The only thing better than Kansas City Chiefs football finally being back is Kansas City Chiefs football being back with a vengeance! That’s exactly what KC fans saw on Sunday as the Chiefs came out firing on all cylinders against the Houston Texans. KC at one point had a 27-6 lead in the first half and did just enough in the second half to hold on to a 27-20 road win. There may not ever be two more polar opposite games than the past two season openers for the Chiefs. Last season the Chiefs lost at home to an inferior team in a game where they looked woefully unprepared. This season KC went on the road and beat a team that most view as an equal in a game where the biggest factor may have been the excellent game plan put forth by Andy Reid and his coaching staff.
Before I get back to Reid, let me say that the players obviously deserve their fair share of the credit as well. Alex Smith was great. Travis Kelce is an absolute dominant force that teams should be terrified to face. Jeremy Maclin looked like a true number one wide receiver (something KC hasn’t had in years). Jamaal Charles did Jamaal Charles things. Justin Houston did Justin Houston things. Allen Bailey was a physical force. Derrick Johnson continued to show that his age and achilles injury are not going to slow him down. Finally, rookie Marcus Peters looked like the most talented first round pick of John Dorsey’s tenure in KC.
The players did their part. They executed their assignments and made enough big plays to beat a quality team on the road. They deserve major kudos for a game well played and I certainly don’t want to slight them at all. That having been said, my game ball for the win over the Texans goes to head coach Andy Reid. As I see it the coaching staff had three major successes in this game.
Sep 13, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) calls a play at the line of scrimmage during the second quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
1. The Offensive Game Plan
At the top of my list of praises for Reid and his coaching staff was the offensive game plan and play calling. While it’s fair to credit the Chiefs questionable offensive line for stepping up and getting the job done, the truth is Reid put them in a great position to succeed. I don’t have the exact numbers but it sure felt like 99% of the Chiefs passing plays were either quick three step drops where Smith got the ball out before a breakdown on the line had time to occur or the Chiefs kept extra backs and tight ends in to help with the pass protection if Smith was going to need more time for things to develop.
Since he arrived in Kansas City, Andy Reid has stressed that there are two ways to stretch the field when on offense. The first is the traditional way of stretching the field vertically by way of a deep passing game. While the Chiefs did take a couple of deep shots which may have helped keep the safeties from creeping in too far, that simply isn’t the Chiefs forte. Instead, the Chiefs focus on stretching the field horizontally by using multiple receivers, tight ends, and running backs to stretch the defense out from sideline to sideline and create open seems to throw the football.
This game plan has been a staple of the Andy Reid and Alex Smith version of the West Coast offense since the two arrived in Kansas City. It plays to Smith’s strengths as a QB that prefers safer short to mid range throws with less deep “bombs” than other “gun slinger” mentality type quarterbacks. However, with a questionable offensive line that featured five different starters than the season opener last year, including a rookie center, a second year Canadian med student making his first NFL start, and a guy they picked up off the street earlier this week a quick strike game plan becomes all the more essential. When you have that offensive line going up against JJ Watt and a dangerous Houston front seven the ball has to come out fast. You can do that in a horizontal offense much easier than you can in a vertical one.
The Chiefs use of different personnel and formations kept the defense off balance most of the day and the Houston pass rush simply didn’t have time to get to Smith before he got the ball out on most passing plays. The Chiefs even used the read option and designed Smith runs to keep the defense guessing. The combination of spreading the defense out and utilizing the three headed monster that is Jamaal Charles, Jeremy Maclin, and Travis Kelce got the job done. By the end of the day those three players had combined for 16 receptions, 214 yards, and three touchdowns. That’s a winning formula for the Chiefs and this game should be the blueprint for how KC should attack defenses all season long.
Sep 13, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas City Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos (5) celebrates with teammates after kicking a field goal during the second quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
2. Special Teams Play
Yes, a ton of the credit for the Chiefs special teams success goes to standout players like Dustin Colquitt and De’Anthony Thomas. Those two were both masterful for Kansas City on Sunday as Colquitt put punt after punt inside the twenty yardline and Thomas averaged 16 yards per punt return and was inches away from taking a couple of those punts back for touchdowns. However, this game also showcased the masterfully coached special teams units of Dave Toub. The coverage units blanketed the Houston return men all day and consistently pinned the Houston offense back near their own goal line. The return units provided good blocking and lanes for the return men and were a big part of Thomas’ success as well.
Special teams can often get overlooked when it comes to evaluating games, but you simply can’t under sell the impact KC’s special teams had on this game. At one point in the game I believe they said KC’s starting field position was at their own 40 yard line while Houston’s was their own 16. That’s just a MASSIVE advantage, especially when you are playing a team that is without their star running back and has a quarterback that is struggling. Simply put, if you keep pinning Brian Hoyer back and making him drive the entire length of the field you are putting yourself in a position to win.
It is with this in mind that I want to encourage Chiefs fans to be okay with punting the football at times. While we’d all prefer to score on every single drive, winning the field position battle when you have a good defense is huge. The Chiefs offense has enough weapons that they will get big plays eventually. They don’t have to force it. Not turning the football over and giving the other team a short field is also important. So punt the football, trust the defense, and see if De’Anthony Thomas can get you even better field position the next time around.
The Chiefs special teams are a strength that will help them win football games and Dave Toub and the coaching staff had them ready to go against the Texans.
Sep 13, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) catches a pass for a touchdown during the first half against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
3. The Chiefs were mentally ready to play.
If there was one thing that stuck out to me in last year’s season opener it was that the Chiefs simply didn’t seem ready to play. They were flat. They didn’t seem to have a strong game plan in place and maybe even worse they didn’t seem to all be on the same page. There was none of that against the Texans on Sunday.
First off, the Chiefs effort was great. You could maybe make a case for them letting the foot off the gas too soon in the second half, but as a whole the Chiefs effort was not an issue. The team fought all game long and had a good energy. A perfect example of this was the late third down conversion pass from Alex Smith to Travis Kelce. Kelce caught the football well short of the first down, broke a tackle and got enough yards after the catch to pick up the key first down. After the play the camera caught Smith’s emotion when he saw that Kelce fought for the yards he needed. This team was dialed in and came to win.
Second, it was crystal clear that in the third year of the Andy Reid regime the offense is clearly getting comfortable. Players know the playbook. Smith is basically another coach on the field at this point. The only time I saw any real confusion on offense was on the third down incompletion that lead to the field goal that put KC up 17-6. It was a three tight end set and there seemed to be some confusion as to which tight end should line up where. Smith ended up going to the other side of the field and throwing the ball at a well covered Maclin’s feet. After the play the culprit was revealed when the cameras showed Andy Reid laying into Demetrius Harris on the sideline. Reid was not happy with the tight end at all. The fact that this was the only real play I can think of where players didn’t know what they were doing (other than a couple of snaps by Jah Reid, but who can blame him) is a sign of how much farther along this offense is this year.
Finally, if you needed any other proof of how dialed in the coaching staff had this team I give you this:
The Chiefs had zero turnovers and a grand total of two penalties in their first game of the season.
That’s also a sign of a well coached and mentally focused team.
If Andy Reid and the Chiefs coaching staff can keep all three of these positives going into the Denver game on Thursday night I give the Chiefs a good chance of coming out of the game 2-0 and the early front runners in the AFC West.
I’m sure at some point this season Andy Reid will make play calls that fans may take issue with. He’ll likely have issues with clock management. He’s human and he will make his share of mistakes at some point. However, right now I couldn’t be more happy with the job the Chiefs coach has done. He deserves major kudos for this team from both a game plan and mentality stand point.
So hail to the head Chief and let’s hope he’s already hard at work on how to beat the Broncos on Thursday night.
So what do you think Addicts? Do you give Andy Reid and the coaching staff a large percentage of the credit for this win? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!