Kansas City Chiefs Must Keep Feeding Their Playmakers


The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Buffalo Bills 17-13 on Sunday. It was far from a great performance, but good teams find a way to win, and that’s exactly what KC did.

The victory was huge for the Chiefs on several fronts. First and foremost, every win helps when trying to make the playoffs in a crowded AFC. The fact that the “W” came on the road against an AFC team—and specifically a team that KC entered the game tied in the standings with—makes it especially helpful.

Winning a game like this when the club doesn’t have a great day is a sign of being a good team. That’s what the Chiefs are: a good team. If the Chiefs want to be a GREAT team, there is one main thing that they need to do a better job of…

Getting the ball in the hands of their playmakers.

If you read my Monday morning ramblings on a regular basis, you know I’ve been preaching this for weeks now. In my opinion, this is so clear, so indisputable, so impossible to argue that it boggles my mind that it’s even an issue.

I get that Andy Reid is an offensive genius who has forgotten more about game-planning and play-calling than I will ever know, but I think he’s overthinking things when it comes to the distribution of touches (especially in the passing game).

It’s clear that Reid believes the best way for his passing attack to operate (with the quarterback and wide receivers that he has) is to stretch the field from side to side instead of vertically. The idea is that if you send multiple targets out from one sideline to the other—with multiple pass-catchers in between—it stretches the defense out and creates gaps in the coverage. That allows Alex Smith to methodically pick the defense apart and, with the help of a good running game, lead the Chiefs down the field.

I’m actually 100-percent fine with that plan of attack. Where Reid and I appear to disagree is in his belief that this plan needs to utilize guys like Anthony Fasano, Junior Hemingway and AJ Jenkins on a regular basis. Reid seems determined to equally distribute the ball to these multiple targets to keep the defense guessing. I believe that the Chiefs need to enter each game with the attitude that they will target their top weapons almost exclusively until a defense proves they can stop them.

So whom do I consider KC’s top weapons?

Nov 9, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) runs the ball during the first half against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Well, when running the ball, I think Jamaal Charles, Knile Davis, and De’Anthony Thomas are all acceptable options. When passing the ball, I believe there are only four: Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Travis Kelce and Thomas. It’s not that I don’t think KC should ever use Fasano, Donnie Avery, Jenkins, Hemingway, Frankie Hammond Jr., etc. It’s just that I think they should be fall-back options if the defense shows it has figured out how to stop the playmakers listed above.

Sunday’s game against the Bills was nearly a perfect example of KC’s failure to utilize its playmakers can cost it a winnable game. Now, I was dancing with joy as much as anyone when Charles broke that fourth-down TD run AND when KC recovered that fumbled punt AND when Alex Smith trucked that defender to score the go-ahead TD. The Chiefs pulled out a tough road game against a fellow playoff contender, and as I already said, that’s what good teams do. I just believe that KC is good enough that it shouldn’t have been so difficult.

We all know Charles is the top weapon that KC has. While I think getting him enough carries in the running game is vital to the Chiefs’ success, there are going to be times when you have to throw the ball. The Chiefs do not have a strong offensive line, and when they face dominant fronts like they did in Buffalo, I believe they will need to prove that they can throw the football effectively in order to keep the defense honest (and give JC room to do JC things).

Now, the Chiefs did a good job of targeting Bowe on Sunday, as he hauled in eight receptions on a dozen targets. However, the trio of Charles, Kelce, and DAT only combined for SIX targets. Given the situation they were in, that is unacceptable.

Nov 9, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes (55) sacks Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Kansas City beats Buffalo 17 to 13. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The defensive front of Buffalo was destroying the KC offensive line. DESTROYING. THEM. So wouldn’t it make sense to drop screen passes to Charles and DAT right behind these advancing defenders? Wouldn’t a quick slant or curl to Kelce be just what the doctor ordered in that situation? Get the ball out of Smith’s hands fast and into the hands of the guys who create yards after the catch. Instead, the Chiefs continuously ran traditional passing routes with guys like Fasano, Hemingway and Jenkins. That last trio had eight targets, compared to the previously mentioned six to Charles, Kelce, and DAT.

It makes no sense to me.

The Chiefs offense is SO much more productive when they focus on getting those players the football. I believe this could be one of the better offenses in the entire NFL if they consistently feed those guys the ball. I decided to make sure that my perception was in fact reality, so I did a little number-checking. Let me start by saying that because Pro Football Focus doesn’t update their numbers until Monday morning, the following numbers won’t reflect the stats from the Buffalo game. But in their first eight contests, here are the numbers for the Chiefs playmakers compared to the “role players” in the passing game.

Entering Sunday, Charles, Bowe, Kelce and DAT had been targeted 111 times—87 of those 111 targets were completed. That’s a 78.4 completion percentage when targeting those players. Meanwhile, in those same eight games, Fasano, Avery, Hemingway, Jenkins, Hammond and Davis have been targeted 95 times—62 of those 95 targets were completed for a 65.1 completion percentage.

So the Chiefs complete 13.3 percent more passes when throwing to their best playmakers.

Aug 9, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) against the New Orleans Saints during a preseason game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Chiefs 17-13. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

There’s more….

Charles, Bowe, Kelce and DAT have combined for 612 yards after the catch (YAC) on those receptions. That’s an average of 7.0 YAC when you throw them the ball. The six role players listed above have only totaled 278 YAC or an average of 4.5 YAC per reception.

So if the Chiefs complete 13.3 percent more passes when throwing to their playmakers, and those playmakers produce significantly more yards after they catch the ball, then why in the wild, wild, world of sports wouldn’t you go out and feed them the ball until the defense shows they can stop them? I’m fine with throwing to Fasano or Jenkins if the defense starts double-teaming Bowe and Kelce every play. That’s not what’s happening right now.

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Not all football players are created equal. Some were simply blessed with more natural abilities than others. Kelce can simply do things that Fasano can’t. Thomas can do things with the ball in his hands that Jenkins just can’t do. Reid needs to call plays with that in mind.

The Chiefs are proving to be a good enough team to win games even when they don’t do everything right. They can probably make the playoffs by continuing to do what they’ve been doing. However, I’m not content with just making the playoffs. I want them to finally win a game when they get there. In fact, I want them to win ALL the games when they get there.

I’m starting to believe that this team might have that kind of run in them, but I believe it will take fully utilizing the talent on their roster to make it happen. Can the Chiefs make a Kansas City Royals-like run? Sure, but not on the backs of Fasano and Hemingway.

To carry the Royals analogy a little further, Fasano and Hemingway should be the equivalent of Terrance Gore and Jason Frasor; role players who help the team when called upon. Charles, Bowe, and Kelce should be the Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, and Alex Gordon of the offense; the cornerstones that everything is built around.

I think the average Chiefs fan believes that. I just don’t understand why Reid calls plays like he doesn’t.

As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

PS: Even though it has nothing to do with this post, I have to give Ron Parker a shout out for his AMAZING game-saving plays on Sunday. That guy was playing out of his mind. He gets the game ball hands down.