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A closer look at the Chiefs red zone struggles

The Chiefs moved the ball up and down the field all game, but they failed to execute where it mattered most. Here is a closer look at the chances the Chiefs had to score touchdowns, and why they had to settle for field goals.

The game of football can be highly frustrating and can leave players, coaches, and fans scratching their heads at times. One of the most head-scratching things from this past week is how a team like the Kansas City Chiefs can move the ball so easily up and down the field, yet fail when they get the ball into the red zone. Offensively the Chiefs finished with 447 total yards, averaged 7.1 yards per play, and finished with 25 first downs compared to the Denver Broncos 19.

It seemed like a dominating performance yet the Chiefs scored just one touchdown, and came away with five Harrison Butker field goals, and just a six-point win in a game in which they were heavy favorites. It wasn’t for lack of chances that the Chiefs failed to punch the ball in, they had more than their fair share of chances to get in the endzone.

Some plays are just tough luck, and the play above shows that. The other team gets paid too and it is just a good play by Shelby Harris to drop into coverage after a busted play, nothing anyone can do on this big third-down stop except tip a cap to Denver.

Some plays have a beautiful setup, but a lack of vision and execution can take away a chance to get the ball into the endzone. Below Le’Veon Bell has a great chance to score a touchdown, but he misses a wide-open seam down the middle and instead tries to bounce the ball to the outside.

One of the things that I have seen some fans complain about lately is that they think the Chiefs get too “cute” when they have the ball inside the ten-yard line. It’s cute when it doesn’t work, but when it does it is creative. The fact of the matter is the Chiefs just don’t have the offensive line personnel is not good enough to simply line it up and “pound it in” as many have clamored for.

The interior offensive line struggles to get a push on normal inside run plays, so to expect them to do any better packed in tight on the goal line is not realistic. The play above the Chiefs actually scored on in week four against the New England Patriots, I had thought it was week one, ( my mistake), but it has worked in the past.

Below Tyreek Hill comes open in the back right corner of the end zone, but the Denver pass rush forces Mahomes to take his eyes away from down field, in a particularly poor sequence by the Chiefs tackles.

Not even Patrick Mahomes played his best game in the red zone. On the play above if he pulls the ball he has set up either himself to fake a pitch and run the ball in, or pitch the ball to Tyreek Hill who would be one on one headed to the pile on. I like Hill’s odds on that play. Instead, Mahomes gives and the safety fills the gap, no one up front’s fault or even Bell’s, he was just the man the Chiefs couldn’t account for on that play.

Give credit where credit is due, Vic Fangio had his defense ready to bend but not break. The Broncos had the Chiefs number on the goal line, but they really exposed some of the tendencies that the Chiefs have had, such as suing motion and misdirection to keep teams off balance, while also attacking the edge with speed.

It all stems back to the Chief’s struggles running the football, and the interior of the offensive line not being able to get enough consistent movement upfront. Now it is a makeshift unit up front missing several starters at this point, but it is starting to be figured out that Andy Reid has no intention of trying to line it up and just pound it in.

Now just because these plays didn’t work doesn’t mean they are bad plays, they were just ineffective this week. In fact, the Chiefs have had a ton of red zone scores this year using similar schemes and in some cases the exact same plays.

The only complaint that I have is they took the ball out of Patrick Mahomes hands a little too much for my liking. He has been the catalyst for plenty of scores inside the five. Sometimes you have to win ugly, and in the NFL it is quite literally any given Sunday, but headed into the final quarter of the season red zone efficiency is something the Chiefs will have to improve upon. This team is designed to score touchdowns, not kick field goals inside the ten.

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