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While the Kansas City Chiefs offense remains one of the top offensive units in the league, they’ve sputtered in recent weeks.
There are lots of levels to the Chiefs’ struggles on offense, but one glaring one has been the team’s inability to execute against Cover 2 defensive looks. As of Week 7, Patrick Mahomes had faced two-high coverage more than any quarterback in the league this season. There’s a reason that opponents are running that coverage at such a high rate against Kansas City.
We’re going to hone in specifically on the team’s struggles against this coverage. Here are three things they can do as soon as this week to adjust and get the offense back on the right track.
Run the ball against two-high looks
Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports
Rarely will the answer to offensive woes in today’s pass-happy NFL be to run the ball more often, but for the 2021 Chiefs, it’s part of the answer to their problems. Kansas City needs to run the ball more often, especially when facing 2-high coverages, man or zone.
The Chiefs have faced the lowest number of blitzes in the NFL. Opponents have resorted to rushing four, dropping seven guys into coverage and daring KC to run the ball. In Week 6 against Washington, they managed to do a good job taking advantage of this, but in other games this season they’ve struggled in that area.
Most recently, the Chiefs got down early against the Titans and were forced into a lot of passing situations. Save for a confounding second-and-10 run, Darrel Williams had carries for five, two and 11 yards in the first half. The run game was open, they were just unwilling to ride it with no points on the board.
Right now, the Chiefs need to earn the right to be the offense they want to be. If you throw the ball deep, you have to run the ball effectively against these defensive looks.
Don't be afraid to take the check down
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Throughout his career, Patrick Mahomes has been the anti-Alex Smith. He has never been too quick to look for the check down and is always looking to turn even the most mundane call into a big play. Well, the Chiefs need him to be more like Alex Smith when he’s throwing the ball against Cover 2.
Teams are running that coverage often against the Chiefs in an effort to take away the deep passing attack the offense is catered toward. Kansas City is still running those deep passing concepts against two-high, and Mahomes is waiting around for these longer plays to develop when they’re simply not there.
Daniel Harms of RGR Football found a great example of this from Week 7:
McKinnon sprint out motion prior to snap, It's the look you want that nets a lot of yards. Mahomes wants to push the ball downfield, but ends up falling away from this throw to the flat that happens too late. pic.twitter.com/858VEvZmLC
— Daniel Harms (@InHarmsWay19) October 26, 2021
When people say the Chiefs aren’t taking what the defense gives them, these are the types of plays they’re talking about. Mahomes needs to come off the deep read and look for the check down or the shallow cross much earlier than he does here.
Borrow from gameplans of old
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Teams haven’t just magically figured out that running Cover 2 is the way to beat the Chiefs. They’ve been trying to run this coverage successfully prior to this season and many teams have failed to do so.
The Buffalo Bills, for instance, ran two-high safety looks 68% of the time when they faced the Chiefs in Week 6 of the regular season last year. The Bills lost 26-17, in a game that really wasn’t all that close. It’s no surprise that the offense ran through Clyde Edwards-Helaire (161 yards on 26 carries) and Travis Kelce (5 catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns).
Andy Reid is one of the most highly capable play-callers and designers in the NFL. He has some Cover 2 beaters in his playbook and he needs to have the confidence to dial those up or innovate by creating some new ones. One of his favorites in the past has been to have Kelce run a little sit-down route in the middle of the field and for Hill to split the safeties behind him.
The offense needs to start practicing and perfecting those plays. The way that teams are defending Kansas City this season won’t go away unless they can manage to execute on those plays with the utmost levels of success.