Kansas City’s fourth down defense is already proving to be a major issue two games into the season. The Chiefs have faced five fourth down attempts, which is tied with two other teams for second most in the NFL. The Chiefs have allowed four conversions on fourth down, the second most in the league.
In Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns, the Chiefs had no answer for Cleveland’s offense in the first half. The Browns converted on all three of their fourth down attempts in the first half. The Baltimore Ravens went for it on fourth down with one minute left to put away the game this past Sunday night.
Let’s go over all five fourth down attempts the Chiefs have faced.
1. Week 1: 4th-and-3 at KC 15, 9:18 left in the first quarter
The Browns made a big statement early in the game when going for it on fourth down. Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski studied the Chiefs really well. With very few changes on Kansas City’s defense, Stefanski must have thought about the fact that the defense was the worst in the NFL last year in red zone defense, allowing offenses to score 72.8 percent of the time, the worst in the NFL.
So Stefanski not only wanted to take advantage of Kansas City’s woes, but wanted to get off to a fast start. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield found Austin Hooper to his left for a five-yard gain and conversion. The Browns went on to score a touchdown and followed it up with a successful two-point conversion after a Kansas City penalty.
2. Week 1: 4th-and-1 at KC 5, 13:28 left in the second quarter
Once again, Stefanski did not want to waste an opportunity in the red zone against the Chiefs. This time, Stefanski’s offense scored.
Needing only a yard, the Browns got creative as Jarvis Landry moved in motion during pre-snap. As he got close to the center, Mayfield snapped the ball and quickly handed it to Landry while faking a toss to Kareem Hunt. Landry battled three Chiefs defenders and pushed his way to the end zone.
3. Week 1: 4th-and-31 at CLE 43, 0:03 left in the second quarter
This one was almost a disaster for the Chiefs. With just three seconds left before halftime as the Browns are out of field goal range, the Chiefs were in prevent defense mode, as any defense would do.
But rather than a Hail Mary, Mayfield threw a quick pass to Landry. After getting close to the red zone, Landry lateraled it to Mayfield, who lateraled it to Hunt as he was taken down at the 12-yard line.
Although it was the end of the half, that still is considered a fourth down conversion for the Browns.
4. Week 1: 4th-and-12 at CLE 23, 8:42 left in fourth quarter
This is an interesting one because it was a failed snap that turned this play into a fourth down attempt.
Browns punter Jamie Gillian mishandled a snap, forcing him to run with the football. As usual in these kinds of situations, Kansas City’s defense was all over it and forced a turnover on downs.
5. Week 2: 4th-and-1 at BAL 43, 1:05 left in the fourth quarter
Following a fumble from Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the Ravens were looking to force the Chiefs to use all three of their timeouts. After doing so, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh quickly conferred with Lamar Jackson about going for it on fourth down. Jackson took a snap in the shotgun and ran up the middle to put the game away and hand the Chiefs their first loss of the season.
Kansas City, statistically, did stop one fourth down attempt. However, that was not really a planned fourth down attempt. It was a punter who committed an error and forced himself to run when he needed 12 yards for a first down.
In terms of actual fourth down attempts, meaning when an offense and a defense are out on the field rather than the special teams unit, Kansas City’s defense has failed, allowing a conversion on all four fourth down attempts.
If you are an opposing team facing the Chiefs and if it is fourth down with a couple of yards to go in the red zone, you should go for it, as the Browns showed. And as the Ravens showed, you go for it on any fourth-and-short situation to keep the ball away from Patrick Mahomes.
The Chiefs play the Chargers on Sunday, who have attempted one fourth down and succeeding as Justin Herbert gained three yards on a quarterback run up the middle on a fourth-and-1 attempt. If you were a betting man, perhaps it is wise to assume that Chargers head coach Brandon Staley will go for it on fourth down at least once against the Chiefs.
This is something defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo really needs to figure out. Given the early numbers, don’t be surprised if this happens a lot to the Chiefs defense throughout the year.