Offensive line puts muscle into Chiefs short passing game

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — At 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds, Kansas City Chiefs center Mitch Morse is hard to miss running toward the sideline and down the field seeking out linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks to lay a lick on in the open field.

Jan. 3, 2016; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) awaits the snap from center Mitch Morse (61) against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

Jan. 3, 2016; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) awaits the snap from center Mitch Morse (61) against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

“You don’t like getting licked, you like licking other guys,” Morse said.

The Chiefs offensive line often finds itself blocking down field, picking up ball carriers and pushing and pulling to the whistle. That philosophy starts at the top, with a general manager in John Dorsey favoring lengthy, athletic linemen and a coach in Andy Reid running an offense built on using the short-passing game as an extension of the run game.

That combination pays off for the Chiefs in the screen-passing game, Morse explains.

“We have a group of guys who can move a little bit and that definitely helps with the West Coast offense that coach Reid likes to run,” he said. “We practice at a high speed in practice, and it comes out and shows up on Sundays.”

The offensive line showed off t athleticism several times Sunday night against the Broncos. On tight end Travis Kelce’s 80-yard touchdown gallop off a screen pass, Morse and company provided the paving services for his path to the end zone.

“He did a good job,” Morse said. “We just set him up and he took off and those guys did a really good job blocking down field, so it made our life a lot easier.”

Right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif delivered a block on Broncos safety Justin Simmons down field on the play to help Kelce slip through the defense.

Duvernay-Tardif said the team works diligently on perfecting its timing and technique in the screen game.

“It’s not always as easy as it looks,” he said. “Getting a feel for it is something we really work on, and we had a couple of good screens over the last couple of weeks.”

Morse said he believes the team’s blocking in the short-passing game allows the offense the opportunity to be more aggressive.

“It’s nice to be the aggressor,” he said.

No doubt the Chiefs quick passing game can be an effective weapon, particularly with Kelce, Jeremy Maclin, Tyreek Hill and Spencer Ware possessing the ability to get the ball in space and use their speed to gain yards after the catch.

Duvernay-Tardif believes the team’s timing and execution on blocking in the short passing game is peaking heading toward the playoffs.

“I think sometimes the challenge is to get there fast but also to get there in control,” he said. “That’s something we learn over time, and I think we’re getting better at it.”

Morse said the offensive line’s athleticism also offers the team another advantage. The Chiefs place a premium on their lineman getting down field and remaining part of the play beyond the point of contact at the line of scrimmage.

“You execute your job, and that requires you to do more than just blocking your man sometimes,” Morse said.” It requires you to be ready to pick the guy up. We focus on going and picking guys up because that causes us to be closer to the pile-ons, and heaven forbid a ball comes out we’re down there.”

That mindset does require, unfortunately, big guys such as Morse to lumber long distances down the field.

“I like running when I know there’s going to be a touchdown so I can celebrate with these guys,” Morse said.

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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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