Chiefs' conservative offense won't get job done
If you went to bed with the score at 31-7, Packers lead, late in the third quarter, having watched the Chiefs amass a truly pathetic 91 yards up until that point, you likely woke up wondering what in the world happened in the fourth quarter last night to get to 38-28.
Okay, so the Chiefs still lost by 10 points, but somehow they managed to grab another 235 yards and three touchdowns. Alex Smith had nearly 300 yards and an almost-respectable QB rating of over 80. More shocking was the fact that one of those touchdowns was to WR Jeremy Maclin (first touchdown pass caught by a Kansas City wide receiver since the 2013 season).
So, what happened?
Unfortunately, the bane of most people’s existence (unless you play fantasy football, that is) occurred: garbage time. It’s like watching preseason football—knowing nothing really matters—but worse, still having things entered into the record books as fact.
At PFF, for our NFL customers, we have a number of specialty products; one such product is a button labeled “remove garbage time.” It is used quite often among our clients.
It was fun having the Chiefs “no touchdowns to wide receivers record,” but now it’s gone. Not broken—as records should be—but stolen away in the night, like a burglar, taking your kids toys.
Play it that way if you wish, but anyone actually watching the first 38 minutes of the game knows just how bad this was for KC. They understand the full ineptitude of the two minutes before halftime—56 seconds, two timeouts, and then: trap, trap, shallow cross, trap, scramble rather than throwing a Hail Mary, half.
If this sounds like I’m vaguely mad at the Chiefs, you’re perception is correct. I completely understand the idea of not turning the ball over and playing things close to your chest, but this is the Packers you are playing; probably the greatest quarterback ever, on his home turf, and you think you are going to dink-and-dunk a win?
It’s not even as if Rodgers was at his very best. He had an interception dropped that could have easily been a pick-six, fumbled on a sack while being clumsy, and benefited from Randall Cobb taking full advantage of the Chiefs’ cornerback injuries.
And, yet, the Packers still they blew them away.
The real question here for Kansas City is: “Is the lack of offensive ambition a clear strategy, or a function of the personnel they have?”
Currently, Alex Smith throws the ball shorter than any regular starter in football (Brandon Weeden is the only QB below him), with an average depth of target of 5.8 yards this year. The NFL average is 8.5. In 2014, he was 39th of 39 qualifying quarterbacks, and the year before that, 42nd of 42 QBs.
Here’s the thing, though—despite being the last (or next to last) ranked player every year since he came to the Chiefs, his numbers are actually going down. Every year, come what may, he’s throwing shorter and shorter passes.
That 7.7 yards depth of target in 2012 would put him just below the middle of the pack this season. Fueled by the success of Tom Brady’s short passing genius, the Chiefs are leaving no stone unturned.
Maybe it’s more a function of the fact Smith just isn’t very good on deep throws. Last year, on passes over 20 yards, his QB rating of 62.5 was 32nd out of 38 quarterbacks. The NFL average is 93.1
It could possibly have to do with the offensive line. Through three games, they do look like they have a keeper in second-round rookie Mitch Morse, but the others constitute a poor group (22nd in pass protection).
Regardless, the team is now 1-2, with the high-flying Bengals waiting for them after a shortened week. Given the weapons at the Bengals disposal, Kansas City can’t wait until garbage time to start playing.