With 1:37 left to go in the first quarter of last Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers, Chiefs’ quarterback Alex Smith found Donnie Avery for a beautiful touchdown pass.
Smith connected with a wide open Avery for a 32-yard pitch and catch, and the score put Kansas City up 7-3.
More importantly though, the touchdown got a previously stagnant Chiefs’ passing game going, and it proved to the NFL that Smith isn’t afraid to throw the deep ball when it’s there.
So, just how did the Chiefs set this play up, and why was Avery so open?
Let’s examine the play in this week’s edition of The Film Room.
First off here is the formation and route combinations Kansas City chose to run on this play in theory. The Chiefs came out with a heavy overbalance to the offense’s left. It’s a trips/quads look with Dexter McCluster at wing-back, Dwayne Bowe on the line at No. 2 and Avery on the outside:
Before the snap though, the Chiefs motioned McCluster over to the other side, still as a wing-back, and that’s the formation they run the play out of. Notice how Bowe is getting bracket coverage over the top with the safety, which has been a common theme this year:
That allows Avery to get single coverage on the outside though, and ultimately leads to the touchdown. Now let’s go to the tape.
Again, here’s the play before the snap with the route combinations:
What we have here is truly a brilliant play call in what turns out to be a cover four look from the Chargers—which means each of the four secondary players are responsible for their deep fourth of the field.
As you can see, Bowe is actually dangerous enough of a target to garner triple coverage on this play at times. Notice how he’s getting jammed by one linebacker, spied on by the middle backer, and covered over top by the safety:
The final dagger for the Chargers is the route running of Avery. Notice in the picture above how he stopped his post route and started angling it to the corner. Had the Chiefs run a post-corner route, the San Diego’s cornerback probably would have had it covered because he had outside leverage here. But with a touch of agility and skill, Avery cuts it back inside for the triple move into the vacated deep hash. He can thank Bowe and even McCluster’s routes for that:
From there it’s like stealing candy from a baby for the Chiefs.
For those who say Kansas City can’t get it done offensively, I dare say the Chiefs proved you wrong on Sunday. Even in a loss, the Chiefs’ offense played well, and led by Smith, the unit executed some great plays.
Smith can throw the ball, and with a receiver like Bowe demanding the coverage’s attention, plays like this can become commonplace for Kansas City.
All it took was a great play design and execution from the players to get the Chiefs’ passing game going.
Note: Film courtesy of NFL Rewind. Markings are my own.