Super Bowl LIV Preview: Kansas City Chiefs
Obviously the heart-and-soul of the Chiefs team runs through the right arm of Patrick Mahomes, who commands the offense masterfully and is capable of game-changing plays at any moment. According to NFL.com, the Chiefs lead the NFL in 30-plus (34) and 40-plus yard passes (20) even though Mahomes missed two games with a knee injury.
Playing with dynamic weapons like Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Mecole Hardman and Sammy Watkins definitely helps that cause, as Kansas City formulated the fifth best passing offense leaguewide this season. The firepower that this team is working with helps them keep defenses honest despite the lack of a true running game.
Per Next Gen Stats, Mahomes leads the NFL in yards per attempt when given 2.5 seconds or more to throw, with a staggering 10.1. With only 25 sacks allowed on the year, KC’s offensive line ranks fourth in the league in terms of pass protection.
Even if you force pressure off the edge, Mahomes has proven to be a surprisingly lethal scrambler. This was evidenced by his miraculous 27-yard touchdown run at the end of the half against Tennessee, though he actually covered more than 64 yards on the ground en route to the end zone.
So let’s say San Francisco unleashes their best blitz packages and tries to disrupt Mahomes early. In that case, who do you decide to leave open?
Hill, who was clocked at 22.81 MPH on someone else’s touchdown run will outrun any defender on his side of the field. San Francisco All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman is one of the best cover men in the past decade, but he would easily get burned in a one on one scenario without safety help. If you rushed an additional linebacker like Kwon Alexander, would you trust your safeties to contain Kelce in the middle of the field?
Former quarterback Chris Simms broke down tape of Kelce’s route running and noticed that he is actually working in significant blocking ability while running routes. Though he’s known more for his exceptional receiving ability, he is “accidentally” running into defenders while positioning himself downfield in his routes, thereby freeing up either himself or another receiver along the way.
This somewhat legal pick play, coupled with the fact that he is a dominant goal line mismatch make him impossible to ignore, and may require a double team to mitigate.
Notice the running game hasn’t been mentioned yet. Andy Reid‘s offense uses running backs more as decoys and safety valves than as main offensive staples, and the league simply doesn’t have an answer for it yet. Despite their rank as the 28th best run-blocking unit, there are three players (Damien Williams, Darwin Thompson, LeSean McCoy) who can do damage if left unaccounted for out of the backfield.
As we saw in the first Houston Texans game this season, the only way to slow this offense down is to take them off of the field. That involves a heavy running game, constant pressure forcing errant throws, and managing the clock to perfection. That leads me to the next main point…