Well, it’s that special time of year again, “Run it Nack” season is in full effect. While most of the opposition’s focus will be on limiting the air attack led by Chiefs’ savior Patrick Mahomes and company, in order for our offense to be as unstoppable as possible, the ground game needs to be a big part of the attack.
The Chiefs were most successful this season on offense when they could rely on a solid rushing attack in addition to the passing game. While Clyde Edwards-Helaire was a participant in practice on Wednesday, he seems to have suffered a setback and missed practice the next two days. He is officially listed as questionable.
This means that the usual two-pronged attack in the backfield will be short a man, and the majority of the RB reps will fall squarely on the shoulders of Le’Veon Bell. Will the 28-year-old be able to handle it? We will see tomorrow.
The Browns team defense is below average on the year. According to Pro Football Reference, they rank 21st on the season. The Chiefs need to insure Patrick Mahomes has time enough in the pocket to exploit the Browns and their weak pass defense. They also need to make sure Myles Garrett can’t just pin his ears back on every play and rush Mahomes. In order to keep Garrett at bay, his attention needs to be drawn to stopping the rush.
A healthy rushing attack ensures that Mahomes will have time in the pocket (and out) and be able to hit the Browns where it hurts, over the middle of the field and on the deep ball. The Browns really struggled this year in a few areas where the Chiefs offense excels, posting a DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) of 29th in the league on deep passes and third-down passes, and a 28thin the league DVOA ranking on passes to the tight ends.
In order for Mahomes and Kelce to have time to link up and burn the Browns where it hurts, the Chiefs need to set the tone early and often that Bell can gain yards on the rush. This will ensure that when the Chiefs do look for the deeper passes, Mahomes can sit in the pocket without worrying about taking a shot. The Browns also blitz the 4th fewest times in the NFL, preferring to rely on the four-man pass rush to create pressure.
If the Chiefs get past the Browns and advance deeper into the playoffs, they can get Clyde Edwards-Helaire back to full health, and his 1,100 yards from scrimmage on the season along with it. The two-headed monster in the Chiefs backfield will be back with a vengeance.
If you remember last year’s playoffs, the Chiefs didn’t rely on a rushing attack until they reached the Super Bowl, with Mahomes being the leading rusher for the team going into that game. Damien Williams then had a monster game, with some even arguing that he deserved to be named the Super Bowl MVP over Mahomes.
The Chiefs used the rush attack in the Super Bowl in a similar fashion to how I think it will be used on Sunday, to slow down the pass rush of the 49ers and give Mahomes enough time in the pocket to attack downfield, and eventually complete a pass that will change the game, much like how 2-3 Jet Chip Wasp did in Miami.
Let’s hope the Chiefs can get through the game Sunday unscathed so that the true two-pronged backfield attack can fully shine in the year’s playoffs with Clyde Edwards-Helaire regaining his full health.
The Chiefs’ offense was best this year when they had a healthy rushing attack to fully complement a vicious pass game. This ensures that Mahomes has time in the pocket to fully go through his progressions and find the open man. The Browns have trouble stopping deep passes, passes on 3rddown, and passes to the tight end.
In order for Mahomes and Kelce to have the kind of game they should, Patrick needs time in the pocket. In order for that to happen, the Chiefs need to establish a healthy ground game early and often. This responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Le’Veon Bell, will he be up for the challenge? Tomorrow we will find out.