Chiefs offense clams up, shuts down in second half of games
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) It seems that everybody has a theory as to why the Kansas City Chiefs offense shuts down in the second half of games, even the star tight end who wishes he could do something to stop it.
''Other than play-calling, I couldn't really tell you,'' Travis Kelce said after the latest slowdown, one that cost the Chiefs dearly in a 19-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans last Sunday.
''I mean, I'm not blaming it on play-calling - we've got to go out there and execute,'' Kelce continued. ''I feel we got a little conservative. I don't know if it was the weather or what. I don't know. We'll have to look at the film and see what happened.''
The film seemed to back up Kelce's initial assessment.
The Chiefs piled up 208 yards in the first half against Tennessee, and got touchdown runs from Tyreek Hill and Alex Smith and a field goal from Cairo Santos in building a 17-7 halftime lead.
They ran 16 pass plays and 10 running plays, two of which were the scoring runs.
In the second half? The Chiefs ran 16 times while throwing just 12 times, were repeatedly shut down on third-and-short and amassed just 109 yards. The result was 12 unanswered points by Tennessee, including Ryan Succop's 53-yard field goal as time expired that proved to be the difference.
Kelce apologized this week for calling out his head coach and offensive coordinators after the game, but more for the manner in which he spoke up than the content of his message. Because the truth is that Kansas City's offense has been impotent after halftime for weeks.
The Chiefs have failed to score a second-half touchdown on offense going back to their win in Denver - coincidentally, their opponent Sunday night - in late November.
Since then, they have averaged 219 yards of first-half offense and led into the locker room in each game, and then averaged 124 yards of offense in the second half and been outscored the final two quarters in each game.
Realizing there is a problem is easy, though.
Diagnosing it is much more difficult.
Kelce may have been on the right track with conservative play-calling. The Chiefs have called more passing plays than running plays in the first half each of the past three weeks, then called the same or more running plays as passing plays in the second half.
The split has been especially pronounced the past two weeks, when they haven't scored a single point after the break. They've called for 32 pass plays and 22 running plays in the first half, and 33 running plays and 22 pass plays - almost the exact opposite - in the second half.
''There're situational plays and situations in games where there is a time and a place for everything. So, that's how I go about it,'' said coach Andy Reid, who has called his own plays most of his career. ''When you don't win the game, you're definitely going to look at something like that.''
Part of the reason for the run-pass splits is obvious: The Chiefs have been playing with the halftime lead, and running the ball is the easiest way to protect it.
But the byproduct of that cautious, old-school approach is that they haven't been able to put opponents away, and that has led to a series of nail-biters all season. Ten of their 14 games have been decided by one possession, and their past two defeats have been two points apiece.
''We just have to do a better job across the board - everybody does,'' Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said.
''We need to go out there and execute better, finish better, adjust better. All the things play into it. We need to be better. Here at the end of the year - it's going to have to be.''
Notes: OLB Justin Houston did not practice Thursday for the second straight day because of swelling in his surgically repaired left knee. Reid said the previous day he believes Houston will play Sunday. ... MLB Justin March-Lillard has looked good in practice, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. March-Lillard (broken hand) was designated to return from injured reserve Tuesday, and would help a defense that lost Derrick Johnson to a ruptured Achilles tendon.
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