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A closer examination of the Chiefs running game vs New England

Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (25) tries to get away from Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith (22) during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

For most of the game, it was not a pretty sight. But what did New England do, or what did the Kansas City Chiefs not do when it came to running the football?

A win is a win, no matter how ugly, and at times on Monday night, the Chiefs offense looked like they were as ugly as could be. While the Chiefs defense turned in a statement game, this was one of the worst games we have seen during the Andy Reid era.

Apart from the reason for this was due to the fact that the Chiefs struggled heavily to find an offensive rhythm all game, and apart of this problem was the fact the Chiefs struggled to move the ball on the ground for large potions of the game.

The team rushed for a combined 94 yards with rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushing for 64 off of 16 carries to average four yards a pop. On the outside it doesn’t seem terrible, any run of around four to five yards is considered successful, but it was the number of runs that tallied only either negative yards or only one to three yards that were apart of the problem.

Of these carries, he had NINE that went for three or fewer yards. While his numbers were not there he still managed seven carries that would be considered successful, which makes it all the more impressive he made it to 64 total yards.

The opening drive of the game the Chiefs moved the ball with ease as they mostly only saw the Patriots base defensive look. The Chiefs came out and attacked the 4-3 with a few zone runs early.

After the Chiefs moved the ball down the field it wouldn’t take long before New England started to throw different looks at them. The Patriots disguised what they were doing well, they showed what looked to be a disadvantage of numbers in the box, but it was the movement they use to create problems across the Chiefs offensive line that caused negative plays to start to accumulate.

We did get to see the Chiefs somewhat expand their repertoire, up till this point we had seen a healthy dose of zone with a few powers sprinkled in. The Chiefs introduced the world to counter plays, this first of which they ran was not perfectly blocked up, but a good individual effort from Eric Fisher and Edwards-Helaire sprung a nice gain up the middle.

They attempted to go back to Counter but had the variation of having Travis Kelce block instead of backside tackle pulling. Kelechi Osemele has a good kick-out block on his pull from the left guard, but this is where the miscommunication starts. Instead of pulling up in the hole and blocking the backer, Kelce logs outside to nowhere. Meanwhile, CEH hits the hole but runs into nothing. This is nothing special New England did except for taking advantage of the Chiefs mistake.

As the game progressed the Patriots would get more elaborate with plays and looks. The Patriots secondary did a good job of coming up to the line of scrimmage and disguising like they were going to be playing pass but the quickly stepping into the box to make plays. They also started to incorporate movement to beat the Chiefs at the point of attack.

The small amount of yards the Chiefs picked up running on first and second downs affected the whole flow of the game, but as the game went on the Chiefs would look to the outside as the answer for the run game. Eric Fisher is a very athletic tackle, and we have seen him work well in space before, but the reach blocks on the end by Nick Keizer and Watkins make the play above happen.

While the offensive line in general struggled Kelechi Osemele was still a bright spot. The play below is ugly, not a great play at all, but the way Osemele assaults the hip of the shade and creates a mass pile is excellent, and it puts a tremendous strain on the mind of the defensive player who has to battle through knowing there is more of that coming all game. It all makes a difference.

One of the final successful plays of the game for the team running the ball was yet another variation of the pin and pull, but with three-players pulling around the end. The end is a successful play, that set the Chiefs up to seal the game.

With a quarterback like Patrick Mahomes, some would wonder why the Chiefs would even run the ball at all. It’s a very legit question, as throwing is more efficient for scoring than running the ball. With that being said and knowing the weapons the Chiefs have, being able to have a competent ground attack is something the Chiefs lacked in all of 2019, in which they still won the Super Bowl.

Things change in 2020, we saw for a large part of the game Patrick Mahomes and the electric core of wideouts get shut down. The NFL is not a stagnant league, even the best must adapt or die. For the Chiefs to adapt it could be as simple as establishing a solid ground attack. Credit to New England and Bill Bellichick, they had a mission headed in and executed.

For the Chiefs to get better it must start up front, they have to find a series of plays in which they can get men covered up and give CEH room to work. He has superstar potential and could be a dynamic factor on the team for years to come.

It’s up to all five upfront and sometimes six to let him work. Upfront it’s all or none, one mistake and the entire play, entire drive, the entire game is ruined. In week five it will be interesting to see if the Chiefs ground attack comes alive and we see the full reach of Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s ability.

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