Analysis

The importance of the Chiefs running backs in the playoffs

An injury and opt-out have left the Chiefs with a seasoned veteran and former third-string to run the ball for their repeat campaign.

When running back Damien Williams opted out for the season, the Chiefs lost a big piece to their playoff offense. The Chiefs gave rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire a bigger workload as a result, but a high-ankle sprain injury in Week 15 questions his postseason availability.

Despite the injury occurring so late in the season, Chiefs running back coach said Edwards-Helaire could return before their divisional round matchup. The Chiefs clinched the No. 1 seed and lone bye, which gives them a home-field advantage as well.

With the running backs cut thin, the Chiefs will have to rely heavier on running backs Le’Veon Bell and Darrel Williams. Williams has been with the Chiefs since the 2018 season, while Bell signed this October.

In Week 16, both running backs showed they could play well off each other. Williams and Bell combined for 112 yards on 17 rushes and five receptions. With their last regular-season game, I expect to see Williams a lot.

Last week, Williams got a 70% snap rate on offense, according to Pro Football Reference. His next closet percentage was 48% in Week 13 against the Denver Broncos.

This extra work following Edwards-Helaire’s injury could help get Williams better prepared for the potential playoff run. Bell has much more experience as well, so reps at this point aren’t nearly as important for him.

Neither Bell nor Williams are primary targets in this offense, but that hasn’t stopped other role players from huge successes in the playoffs since 2018. One of the Chiefs’ most important offensive pieces in the postseason was Damien Williams.

Against the New England Patriots in the 2018 AFC Championship game, Williams scored three touchdowns, as well as a Super Bowl performance that saw Williams score two touchdowns and total more than 100 yards.

Williams has 11 postseason touchdowns in just six games. I believe that Bell and Darrel Williams could play well off each other to help the Chiefs secure their second straight Super Bowl trophy.

The two have separate running styles: Williams tries to get speed going right away, while Bell runs much more patiently. The Chiefs will have the option to utilize their different styles to keep the defensive adjusting.

With how much they’ve used running backs with Mahomes in the postseason, I expect to see Bell starting and getting a decent amount of touches. Williams could also provide a different look to keep the defense honest.

More is to come on whether Edwards-Helaire will be good to go. But if this team has to go with Williams and Bell, there is no reason not to be optimistic that this team could compete for and hoist up another Lombardi trophy to end the season.

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