Kansas City’s Diverse Run Game Dismantled the #1 Bucs Defense and It Should Have The Rest of the NFL Worried

The Kansas City Chiefs dominated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, winning 41 to 31 in Raymond James Stadium. While Patrick Mahomes was his usual self, the Chiefs running backs and the offensive line had a bounce-back performance, mauling the Buccaneers every chance they got.

One week after being humiliated on the road in a shocking loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive line and running backs came into this game with a tall task on their hands. The Chiefs’ ground game was nonexistent in Indianapolis, and neither the line nor the backs had any rhythm all day.

This poor performance coupled with the Chiefs getting ready to play arguably one of the best defenses in the NFL had very few believing that Sunday would be a great outcome for Kansas City. Many across the Kingdom were in full-blown panic mode, picking the Buccaneers to win. Hard to blame them, the Chiefs’ offensive line was horrendous in Indianapolis, but that game was not the norm.

Great teams and great units can have a bad game or two, it happens at every level of football. The media and Bucs players alike stated that the Chiefs offensive line would be a key reason they lost and that it “wasn’t that much better than the 2020 backup unit that lost in the Super Bowl.”

A group that was called out and ridiculed all week, came out with their hair on fire and played the game with bad intentions. They also came out with some plays that this unit has not put on tape, and it took the Bucs by surprise.

One of the culprits for why the Chiefs struggled so much against Indianapolis, and why they carved up Tampa was the diversity of run plays that were called throughout the game. It has been nearly three years since the Chiefs made a consistent effort to run outside of the tackles, but on Sunday night they let it rip with a multitude of different looks that set their backs up for success.

The Chiefs relied so heavily on zone early on this year, as well as last season that it had become predictable and bland. Even the best players will lose when another team comes out with an incredible scheme and makes them break tendencies as the Colts did. By throwing in these toss plays, especially out of the shotgun, the Chiefs are keeping other teams further off balance, and it makes predicting what they will do even murkier.

Andy Ried and Eric Bienimey still rolled out their “old reliable” in some short-yardage situations, but still, they made some changes that would throw off Tampa Bay.

On the touchdown above, the four new starters on the offensive line, since the Bucs and Chiefs last played, made all of the difference. Creed Humphrey and Joe Thuney attack Vita Vea off the snap, Trey Smith drives his man off the screen, and Orlando Brown pushes the pile into the endzone to make it a no-doubt score.

The Chiefs’ offensive line was playing through the echo of the whistle, and both Isiah Pacheco and Clyde Edwards Helaire refused to go down on first contact, driving their feet through would-be tacklers and running angrily through holes.

It was more than just a good performance for the run game, it was total domination. Helaire tallied 19 carries for 98 yards and a score, while Pacheco had 11 for 63. The team totaled 189 yards on 37 attempts for an average of 5.1 per play. With 37 pass attempts and 37 run attempts, it was as close to a balanced offense as we have seen since the start of the Mahomes era.

While the defense sat back and waited for the pass, or pinned their ears back to get after the passer, the Chiefs gashed them play in and play out in the run game. The game ended up only being a ten-point difference, but just by judging body language in the fourth quarter it was clear the Bucs, and specifically, their defensive front seven did not want to be there anymore. It’s one thing to be beaten, but to get your ass kicked on national television is another, and it was nearly two years coming for the Bucs.

The Chiefs exacted some revenge on Tampa, but with this physical beat down of a feared unit, they have put the rest of the NFL on notice. We are just getting into what could be one of the most effective styles of offense we have seen the Chiefs run since Mahomes came to town, as well as the most physical.

Showing a multitude of different run plays, from every formation possible is going to keep teams on edge, but eventually, if a team gets gashed enough they will look to stop the bleeding. The Bucs did this, and it didn’t work.

It’s incredible how much better RPOs work when the defense truly believes that they have to stop the run. Skyy Moore lived off of routes like this at Western Michigan, and if the Chiefs’ run game keeps working we will see much more of this.

In the past, the Chiefs have been accused of holding back plays or being conservative in not showing their hands, but in this game, they threw the kitchen sink and all the utensils at Tampa. They successfully ran inside zone, midzone, outside the zone, pin + pull, Y counter, counter, and all the while allowing Patrick Mahomes and the passing game to put on a show.

This game against Tampa Bay is a much better indication of how this team will play in 2022 than we have seen in the last few weeks. The offense might not be as fast as they once were, but this is without question the most physical the unit has been during the Patrick Mahomes era.

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