he wasn’t trying to get rid of the ball quickly on every pass play he doesn’t throw the pick 6 to Sean Smith. Even Manning had his lowest QBR of the season against us. Our D is fine even when we don’t get to the QB as long as they’re forcing the QB to get rid of the ball sooner than he is comfortable with. It creates critical mistakes for the opposing QB.

    If the Chiefs offense can start to get it together down the stretch they are going to be very dangerous and a legit Super Bowl contender. If the offense continues to play at this mediocre level the Chiefs will be a very good team that might win a game in the playoffs depending on who we match up with. Honestly though, either way it’s a heck of lot better than what we went through last year. It’s been a fantastic year so far with the potential to get even better. What more could a die hard Chiefs fan ask for.

    • DoubleD

      Excellent input. Thanks for contributing.

  • scomstock55

    all they have to do is approach the offense 180 degrees out from what they are doing now….run run run to set up the pass…JC IS GOING TO BREAK SOME BIG RUNS….and forget about all the gadget plays….we have excellent blocking TEs and a great blocking FB….use them and stop using JC as a decoy and a pass blocker…its a stupid approach that yields very little compared to potential and it obviously isnt working…when JC gets 20 carries in the first half of a game there will be a marked difference in the success of our offense as a whole and the pass game will open up a bit….