Looking at first down tendencies for the Kansas City Chiefs offense

Head coach Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Head coach Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /
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First Down Life Without Mahomes

Matt Moore did an admirable job filling in for Patrick Mahomes last season. The Chiefs continued to throttle the Denver Broncos when Moore came in, he kept them in the game until the very end against the Green Bay Packers, and led them to a win over the Minnesota Vikings.

That having been said, I figured that the play calling was probably a little more conservative with Moore playing and wondered if that could influence the overall first down numbers on the season. I was surprised by the results.

First down play calls with Matt Moore:

  • 67 total first down plays
  • 29 runs (43.3%)
  • 38 pass (56.7%)

So the Chiefs were almost exactly on their season average of 57% pass/43% run with Moore at quarterback. Statistically, having him play the better part of three games didn’t really change the numbers at all. After seeing this I figured the pass calls themselves were probably more conservative so I looked at the percentage of 10-yard plus plays compared to the season average and was surprised once again.

First down plays that went for 10 or more yards with Matt Moore at QB:

  • 1 of 29 runs (3.4%)
  • 14 of 38 passes (36.8%)

The season averages were 10.9% of first down runs and 32.3% of first down passes. So Moore averaged more 10+ passing plays per snap than Patrick Mahomes did! Now, part of this is because the defenses were focusing more on the run (hence the much smaller percentage of 10+ yard runs) and daring Moore to beat them, which doesn’t ever happen with Mahomes. However, kudos to Moore for taking advantage when he could.

So with no real adjustment to the overall numbers based on Moore replacing Mahomes, these are my main takeaways from looking at all these numbers.

  1. The Chiefs pass on first down just under 2/3 of the time when they aren’t eating up clock with a lead in the fourth quarter.
  2. The Chiefs first down passes went for 10 or more yards on about 1/3 of their attempts and one in ten went for 20 or more yards.
  3. The Chiefs stayed aggressive and passed a lot on first down with a two score lead and didn’t really take their foot off the gas until it reached a three score lead or late in the game.
  4. The Chiefs most aggressive quarter by far was the second quarter where they passed on first down over 70% of the time.

So there you have it Chiefs fans. A complete analysis of what the Chiefs did on first down last season. Did you find any of this surprising? Were you as interested in the main takeaways as I was? Would you like to see more of this type of inside the numbers posts during the offseason? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

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