KC Chiefs will have to live with fourth down frustrations

Sep 26, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs assistant head coach Dave Toub on the sidelines against the Los Angeles Chargers at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 26, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs assistant head coach Dave Toub on the sidelines against the Los Angeles Chargers at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Kansas City Chiefs are a fun football team to watch. But there is one thing that happens over and over again that makes me mad: opposing teams going for it on fourth down.

It is incredibly frustrating.

The Chiefs will come up with a stop on third down—maybe it’s a good open-field tackle or a pass break up. “Great,” I’ll think to myself. “The defense is off the field.” But wait, the other team is going for it. And chances are they’ll get it.

Usually fans get excited when their team gets a stop on third down, but for the Chiefs, it’s a different story. If it feels like teams have gone for it on fourth down a lot against Kansas City, there is a very good reason for that, they have.

Opponents have gone for it on fourth down eight times against the Chiefs—tied for second-most in the league. Frustratingly, they have successfully gained the requisite yards six times, tied for the most in the league.

Last season, K.C. allowed successful conversions on 65% of fourth down attempts (13-20). So far this year they have been even worse, giving up the first down on 75% of attempts. ­ Their only two stops on fourth down came on a muffed punt against the Cleveland Browns in Week 1, and an incompletion on 4th & 11 against the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth quarter.

Some of the conversions have had an extra level of frustration. The Browns have four successful fourth down conversions this season, with three of them coming against Kansas City. The Eagles only have one successful conversion in seven attempts, which came against the Chiefs.

Overall, Kansas City has forced their opponents to punt just seven times so far this season, the fewest in the league.

To be fair, this isn’t something that is entirely within K.C.’s control. Sure, they could do a better job of holding teams to 4th & long and forcing them to punt. But opponents know they have to be aggressive against Kansas City and put points on the board if they want to win. Punts won’t cut it for them.

But what about on the other side of the ball?

On the flip side, the Chiefs are the only team in the league that have not attempted a fourth down conversion this season.

This makes sense – Kansas City’s offense has been so good they haven’t needed to go for it on fourth down. The Chiefs have the highest third down conversion rate in the league (64.1%) and have scored the second most points this season, so it’s not like they’ve needed to for it.

Overall, the Chiefs have the fewest punts in the league this season (6) and the equal-fewest field goal attempts (3).

But conservative play calling isn’t to blame here. Kansas City simply hasn’t been in the position to go for it on fourth down. Of their nine kicks this season, only one has come when K.C. faced less that 4th & 9—a field goal on 4th & 2 against Cleveland in Week 1.

This is a great sign for K.C.’s offense. Scoring so often that you don’t need to go for it on fourth down? Sounds great to me.  As much as I like Tommy Townsend and Harrison Butker, I would be happy to only see them on the field for extra points and kickoffs.

But on defense, I fear there are more frustrating fourth down moments to come for the Chiefs. Opponents know they need to go be aggressive against K.C., and they’ll keep on going for it on fourth down until the Chiefs prove they can stop it—and given the state of their defense at the moment, that doesn’t look likely.

Until then, I’ll be left to sit in nervous frustration every time opponents convert on fourth down against the Chiefs.

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