The headline essentially gives it away, but brace yourselves. I'm about to say it again.
The Kansas City Chiefs need to do a better job running the ball.
A few months ago, virtually no one would have expected those words to be typed out. Nevertheless, through eight games, the Chiefs' offense is struggling as much as it ever has in the Patrick Mahomes era. Regardless of the plan — attack deep down the field, find soft spots in zones for intermediate throws, you name it — it hasn't worked very well over the past few weeks.
In Week 8 against the New York Giants, though, there were flashes of improvement. Head coach Andy Reid called a fantastic opening drive, one in which the short passing game was used heavily. Mahomes spent more time throwing behind, at or close to the line of scrimmage than he ever had in a game before. The Chiefs were rolling. At least, until yet another costly turnover.
In the second quarter, running back Derrick Gore had a breakout drive. During a series that was capped off by his first career rushing touchdown, the 26-year-old halfback had 41 rushing yards and looked terrific behind the Chiefs' strong offensive line. Run blocking has been a plus for the big men up front this year, especially in power situations. Reid has opted to implement plenty of zone concepts this season, which has backfired time and time again. Conner Christopherson of Arrowhead Report joined me on today's Roughing the Kicker podcast to discuss why running the football may actually help the Chiefs get back on track.
Everyone knows the Cover-2 problem right now. In its base format, the strategy is a defensive shell in which safeties drop deep down the field in an effort to split the field into two zones. Cornerbacks and linebackers then drop into their respective zones as well while traditional opponents attempt to get pressure with just four pass rushers. This certainly isn't the first time the Chiefs have faced quite a bit of Cover-2, but it's the first time that it's given them so much trouble. Defenses simply refuse to blitz Mahomes and with Travis Kelce being slowed down in some spurts and Tyreek Hill being banged up in others, it puts a ton of pressure on ancillary weapons to get open. That isn't happening.
Running the football can help. Oftentimes, the Chiefs are facing light boxes with low amounts of defenders in them. If the team commits to a steady diet of not just running — but successful and smart running — then it could force defenses to creep up closer to the box and line of scrimmage. In turn, that opens up opportunities for the downfield shots that make the Chiefs so hard to stop when they're at their best.
No one is saying the Chiefs should be running the ball 30-plus times a game. With that said, doubling down on drives like the heavy-Gore one or even the team's short-game opening drive can help get the offense back on track. As the Giants game went on, Reid went away from committing to what gave his team success earlier in the contest. Instead of sporadic usage or a few drives of wise decisions, the Chiefs need to make them more often. It may be what unlocks the offense.
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