By the numbers: Analyzing the Chiefs loss to the Titans
By Matt Conner
More than just a recap, here’s a closer look at some key numbers that help explain how the Chiefs suffered another disheartening postseason loss.
There are very few ways to adequately explain what exactly happened to the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday. It was yet another stomach punch of a loss to a clearly inferior team. It was a disheartening performance at home in a game in which several key Chiefs are now likely finished in the uniform. It was a meltdown of epic proportions, yet it only feels like another log on a fire that’s burned for quite some time.
To help us get a better understanding of what exactly transpired at Arrowhead during Saturday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans, let’s take a closer look at some of the numbers.
This was the point differential at halftime: eighteen points. The Chiefs held a 21-3 lead and despite some conservative playcalling on offense in the second half, Andy Reid and company were looking like a confident and, at times, dominant squad. The Titans looked exactly as expected and Arrowhead was ready to shake a monkey off its collective back.
Instead this happened.
That’s a brutal statistic. Andy Reid’s Chiefs have lost 2 games in the playoffs that were in the bag, up by three scores at least. And it’s not as if these games have come against the eventual Super Bowl champions. These Titans aren’t going anywhere after this week and we all know it. Reid was outcoached by Mike Mularkey in the postseason and that’s the truth that has to sink in for an entire offseason.
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The total number of rushes for Kareem Hunt. When your team is up by 18 points in the second half, the goal is to nurse the lead and take some significant time off the clock. Fortunately the Chiefs have the running back with the most fourth quarter yards in the game, a back who has proven his ability to wear down a defense and create yards after contact, just as long as the Chiefs don’t abandon the run.
Instead, Hunt only had 14 total touches and 11 total carries for the game. He averaged 3.8 yards/carry with 1 touchdown, but he should have been the focus down the stretch. Instead, the Chiefs kept passing the ball and falling right into the clever blitzing schemes drawn up by Dick LeBeau. Even more frustrating was watching how many times Smith kept hiking the ball to pass with double digit seconds on the clock.
The Chiefs defense was completely gassed due to the Titans doing what the Chiefs should have actually been doing and that allowed the Titans to climb back into the game. The conservative play calls took it from there. Hunt needed to double his total carries on the day and he needed to do most of it down the stretch.
This is the percentage of third downs the Titans were allowed to convert against the Chiefs at Arrowhead. That is 27 percentage points higher than their rate during the 2017 regular season. During the game, the Titans converted 8 of their 13 third downs, yet for the year, the Titans only converted 71 of 202 attempts (good for 35%).
Even late in the game, when the Chiefs knew it was all Derrick Henry, a 250 pound running back was somehow able to bounce to the outside (and no he’s not that speedy) to avoid a two-yard loss to suddenly break things open for a first down that was the final dagger for the Chiefs chances.
In other words, even on a third down attempt where the Chiefs knew exactly what was coming and what could not happen, they allowed it to happen anyway.
This is the number of kick returns by Charcandrick West in a close playoff game that was slipping away from the Chiefs. Without their most reliable on option to move the chains, the Chiefs decide to remove any potential for electricity on special teams to save them by giving their scat back the chance to return kicks rather than, you know, the actual Pro Bowl option on the team.
It’d be one thing if the Chiefs were busy using Tyreek Hill over the top on offense, but it was one conservative play call after another on several 3-and-out drives. Yet again and again, West was the one lining up to return kicks—as if the Chiefs don’t employ the single most fearsome player in the league at returning kicks.
The end result was a middling 22 yards per return for West and a complete lack of impact from the team’s special teams unit in a playoff loss at Arrowhead.