KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Deep vertical passes are virtually invisible in the Chiefs’ passing game, which currently ranks 29th in the league, averaging 202.3 yards per game.
Quarterback Alex Smith averages 7 yards per passing attempt and his longest completion on the season is 33 yards.
The Chiefs don’t push the ball down the field often, preferring instead to throw quick hitters and it has worked leading to four wins in the last five games.
“It’s strange that things have happened that way for us,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said Thursday. “I think a part of it is our ability to run the football, particularly in the second half which we did this past weekend. We had success there.
“The other thing is, if you do throw it short you expect your guys to break tackles and make longer runs. We just have to continue to use the formula that’s been working for us and continue to grow off of that.”
The Chiefs’ passing attack has gotten by due in large part to playmakers capable of taking a short pass and turning it into a large gain, a point Pederson emphasized.
“(Tight end Travis) Kelce obviously stands out,” Pederson said. “He’s broken some tackles and been able to take some long runs. (Wide receiver) Dwayne (Bowe) is another guy that here recently, you throw it to him quick and he has the strength and power to break a tackle. Obviously our backs, Jamaal (Charles) can do that. So we have the guys that can do it and they’ve done a nice job here in recent weeks of getting extra yards after the catch.”
The Chiefs also have rookie running back De’Anthony Thomas, who took a screen pass 17 yards for a touchdown in Week 5. The electrifying Thomas is threat to take it the distance on any given touch.
Kelce leads the Chiefs with 28 catches for 352 yards and three touchdowns. Bowe is second with 25 catches for 343 yards.
Of note, the Chiefs wide receiving corps hasn’t found the end zone through seven games.
While deep passes may be missing in the Chiefs’ arsenal for now, Pederson said he believed the offense can continue to succeed with a short passing game.
“Obviously the ball is out quick,” he said. “And everything that you do in the passing game whether it is three, five or seven steps should come off a vertical step as if you’re running a go route or a deep route. We use a multitude of formations, motions and shifts to sort of disguise our three-step passing game and that’s been helpful for us as well.”
Second-year running back/returner Knile Davis’ propensity to fumble almost cost him the returner job despite his explosive running skills.
“I think he dropped one in a preseason game where I was like, ‘Uh, I don’t know if he is ever going to be able to do this,’” special teams coordinator Dave Toub said Thursday. “But we just kept sticking with it.”
Still, potentially seeing the ball on the ground caused angst for Toub, who admitted the thought crossed his mind to go a different direction.
“Well, you think that a little bit,” Toub said, “but I’m glad we stuck with it. Let’s leave it at that.”
Toub said Davis, who didn’t have a background as a returner in college, has improved and continues to work hard in catching the ball, more importantly holding on to it.
“He knows he’s got issues at time,” Toub said, “but he’s really improved at that, and proof is in the pudding.”
Indeed, as Davis earned his first career AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after a 99-yard return for a touchdown in Week 8.
He is the fifth player in NFL history to have at least a 99-yard return for a score in each of his first two seasons. Davis recorded a team-record 108-yard return for a touchdown in Week 13 of the 2013 season.
RETURNING THE COMPLIMENT
New York Jets coach Rex Ryan delivered arguably the quote of the week on Wednesday’s media conference call when he talked about Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton landing a head coaching position.
“Hopefully he’ll get one this year,” Ryan said. “I hope it’s not mine, but he really is a great coach.”
Sutton chuckled when told of Ryan’s comments.
“That sounds exactly like Rex,” Sutton said with a smile. “One of the great things about Rex is that he truly enjoys what he’s doing. He’s such a personality that I think a lot of times I think it goes kind of unnoticed how good of a coach he is.
Obviously, Sutton knows after serving with Ryan in New York from 2009-12 as a linebackers coach and assistant head coach.
Ryan had kind words to say about Sutton, and Thursday was Sutton’s turn to return the compliments.
“Having been with him, he is an outstanding football coach and what he’s done with his defensive system speaks for itself,” Sutton said. “But he’s a great coach. I think you can see how hard the players play for him, that they respond to him well. He’s got a great way about it.”