Watching the K.C. Chiefs play in 2021 has been one of the most frustrating experiences as a fan. It is so baffling to watch this team given the expectations and the talent this offense possesses, and every week looks like a replay of the previous game.
The coaching staff and Patrick Mahomes are failing to adjust to what defenses are presenting them each week. Defenses are playing two-high safeties and dropping seven to eight men in coverage, begging the Chiefs to run the ball. For whatever reason, Reid continues to dial up passes that play right into the hands of the defense.
Here are a couple of reasons the Chiefs need to establish a run game.
1. Running on first downs creates manageable second and third downs
Kansas City can start every game and every drive with a second-and-six or a second-and-five, opening up the play calling for the next play. We’ve seen the Chiefs actually do this on multiple drives to begin a game, but as things progress, the Chiefs will typically start to drift from this game plan.
In the last couple of weeks, we have seen the Chiefs march down the field on the opening drive by operating as a balanced offense. However, Reid and Mahomes are so obsessed with the big play that they start to force throws and play calls that are simply not there. Mahomes talked about a play in his postgame press conference where he had Travis Kelce open in the field for a 20-yard gain but decided to throw up a pass to Mecole Hardman in double coverage farther down the field.
"“I saw Kelce come open. I just wanted to give it a chance. Even though defenses are playing so deep, you want to take those shots,” Mahomes said. I missed a couple of today, but you have to know when to take the deep shot and when to take it underneath. That is something I am still trying to improve on”"
Wait, so you saw Kelce open, but you still decided to throw a low-percentage pass? With this offense struggling the way it is, the lack of acknowledging that what you are doing is not working makes it even more frustrating. The Chiefs are averaging nearly 4.3 yards per carry, but think that forcing passes into tight coverage is going to just start working.
Picking up four to five yards on first down through the ground game may make Mahomes more comfortable and more inclined to take the check down. We see Mahomes forcing passes when it is second-and-10 because for some reason he feels that he needs a big play. One big play is not going to change a game. It will propel a drive, but slowly churning down the field is not the worst thing in the world. It allows the team to control the pace of the game, and it keeps an underwhelming defense off the field.
The run game is going to create efficiency in this offense if it is utilized.
2. The rushing attack can open up the passing game
At this point, everyone knows that teams are dropping two safeties deep and rushing four. Therefore, leaving seven men in coverage. If you run the ball enough and find success with it good things can happen. For one, this will force the safeties and linebackers to come up to stop the run. When and if this happens, the play-action game will open up and the Chiefs will find passing lanes more open than how it has been so far this season.
Running the ball is the first key to opening the passing game. If the Chiefs continue to play into the defense’s hands and just throw the ball into tight coverage, defenses will be happy sitting back and letting the Chiefs’ offense do the work for them. At the moment, the Chiefs offense has no discipline. Everything has to be electrifying— a fireworks display. Running the ball is so simple and it can unlock this offense by forcing defenses to change what they are doing. Yes, defenses want the Chiefs to run the ball, but after a while, those same units will become frustrated when Kansas City runs the ball down the length of the field. Unfortunately, the Chiefs will not do it.
Simplicity is what we saw in New England for 20 years. Tom Brady would be content with taking what the defense gave him and checking out of pass plays to run plays to expose the defenses’ anticipations. Kansas City needs to do exactly this—make some adjustments and force defenses to change. It will open up the passing game and create easier throws for Mahomes. Kansas City wants to take deep shots down the field, and maybe running the ball on multiple plays in a row will allow that to open up if defensive backs’ eyes are focused on the backfield.
The Chiefs’ offense is shooting themselves in the foot every week. Not adjusting and expecting things to just change after nine weeks of this is not the answer. Kansas City needs to adjust and realize that it cannot play the same way it did in the past. Defenses have altered the way they play the Chiefs, and Kansas City needs to return the favor and adjust the way they play against defenses. The Chiefs have too much offensive talent to average 12 points a game like they have the last three weeks.
Run the ball and take some of this pressure off of Mahomes’ shoulders. It can/will open up this offense and allow them to take some shots down the field with a higher probability of completing these passes.