By Michael Hurley, CBS dangolka
dangolka (CBS) — Anyone who watched the primary half of Monday night time’s recreation between the Chiefs and Ravens is aware of that Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes are presently on the helm of a really harmful operation in Kansas Metropolis. Via three weeks (and three wins), opponents have been warned.
But whereas the 3-Zero Chiefs actually look to be a championship-level squad as soon as once more, they do have an Achilles heel that would show problematic within the quest for back-to-back titles, and it actually ought to grow to be a difficulty for the house workforce on Sunday afternoon.
That thinly veiled weak spot might be discovered within the Chiefs’ run protection — or lack thereof. If you wish to run on the Chiefs, you may. It’s actually only a matter of not falling too far behind within the recreation, to the purpose the place abandoning the run turns into the pure development.
In Week 1, the Chiefs allowed 118 dashing yards and two touchdowns on simply 22 carries from Houston. David Johnson had his finest recreation in a few years, and quarterback Deshaun Watson ran for 27 yards and a landing on six makes an attempt.
In Week 2, the Chargers ran for 183 yards and a landing on 44 carries, with Austin Ekeler (93 yards, 16 carries) and Joshua Kelley (64 yards, 23 carries) doing the majority of the injury. Rookie QB Justin Herbert rushed for 18 yards and a landing on 4 makes an attempt.
And final week, the Ravens rushed for 158 yards on simply 21 carries, with quarterback Lamar Jackson going for 83 yards on 9 makes an attempt. Gus Edwards and Mark Ingram mixed for 60 extra yards on 11 carries.
Add all of it up, and Steve Spagnuolo’s protection is permitting the sixth-most dashing yards per recreation and the fifth-most dashing yards per try. Contemplating they’ve held large leads in two of their three video games, that mark of 153 dashing yards allowed per recreation actually stands out as an issue.
For the Patriots, it needs to be seen as a possibility. Via three video games, New England has rushed for 534 yards and 7 touchdowns, main the league in each classes. They common 5.1 yards per rush, which ranks fifth within the NFL however first amongst groups with at the least 100 dashing makes an attempt.
It’s been a collaborative effort on the bottom for the Patriots, too. After a 117-yard exhibiting on Sunday, Sony Michel leads the workforce with 173 yards on simply 26 makes an attempt this season. Cam Newton is second, with 149 yards on 35 makes an attempt, adopted by Rex Burkhead (83 yards on 19 carries) and undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor (70 yards on 16 carries).
Dropping David Andrews to a damaged thumb didn’t decelerate the dashing assault, both, because the Patriots went for 250 yards on the bottom final week in a convincing win over the Raiders.
And the truth that the Chiefs have been notably inclined to rushes by quarterbacks — permitting 128 yards and two touchdowns on simply 19 makes an attempt — should have Josh McDaniels and Invoice Belichick frothing on the mouth by way of devising methods to unleash Newton on Sunday.
Newton presently ranks 30th in dashing yards with 149. He’s tied for first in dashing touchdowns with 4. That’s somewhat exceptional contemplating he’s … not a operating again. And although his dashing makes an attempt have dropped every week, he’s proven with consistency that he’s able to gaining large chunks of yardage each from designed runs and by capitalizing on alternatives when the protection forgets about his risk as a runner. His 21-yard burst vs. Las Vegas was a reminder of that.
Let ’em know, @CameronNewton. pic.twitter.com/Is76M0RSb4
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) September 28, 2020
As for the place the Chiefs have proven vulnerabilities, right here’s a take a look at a number of the longer runs they’ve allowed this 12 months.
On the third play of the sport on Monday, the Chiefs appeared woefully unprepared for a easy learn possibility keeper by Jackson, who adopted two blockers after which exploded for a simple 30 yards. Watch tight finish Mark Andrews block security Daniel Sorensen for a strong 500 yards on the skin, too:
Newton could not have that top-end pace that Jackson has, however that’s nonetheless trying like a simple approach to transfer the soccer.
There was noting tough about this 11-yard run by Mark Ingram, who had a large gap open up for him:
When it comes to QB runs that aren’t by design, right here’s a case of the Chiefs taking part in man, with center linebacker Anthony Hitchens selecting to decleat the operating again over the center as an alternative of listening to Jackson’s risk as a runner. The QB took off for 18 straightforward yards.
Right here’s one other straightforward one that appears prefer it was stolen proper out of Newton’s playbook in Carolina:
Cornerback Rashad Fenton following his receiver to the within of the sector on a slant on that play gave Jackson a whole area to work with.
We are able to take a look at yet one more from the Ravens recreation, a 24-yard run up the intestine by Edwards. Granted, Baltimore is a heavy workforce, however Kansas Metropolis nonetheless appears awfully mild on this play:
One may assume that the Chiefs will come ready, anticipating Newton to run a few of these performs. Logic would certainly dictate that. But if the Chiefs had been both unable or unprepared to include Jackson, they determine to be candidates to do it once more towards Newton.
The Chiefs actually weren’t ready for Herbert, as no one — together with the Chargers — knew he’d be beginning till simply earlier than kickoff. However, within the fourth quarter, Tanoh Kpassagnon badly overcommitted to the pitch man on an possibility run, permitting Herbert to tuck the ball and lower it upfield for an 11-yard acquire. Chris Jones getting bullied round a bit on the sting didn’t assist.
That recreation was extra in regards to the operating backs than the quarterback, but the injury was executed extra slowly and methodically. Ekeler’s longest run was for 13 yards …
… whereas Kelley’s longest was simply seven yards.
The Chargers did present, although, that if a workforce is dedicated to the run, it could possibly management the ball and stay within the recreation, even towards a workforce that boasts such an explosive, quick-strike offense. (The Chargers had the ball for greater than 39 minutes however went three-and-out of their solely possession of extra time.)
In opposition to Houston, the Chiefs’ worst work towards the quarterback got here within the fourth quarter of a blowout, so maybe the D wasn’t at its finest for Watson’s 13-yard scramble. However the protection did nonetheless need to hold the Texans out of the top zone on the finish of that drive. This was decidedly not the way in which to do it.
Not fully positive what Frank Clark’s technique was there, nevertheless it seemed to be, “When unsure, simply hit anyone.”
Method again when that was nonetheless a aggressive recreation, David Johnson ran for 37 yards on 4 carries on Houston’s second drive, capped off with a 19-yard landing run:
The Chiefs needed to respect Watson’s potential to maintain the ball and run to the defensive proper. Linebacker Damien Wilson overcommitted up the center and took himself out of the play. From there, it took only a easy lower and a few strong pace for Johnson to beat a person within the open area after which win a footrace to the pylon.
This downside for the Chiefs is nothing new. Final 12 months, at the same time as champs, the workforce allowed the eighth-most dashing yards per recreation and the fourth-most dashing yards per try.
The 2019 Chiefs went 2-Three after they allowed 180 or extra dashing yards. They went 13-1 in all different video games.
This 12 months, the Patriots topped 200 yards twice — in each of their wins. The Chiefs have but to surrender 200 but this 12 months, however the elements are in place for Sunday afternoon to alter that.
So it’s actually that easy for the Patriots this week. The street to victory — if it exists — is clearly marked on the bottom. It’s only a matter of self-discipline, execution, and a willingness to remain the trail even when the scoreboard suggests veering from the plan.
You’ll be able to e-mail Michael Hurley or discover him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.