Chiefs offense hope return to roots pays off

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Quarterback Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs offense showed a different look in beating the Oakland Raiders, and he hopes his team keep up its appearance against the New Orleans Saints Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

Rain created muddy conditions for the players, but did not stop the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line from providing quarterback Alex Smith with a clean pocket against the Oakland Raiders during the Oct. 16, 2016 matchup at Oakland Coliseum. (Photo courtesy Chiefs PR, Chiefs.com).

Rain created muddy conditions for the players, but did not stop the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line from providing quarterback Alex Smith with a clean pocket against the Oakland Raiders during the Oct. 16, 2016 matchup at Oakland Coliseum. (Photo courtesy Chiefs PR, Chiefs.com).

“We had different types of looks, different types of runs and passes, how many guys touch the football and Sunday was a great example of us just mixing it up,” Smith said.

“For me to see all those guys on our end getting involved, you love it. Everyone feeds off each other.”

Sunday’s 26-10 win over Oakland contrasted dramatically in terms of offensive output compared to the team’s first four games. The Chiefs averaged 42 pass attempts to just 21 rushes per game before the bye week. The script flipped against the Raiders, with the team pounding the ground with 40 rushes to just 23 pass attempts, and for the first time this season provided Smith a clean pocket from which to pass.

Matt Nagy said the Oakland game offered a better picture of what he wants the Chiefs to look like compared to the season’s opening stretch.

“I think if you go back and you look at our first games, and then you come back and look at this past week, I’d say yeah,” Nagy said. “We got into some weird situations there, whether it was just getting behind quick for whatever reason we did.”

Early deficits against San Diego, Houston and Pittsburgh limited the Chiefs offensive choices, Nagy said.

“It made us become one dimensional, and now everything gets thrown out of whack,” Nagy said.

The Chiefs operated with a pass-first offense for four weeks, pulling the team away from its roots running the ball. The team’s initial drive in Oakland looked like more of the same.

“Last week we went three and out, we came back, we regrouped and then we played our game,” Nagy said.

Establishing the run proved key to the game plan, which included more multiple tight end sets and utilizing fullback Anthony Sherman. The blocker Sherman averaged five snaps per game before the bye week; he played 19 snaps against Oakland.

“Any time a defense doesn’t know what’s coming, when they see multiple personnel groups, different formations and they’re having to defend all of that,” Smith said. “It goes hand-in-hand and opens up the run game and passing game.

“Certainly as a QB, a good running game helps you get set a lot and it can help out.”

Smith set a personal high with 48 pass attempts against San Diego in the season opener, then broke that mark with 50 attempts three weeks later at Pittsburgh.

Nagy said maintaining better offensively balance favoring the run opens up the options for his offense.

“But when you can balance it and get the run going, and now you get some play action, and now you get the quick game or you can take some shots like we did, the run game starts it all off,” Nagy said.

Providing a clean pocket for Smith to work also proved key to the win over the Saints. The Chiefs surrendered 13 sacks through the first four games, but allowed just a single sack against the Raiders.

“I felt like last Sunday our offensive line played lights out,” Smith said. “It was clean pockets, I was able to stand back there and throw.”

The return of Jamaal Charles, even in a limited role, also adds punch to the running and passing games as well. The running back delivered a crucial block on a blitz pickup that allowed Smith time to connect with wide receiver Albert Wilson for a 26-yard gain that setup the go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter.

Nagy said Charles probably does not get enough credit for being an elite pass protector.

“Teams will give you different looks and there will be different calls with the offensive line on who to pick up,” Nagy said. “On that one he saw the safety coming, he stepped up backside and made a great block, and gave Alex time to make the completion.”

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Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and the Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.


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