An offseason spent in “The Lab”
As Kansas City Chiefs fans, we heard it time and again in 2018. Just wait, many pundits and opposing fans said, until defensive coordinators have enough film on Mahomes to figure out the tendencies that will ultimately be his downfall. The thought process was that it was only a matter of time before the greatest defensive minds figured out how to stop Reid, Mahomes, and the rest of the Chiefs offense.
To their credit, some semblance of this did happen in 2019. The 2019 offense was not otherworldly, nor unstoppable for that matter, like it was most of 2018. To put this in a little more context, the 2018 offense scored 565 points during the season compared with the 2019 offense’ output of 451. That’s a difference of 114 points, or over 25 percent of 2019’s point total.
That’s a pretty significant drop off in points from one season to the next. Most believe the first person to discover a more effective way to play the Chiefs offense was Bill Belichick. In the 2018 AFC Championship game, the Patriots played physical man coverage against the Chiefs with only one safety deep for a significant percentage of the game.
Because of their unit’s ability in man coverage, leaving the deep field exposed like that didn’t kill them like it would have many other teams. It worked exceptionally well for a half, in part because of a successful pass rush, and that was all the Patriots needed to advance to the Super Bowl. With the success the Patriots had, and the NFL being a copycat league, many teams followed suit in 2019.
This may seem obvious, because of course teams would copy a strategy that works. However, it’s not as easy as some might think. Many teams don’t have the talent to play man coverage consistently. Even more, many coordinators aren’t as skilled or as creative as Belichick in implementing this type of scheme.
Even so, the Chiefs saw a great deal more man coverage in 2019 even from teams without the talent and expertise. It seemed to work rather well for opponents who implemented it both significantly and sparingly. The truth is, some receivers struggle to consistently beat man coverage and we saw that play out in 2019.
The main caveat here is that, while defensive coordinators were able to devise effective strategies to compete against Andy Reid’s 2018 and 2019 scheme, he now can do the same. Reid and company has seen how teams will respond, as it’s the only way to remotely slow down the Chiefs. Reid has an entire offseason to permeate his scheme with creative plays against man coverage and this should boost the overall offense in 2020.