Chris Conley, a receiver, sprinted across the formation and aligned outside the left tackle.
Demetrius Harris, a tight end, jogged from a fullback position to a spot just outside the sixth offensive lineman, Zach Fulton, and placed his hand in the dirt on the right side of the line.
Anthony Sherman, aligned as a tight end next to Conley, shuffled to a fullback spot in front of running back Jamaal Charles.
This all unfolded before one play last Sunday, a 17-yard run by Charles in the second quarter of the Chiefs’ 26-10 win over the Oakland Raiders, but it was hardly an unusual occurance.
The Raiders, though 4-1 entering the game, had struggled with defensive communication throughout the first month of the season, and the Chiefs used all those motions to create confusion and slivers of space.
It showed in the running game. The Chiefs rushed 40 times — compared to 23 passing attempts — for 183 yards, an average of 4.6 yards per carry.
The ball-control offense also suited quarterback Alex Smith, who relished in the diminished pass-rush caused by the ground-oriented attack, which included run-pass options and ghost sweeps, and completed 19 of 22 passes for 224 yards.
“I thought we had a great mix, keeping the defense on their heels,” Smith said.
After the game, Raiders coach Jack Del Rio noted that Smith was a good football player who was “underrated.” But it was his comments immediately afterward, perhaps caused by frustration, that caught people’s attention.
“If he’s got to rely on throwing the ball, it’s really not his strong suit,” Del Rio said of Smith. “But if you allow them run the ball, do some of their gimmicky things, then he comes to life. That’s what they were able to do today.”
It seemed like a bit of a backhanded compliment, one the Chiefs — particularly Smith — seemed to take exception to when quizzed this week.
“To be honest, I have no idea what he’s referring to,” Smith said. “I just know that we won and that’s all I really care about.”
Smith did not seem to appreciate the “gimmicky” term, either.
“You’d have to ask him — I’m not even sure what he was referring to,” Smith said. “I felt like we came out and played physical. To be honest, I felt like we even won the battle up front and I don’t know what was ‘gimmicky’ about that.”
Chiefs receiver Jeremy Maclin agreed, adding the only “gimmicky” stuff the Chiefs did was the reverse pass they called, which he ended up throwing away.
“At the end of the day, you can call it whatever you want,” Maclin said. “As long as we win games, I really don’t care what you call it.”
To be fair, you could also argue that the Chiefs’ tunnel screen to 346-pound nose tackle Dontari Poe — a playcall appropriately dubbed “Hungry Pig Right” — was a bit gimmicky, though Poe apparently has soft hands and executed the play flawlessly multiple times in practice.
But the increased presnap motions and the read-option stuff they executed? Well, they’re not offering any apologies for that.
“I think it’s just scheming things up, that’s really what we try to do,” Reid said. “I think everybody tries to do that.”
Reid credited offensive line coach Andy Heck for drawing up some of the run-game concepts they used with great effectiveness against the Raiders.
“That stuff, normally, is directed toward the team you’re playing,” Reid said. “Those formations, the motions and shifts, looked good against them.”
The Chiefs were effective with it against Oakland. Raiders linebacker Bruce Irvin admitted they weren’t ready for all the Chiefs’ edge plays, largely due to the motions and disguising.
“Kansas City had a great game plan — hats off to them,” Irvin said. “They did a lot of disguising to make us believe one thing and then they did other things. They played a hell of a game and we just messed up on some plays.”
That gameplan caught the eye of New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, whose team will face the Chiefs on Sunday. Payton noted the shifts and movements the Chiefs used against the Raiders.
“Well, I think one of the things that it can do is it can slow down a defense’s adjustments,” Payton said. “They do a real good job each week of building in some run-pass options, if the look’s clean. They're able to hand it off and then, they've got real good answers if you're trying to pressure Alex or if you're trying to drop an extra guy down (into the box). You have to play the leverage a correct way on some of these bubbles and smokes.”
Payton added that the Chiefs’ offense, at its best, is efficient in getting yards, especially on first and second downs.
“I think it creates a lot of stress during the practice week with your scout teams trying to simulate those looks,” Payton said.
Payton is also impressed with Smith, who has completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 1,297 yards, five touchdowns, two interceptions and ranks 18th in the NFL with a passer rating of 91.1.
“He's got great control of their offense ... and he's an extremely accurate passer,” Payton said. “He can get the ball downfield, he can move, he can run and he does all those things you look for in a quarterback. His athleticism, location and accuracy all stand out.”
Payton would know. His quarterback, Drew Brees, is a future Hall of Famer whose talent routinely props up his teammates. Even Brees likes Smith, touting the same attributes that Payton did.
“He's probably one of the quarterbacks in the league that I feel like does not get the respect that he deserves,” Brees said. “I think he’s playing some of his best football.”
Brees could not have said that prior to the Raiders game, certainly, but thanks to a super-efficient performance — aided by some presnap motions and creative playcalling — the Chiefs hope the offense is indeed on the upswing.
And one thing is for sure, if that proves to be the case against the Saints, the Chiefs won’t care what label opponents put on their offense.
“If you lose to us,” Maclin said, “the last thing we want to hear is what you have to say.”