Chiefs offensive line cleans up pass protection

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s been almost two full games since quarterback Alex Smith scrambled out of the pocket on second down of his team’s first drive against Oakland, ending up on the turf for a one yard loss. That marked the last time the Kansas City Chiefs allowed a quarterback sack.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive line yielded zero sacks against the New Orleans Saints at Arrowhead Stadium during the team's 27-21 win on Oct. 23, 2016 in Kansas City, MO (Nick Tre. Smith/Special to the Topeka Capital-Journal)

Kansas City Chiefs offensive line yielded zero sacks against the New Orleans Saints at Arrowhead Stadium during the team’s 27-21 win on Oct. 23, 2016 in Kansas City, MO (Nick Tre. Smith/Special to the Topeka Capital-Journal)

“I thought the offensive line player well from what I saw here,” coach Andy Reid said following his team’s 27-21 win over the Saints. “We ran the ball fairly well. We threw the ball better.”

The Chiefs streak of keeping Smith on his feet coincides with the team’s most effective and efficient offensive play of the season. Smith average yard’s per pass attempt jumped from 6.4 yards per attempt the first four games of the season to 9.5 yards the last weeks.

The tally now reaches 45 pass attempts since the last quarterback sack against Smith. He’s still the same quarterback who went down 13 times in the first four games of the season, or once every 13 passes attempts.

Protecting Smith makes the entire offensive more effecting, according to center Mitch Morse.

“For us, the biggest thing is to get stuff rolling, take care of business and keep Alex clean so he’s not feeling that pressure against him,” Morse said.

As for the reason Smith’s had a clear pocket the last couple of weeks, the quarterback can’t quite put his finger on it.

“A lot of things, I think time on task, just those guys getting better as a group,” Smith said. “We got back healthy after the bye week, I thought that was a big part of it. “Those guys playing as a unit and communicating well, getting more and more comfortable with what we’re doing.”

The Chiefs offensive line indeed suffered a serious of injuries before the bye week. Tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz along with center Mitch Morse have played every offensive snap this season. But five different lineman have shuffled in at guard.

The starting offensive line along with guards Parker Ehinger and Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff have taken fewer than 40 percent of the team’s snaps together, most of those coming the last two weeks.

As a result, Reid believes his offensive line is finding its groove.

“I think the guys are just working together,” Reid said. “They seem confident, playing good football right now.”

Pass protection depends on much more than just the offensive line. The Chiefs have utilized more tight ends and their fullback in pass protection the last two weeks.

Running the ball effectively and playing with a lead also help enormously, Morse said.

“I think establishing the run game,” Morse said when asked about the key to team’s recent effectiveness in pass protection. We need to keep them thinking run first.”

Smith said it’s been a team effort the improve the pass protection.

“A lot goes into protection,” Smith said. “It doesn’t just fall on those five guys. I certainly think the last two weeks they’ve really set the tone for us in both run and pass.”

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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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