The Chiefs' One-Score Wins Weren't as Close as They Seemed

The Kansas City Chiefs just capped off a historic six-game stretch, finishing in an odd spot in NFL history, proving their unconventional dominance.
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At the end of Week 15, the Chiefs had set two odd NFL records. The first of which is somewhat dubious.

Every Chiefs game in the last month-and-a-half has felt the same, and that is because they have largely been the same. In all but one of the games (against the Las Vegas Raiders) the Chiefs were nursing a one-score lead late in the game and held on to win. In three of the six games, the Chiefs offense was the last unit with the ball and successfully ran the clock out to end the game. Only against the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos did the defense have to secure the win while the Chiefs were up one score.

This trend is usually not a good one. In the NFL being lucky in one-score games is a tell-tale sign of a team that could regress. That is why the expected win total of the Chiefs right now is 10-4 instead of 13-1 — the Chiefs are 7-1 in one-score games.

The odd thing about this stretch of games for the Chiefs is that in four of the six games (vs. Carolina, at Tampa Bay, at Miami, at New Orleans), the Chiefs had a two-score lead with less than five minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs, in a way, coasted at the end of these games to one-score wins, and the coasting seems to come mainly on defense. While many will say Andy Reid has gotten offensively conservative with the lead late in the fourth quarter, only one game featured a drive from the offense with around 50% rushing plays with the two-score lead on the board (at Miami). On the year, the Chiefs also throw at the third-highest rate while having the lead.

In the four games mentioned above, the defense gave up a scoring drive while nursing the two-score lead in drive lengths of 2:06, 2:07, 5:31, and 5:45. In those drives, they forced the other team into one fourth-down attempt. On all scoring drives, there was ample time in the game for the opponent to still get the ball with enough time to realistically win if they could produce a defensive stop against the Chiefs offense, but in every single game, the Chiefs offense slammed the door shut. Here is the late game drive chart of one of those games, at Tampa Bay, as an example.

tampadrives

So while the Chiefs did record six one-score wins in the last six weeks, the variety of these wins were skewed towards a more stable type of win. The Chiefs didn’t have to march down the field to win the game in five out of the six wins. In a way, they were impressive one-score wins, especially considering the opponents.

Some of those opponents the Chiefs beat in this six-game stretch leads to the other NFL record the Chiefs set.

It’s hard not to use a word other than dominant when talking about this stat.

The Chiefs’ accomplishments on the road this year could be aided by severely reduced crowds due to COVID-19; however, it is still a ridiculously impressive feat that shows that the Chiefs are top dogs in the NFL once again this year. So while the one-score wins have provided some unease as to the prospects of the Chiefs' hopes to repeat this year, the fact Kansas City went on the road and beat a multitude of good teams this year certainly shows they are up for the task of running it back.

With the Chiefs all but having the No. 1 seed in the AFC locked up going into Week 16, this six-week stretch of games from the Chiefs is going to be the most recent look we will have at the team going into games that truly matter. While the fact that the games were one-score margins and not blowouts is a bit concerning, the nature of these games was not. Coupled with the fact the Chiefs have the second-best strength of victory of all current playoff teams in both conferences at .467, it’s hard not to love the Chiefs’ odds come playoff time. As long as the defense can make enough plays to supplement the Chiefs’ explosive offense, the Chiefs’ dominance over playoff teams should translate to another deep playoff run, likely even leading to another Lombardi Trophy.