Chiefs’ offense thrives by dominating time of possession

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Nov 2, 2014; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) caps off a 12-play, 81-yard drive that consumed 6:22 off the clock with a touchdown against the New York Jets at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 2, 2014; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) caps off a 12-play, 81-yard drive that consumed 6:22 off the clock with a touchdown against the New York Jets at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Fans of quick-strike offensive schemes in the modern NFL era likely aren’t too fond of the Chiefs’ methodical nature.

There is nothing fancy about the grinding style on offense, but how the Chiefs conduct business by controlling the clock proves highly effective.

Kansas City enters Week 10 ranked sixth in the league in time of possession (31:57), and that statistic has played a role in how the Chiefs turned around a season that started 0-2.

“I think we take a lot of pride in that as well as an offensive unit and once again with the guys up front, taking a lot of pride in that,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “And I think as a result of it, we’ve been good on first and second down. We’ve put ourselves in good third downs and converted when we’ve had them. We’ve been able to sustain drives and wear down some teams.”

Second-year left tackle Eric Fisher agreed.

“As I grow in this league, the two things I’ve noticed that really help win ball games are time of possession and special teams getting good field position,” Fisher said. “We’re doing great in both areas right now. Time of possession, I mean, the more we can keep our own defense off the field, the more we can wear on the other team. It’s working for us right now, so we’re just trying to do that every week.”

Controlling time of possession requires an ability to convert on third down, an area the Chiefs excel.

The Chiefs rank second in the league in third down percentage (51.9), and convert on 65.7 percent when facing a third-and-short situation, defined as 4 yards or less.

Kansas City ranks first in making good on league third-and-long, converting on 45.5 percent of plays when facing at least 6 yards to go, and tied for second in the league in converting third-and-10-plus yards situations (38.5 percent).

The success can cause frustration on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage, which wide receiver A.J. Jenkins said doesn’t go undetected in the huddle.

“We notice, especially over the D-line, ‘Come on. They’re tired, they’re tired, let’s go!’” Jenkins said he and his teammates tell each other. “So we always try to find a weakness to motivate each other on the field. It’s a constant communication of that going on all the time.”

While the offense thrives in wearing down a defense, Chiefs defenders also notice the opponent’s disappointment from the sidelines.

“I see it,” linebacker James-Michael Johnson said. “I feel like a lot of times those long third-down conversions we get sometimes, I’m kind of like, man, I would hate it if I was them in that situation. I know you get frustrated. Nobody wants that to happen, so I can see it in their eyes when they get converted on.”

Jenkins adds the opponent’s exasperations aren’t limited to players.

“I’ve heard a little bit of frustrations at times with the defense and even the coaches on the sideline,” Jenkins said with a chuckle. “I’ve heard some things, especially like on third down when they feel like they kind of got our play down, and then we still convert. They’re like, ‘I told you to be at 6 yards!’ They always go back and forth, so it’s fun to hear that. It’s good to hear that. I really enjoy it.”

The offensive efficiency goes beyond third downs.

Kansas City ranks first in the league with 5-minute drives (17), seventh in 10-play drives (19) and tied for third in average length of scoring drive (8.91 plays). The Chiefs also rank sixth in the league in yards rushing per game (136.9).

Dominating the clock is a recipe for success in the NFL, evidenced by seven of the Top 10 teams in time of possession are above .500 in the win-loss column.

RANK

TEAM

TIME OF POSSESSION

1

Indianapolis Colts (6-3) 34:39

2

San Francisco 49ers (4-4)

33:17

3

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3)

33:08

4

Detroit Lions (6-2)

32:53

5

Dallas Cowboys (6-3)

32:30

6

Kansas City Chiefs (5-3)

31:57

7

San Diego Chargers (5-4)

31:17

8

New Orleans Saints (4-4)

31:03

9

New York Jets (1-8)

30:30

10

Arizona Cardinals (7-1)

30:25

The Chiefs lost the time of possession battle one time in five wins, which occurred in Week 9 when the New York Jets held the ball 31:35 to the Chiefs’ 28:25.

In three defeats, Kansas City won time of possession during Week 2’s 24-17 loss to the Denver Broncos, 36:14 to 23:46. The Chiefs’ 19-play, 10-minute drive to start the second half against the Broncos is memorable because it didn’t result in points.

But the victory against the Chargers in Week 7 where the Chiefs held the ball a whopping 31 minutes to San Diego’s 21 minutes stands out to Johnson.

“I remember one time we only played three snaps in the third quarter, the Chargers game,” Johnson said. “I was kind of like, ‘Did that really just happen?’ It was kind of surreal. That just puts a lot of pressure on an opposing team’s defense. And their offense when they come out against us to score quickly because if they give the ball back to our offense they might not get it back for another quarter.”

Johnson said the Chiefs’ ability to wear down the opponent offers extra motivation for the defense.

Defensive tackle Dontari Poe adds the benefit of watching the Chiefs offense work over an opposing defense results in a well-rested unit ready to cause havoc whenever he and his teammates take the field.

“I love it,” Poe said with a grin. “I love it because I know the more they’re getting worn out, the more energy we’re getting so we can do what we need to do to get our offense back on the field to wear them out some more.”