Offensive, defensive and special teams keys for the Kansas City Chiefs (2-5) in Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions (1-6), starting at 8:30 a.m. CT at Wembley Stadium in London.
If the Chiefs want to enjoy a victory on Sunday with their tea and crumpets, they need to keep their offense as balanced as possible.
Under head coach Andy Reid the Chiefs are never going to be a 50-50 run to pass team. More than likely if all things fell together the way Reid wanted, they would be 55-45 percent pass to run, or even 60-40 heavy on the pass.
One of the reasons the Chiefs were able to bust up their five-game losing streak against Pittsburgh was the balance of their offense that produced yards and touchdowns on the ground and through the air.
When it was all said and done, they finished 54-46 percent pass to run. They have not produced that type of offensive balance since the first two games of the season. Against Green Bay, it was 72-28 percent pass to run and they were hammered by the Packers.
The next week the offense was 69 percent pass plays and again they were easily beaten by Cincinnati.
The formula has always been simple: balance on play calls, no turnovers and minimal sacks and penalties.
They need another healthy dose of that against the Lions, who are No. 24 in yards allowed passing and No. 24 in rushing yards given up. Offensive balances does a better job of showcasing quarterback Alex Smith’s talent and running back Charcandrick West needs to show he’s not a one-game fluke.
Also tight end Travis Kelce needs to find the end zone, going six games without a touchdown. Detroit’s defense has given up a tight end TD catch in five of seven games this season.
The Lions enter the London game with the most unbalanced offense in the NFL. Detroit is No. 7 in passing yards per game, but No. 32 in rushing yards per game.
Overall, the Matthew Stafford-led group has featured an attack over seven games has been 70 percent passing plays. Stafford has produced some good numbers like a completion percentage of 65 percent, 7.1 yards per attempt and a dozen touchdown passes. But he’s also thrown nine interceptions and has been sacked 16 times.
There are receiving weapons in the Detroit offense: Calvin “Megatron” Johnson (43 catches, 574 yards, 3 TDs), Golden Tate (34-318-1), Lance Moore (19-228-2), tight end Eric Ebron (20-268-3) and running back Theo Riddick (36-318-2.)
Just what type of Detroit offense takes the field is a mystery after head coach Jim Caldwell fired his offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and two offensive line coaches early in the week. Jim Bob Cooter was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator.
Cooter did a one-year stint with the Chiefs (2012) but he’s from the Indianapolis-Denver-Peyton Manning offensive tree. It should lead to a heavy dose of passing, not because they have to, but because they want too. The Chiefs defense must limit the big plays that are popping up every Sunday.
The Chiefs continue to wait for a game changing play from the kicking game, something bigger than Cairo Santos’ seven field goals or Dustin Colquitt’s continued excellence in punting.
Coordinator Dave Toub needs to squeeze a touchdown return out of De’Anthony Thomas or Knile Davis. If not there, they need to get their hands on a punt or field goal; blocked kicks are always good for turning a game’s momentum.
So far the special teams have been ordinary, and that’s not good enough for the 2015 Chiefs.
The Lions are a solid team in the kicking game, with kicker Matt Prater (9-for-9 on field goals) and punter Sam Martin (46.5-yard average.) Golden Tate handles the punt returns and Ameer Abdullah, a rookie running back out of Nebraska, grabs the kickoffs with T.J. Jones returning both. None have a return of more than 50 yards.