Do the Kansas City Chiefs need a good run game?

Clyde Edwards-Helaire #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

When it comes to the Kansas City Chiefs the passing game and defense get most of our attention, but what about KC’s run game?

The Kansas City Chiefs have received their fair share of attention since Patrick Mahomes became their starting quarterback. During that time, most of that attention has been on K.C.’s high-powered passing attack and then a secondary focus on if their defense is good enough to keep pace. The Chiefs’ running game is usually an afterthought, but is that for good reason? Does KC need a strong rushing attack when you have Patrick Mahomes and one of the league’s best passing attacks?

To answer those questions I thought I’d look back at the past four years since Mahomes has been KC’s quarterback to see how the running game has produced and if there’s a connection between their rushing success and overall success.

Here are the rushing yards, yards per carry, rushing touchdowns, total offensive yards, and points per game for each of the last few seasons and where they ranked in the NFL that year. Plus I’ve listed the top running back for the Chiefs that season and their respective carries, rushing yards, and touchdowns.


  • 1,855 rushing yards (16th)
  • 4.79 YPC (6th)
  • 16 rushing TDs (T-7th)
  • 6,810 total yards (1st)
  • 35.31 PPG (1st)
  • Kareem Hunt (181/824/7)


  • 1,569 rushing yards (23rd)
  • 4.18 YPC (20th)
  • 16 rushing TDs (T-13th)
  • 6,067 total yards (6th)
  • 28.19 PPG (5th)
  • Damien Williams (111/498/5)


  • 1,799 rushing yards (16th)
  • 4.46 YPC (11th)
  • 13 rushing TDs (T-22nd)
  • 6653 total yards (1st)
  • 29.56 PPG (6th)
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire (181/803/4)


  • 1,955 rushing yards (16th)
  • 4.54 YPC (7th)
  • 16 rushing TDs (T-14th)
  • 6,746 total yards (3rd)
  • 28.24 PPG (4th)
  • Darrel Williams (144/558/6)

When I look over these numbers, I come away with the takeaway that the Chiefs’ run game is an afterthought when compared to the passing attack for good reason. The Chiefs have had very middle-of-the-road rushing attacks the past four years and still ended up in the top six for total yards and points per game every single season. It’s also particularly interesting to note that the Chiefs had their least effective rushing attack with Mahomes in the very year they won the Super Bowl.

I think we like to romanticize the rushing attack of 2018 with Kareem Hunt, but at the end of the day, they finished 16th in total rushing yards that year just like they did the past two seasons. Having a star running back sounds appealing, but the last four seasons show whether there is one back that gets the majority of the carries like Hunt in 2018 and CEH in 2020, or if it’s more of a committee like in 2019 and 2021, the overall offensive production stays relatively stable.

I’m also guilty of being disappointed that Edwards-Helaire hasn’t been able to be the “dominant back” that Kareem Hunt was despite being a first-round pick. However, let’s compare their two best seasons (Hunt in 2018 and CEH in 2020).

Kareem Hunt in 2018

  • 11 games played
  • 181 carries
  • 824 rushing yards
  • 4.6 YPC
  • 7 rushing touchdowns
  • 35 receptions
  • 378 receiving yards
  • 7 receiving touchdowns

Clyde Edwards-Helaire in 2020

  • 13 games played
  • 181 carries
  • 803 rushing yards
  • 4.4 YPC
  • 4 rushing touchdowns
  • 36 receptions
  • 297 receiving yards
  • 1 receiving touchdown

Hunt definitely did a better job of getting in the endzone, but ask anyone that plays fantasy football and they’ll tell you touchdowns can be flukey from year to year. The only other real difference is that Hunt was able to get more yards per reception, but I think most fans would be surprised to see that the number of receptions was so similar. Maybe CEH deserves more credit than I’ve been giving him.

Could Clyde prove to be the dominant running back that gets the bulk of the touches this season? Sure. Could Ronald Jones cut into his touches and potentially even become the lead rusher this season? Absolutely. Could rookie seventh-round pick Isiah Pacheco earn his way onto the field and turn it into more of a three-back rotation? It’s a possibility, but what I’m starting to believe is that regardless of which of those three scenarios play out this season I don’t think it will have a major impact on the offense.

The Chiefs’ offense, as most of us know, comes down to if Mahomes can continue to be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. The Chiefs’ run game just needs to be productive enough so that defenses can’t ignore it and more importantly, be able to convert short-yardage and goal-line plays. If they do that it doesn’t really matter who is carrying the ball or if they are a pro bowler or helps to carry your fantasy football team.

Perhaps some of you were already at this conclusion. It took me a while to get here. I was worried when the Chiefs cut Hunt and wanted them to find a replacement. Then I felt like they overcorrected and drafted a running back too high to compensate for it (I still feel that way). Then I’ve been frustrated that Clyde and the run game weren’t up to the standard that I thought it should be. However, the numbers say that the rushing game since Hunt left has been fine. They won the Super Bowl in the season with their worst rushing production and last season were able to get pretty close to the rushing production of Hunt’s last season here despite having to use more of a committee approach.

So what do you think Chiefs fans? Are you fine with the Chiefs’ rushing attack? Do you think they need a star running back that could take this offense to another level or do you think that with the offense centered on Mahomes they just need to maintain an average run game? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

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