ReFo: Panthers @ Chiefs, Week 13
We finally saw the Chiefs team that should have been here all season long, playing efficient if not exciting football, running hard and making plays when needed to come away with a much deserved win.
Brady Quinn stepped up as a leader for the Chiefs both on the field, where he put together his finest day as a pro, and off it when he was poised, measured and thoughtful at the podium in expressing his thoughts on the whole tragedy.
In the end, no words can explain or do justice to the events surrounding Jovan Belcher, so let’s focus on the game instead and see what we learned.
Carolina – Three Performances of Note
Where’s the Pressure?
On the season, the Panthers have been one of the better pass rushing teams in the league. They didn’t look the part on Sunday, however, as they pressured Quinn on just 23% of his drop-backs, including a single sack, largely in part due to the underwhelming play on the defensive line. Charles Johnson (-2.4) came into the game leading all 4-3 defensive ends in our Pass Rushing Productivity rating, but was held to his second-lowest output of the year rushing the passer, as he managed only a hit and hurry on his 23 rushes. The only other pressure came from fellow starters Greg Hardy and Dwan Edwards, who each were able to disrupt the quarterback twice, while the five other Panther defensive linemen to receive snaps combined to rush the passer 31 times, producing zero pressures in the process.
While they’ve certainly been successful in many games this season, it’s not hard to see why the Panthers are 3-9 when the unit comes up with performances where they’re utterly incapable of generating pressure.
Success on the Ground
With Jonathan Stewart out, DeAngelo Williams received his biggest workload since Week 2 with 12 carries and his second-highest snap count on the season. While he’s still not close to deserving of the contract the Panthers gave him, he made the most of his carries against the Chiefs, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and picking up four first downs. Williams wasn’t the only player who had success for the Panthers, though, as fellow back Mike Tolbert gained an average of 7.5 yards on the ground, albeit in just two attempts. The real star for the Panthers in the running game was quarterback Cam Newton (+3.0 rush). He gained 78 yards on seven attempts — good for a team-high 11.1 YPC — and was particularly adept running the read-option. More decisive than we’ve seen at times this season, Newton did a nice job forcing defensive hesitation and making explosive cuts up field. Credit the offensive line for doing its part as well, particularly LT Jordan Gross, who was excellent at the point of attack.
Lauded for his coverage skills coming out of Boston College, the performance of rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly again provided evidence that the NFL is quite the step up from college competition. Logging a negative grade in coverage for the eighth time this season, Kuechly allowed all six passes thrown into his coverage to be caught — four of them went for first downs — for 76 yards, and especially struggled covering Chiefs tight end Tony Moeaki. However, his struggles in the passing game shouldn’t overshadow his improvement in run defense. He notched six defensive stops — tied for the team-high — and demonstrated the quick play recognition that makes him such a great prospect. This was on display at 7:30 of the third quarter, when, at the snap, he exploded into the backfield to stop Peyton Hillis for a 5-yard loss.
Kansas City – Three Performances of Note
An Unexpected Performance
It’s safe to say that this is the best we’ve seen Quinn (+4.1) play since he was drafted in 2007, and certainly the strongest performance by a Kansas City quarterback this season. Leading the Chiefs to their second victory of the season, and their highest regulation point total, he was efficient, though not outstanding, in completing 19 of 22 aimed passes for 201 yards. He generally took what the defense gave him with manageable, comfortable throws, as he attempted just two deep passes while roughly 60% of his attempts went between the numbers. Much of the credit should go to Chiefs offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for his superb job calling a balanced game and putting his quarterback in favorable positions. The Chiefs’ 41 designed runs helped set up play action, where Quinn was excellent — play action accounted for 38.5% of his drop-backs and he completed 7.5% more of his passes and had a 3.5 higher YPA on those plays. The QB was also solid on the few plays he faced pressure, taking just one sack and completing four of five passes for a 7.8 YPA.
Although this wasn’t a brilliant passing display, Quinn was good enough to pull out a win and delivered more stability than the Chiefs have had at the position all season.
On the first play of the game, Patrick DiMarco (+2.0) had as impressive looking a play as you will see all season. Lead-blocking on a run to the left side, DiMarco came around the edge and annihilated James Anderson on a block, throwing the linebacker aside like a rag doll in the process. Seldom do even the most devastating offensive linemen in the league dominate their opponents so thoroughly, much less a fullback on what was the first regular season snap of his NFL career. The play was not the lone bright spot on the day for the second-year man out of South Carolina, however, as he was on the field 40 of the team’s 72 offensive snaps, and played a key role in the success of Jamaal Charles and the Kansas City running game.
When top cornerback Brandon Flowers went down early in the game with injury, it looked as if the Chiefs could be in for a long day in the secondary. And while on the whole they were not horrible, the group had an up-and-down performance. Replacing Flowers at CB, Jalil Brown allowed just two receptions on five targets for 19 yards, playing 28 snaps in coverage. On the opposite side of the field, Javier Arenas also played well, as he gave up only three of eight balls thrown his way to be caught, though he took a poor angle on a Mike Tolbert catch and run. In his first action of the year, Neiko Thorpe was beaten for a 23-yard touchdown almost immediately after entering the game in the second quarter. The rookie’s worst play of the day, however, came on a missed tackle on a Newton run later in the game.
After Abram Elam appeared to be benched following the Panthers’ first touchdown, another rookie was forced into action at safety. Tysyn Hartman played 48 of the team’s 52 defensive snaps, after having played 11 total snaps on the season coming into the game. And, while he was largely untested, Hartman was solid. The same can’t be said for Travis Daniels, who allowed only two catches for 14 yards, but missed a pair of big tackles. The Chiefs also look to have dodged a bullet, as Eric Berry appeared to have injured his hand, but missed only five snaps in the game.
— Rookie Joe Adams received touches on two of his three snaps; he carried the ball once for 5 yards and caught a screen pass that went for 7.
— Despite being one of the most productive rushers in the league, Chiefs OLB Justin Houston rushed the passer on just 55% of passing plays.
–– Greg Olsen’s one catch is the fewest he’s had since Week 2.
PFF Game Ball
Though it was tempting to give this to DiMarco for that ridiculous block, Brady Quinn gets the nod for the best performance by a Chief quarterback all season.