The traces of the no-huddle offense the Chiefs worked on throughout training camp may be hard to see these days, but if you look closely, you can find them.
“It’s part of the offense,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. We just pick and choose when we want to go with it.”
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Take a brief sequence in the Chiefs’ 17-16 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, for example. Midway through the second quarter, the Chiefs opened a drive with their heavy personnel ― two tight ends and a fullback. When the Chiefs left the same personnel in on the next play, the Texans responded by swapping out a defensive back for linebacker Daryl Sharpton, a hard hitter who often struggles in coverage.
You can see where this is going. A run by Jamaal Charles quickly went for a yard, but that’s went the Chiefs went to the no-huddle and spread the field with a five-wide look, ultimately resulting in a 9-yard toss from quarterback Alex Smith to tight end Anthony Fasano, who was single-covered by ― you guessed it ― Sharpton.
“They went to a bigger defensive package, we spread the field right away,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. “Whenever we see those types of matchups, we have to take advantage of that.”
Reid said the Chiefs went back to the no-huddle briefly in the game, including once in the red zone. But if so, the pace was much like the aforementioned example ― presumably quick enough to keep an advantageous defensive personnel grouping on the field, but not quick to see without close study.
“I think it’s a great change of pace for us,” Smith said, “something we’ve spent a lot of time working on.”
So with the Chiefs’ offense struggling to score points ― and remember, they haven’t thrown a passing touchdown in three weeks ― might they be tempted to turn up the tempo in an effort to dial up the efficiency?
On one hand, Reid’s teams have always played with good pace and good tempo, even when it hasn’t always been in a no-huddle. But Smith said there’s some real benefits to going even faster.
“The tempo applies pressure,” Smith said. “Those guys have to think quicker, react quicker and get lined up. I think they’re a tick behind a little bit, in a sense.”
But there’s also some negatives, too.
“You just can’t do a whole 60-minute game upbeat like that,” Pederson said. “The guys wouldn’t last.”
There’s also this: strike out on first down too much, and you end up with two many second-and-long and third-and-long situations, which puts your defense back on the field too quickly.
“You kind of have to stay ahead of the chains on offense, I think,” Smith said. “As soon as you get behind them, what became an advantage all of the sudden, quickly can kind of become a negative.”
Especially when you have a defense like the Chiefs, which has been dominant against the pass and the driving force behind the team’s 7-0 start. In short, it hardly makes sense to potentially hamstring a unit that has clearly been so stellar.
“If you want to go fast-paced and you’re only out there for 30 seconds,” Pederson said, “that’s a problem.”
That’s why the Chiefs will continue to mix the no-huddle judiciously. A dash here and a dash there should do just fine, though their efforts to punch up the offense also won’t end any time soon.
“When we feel like it’s an advantage for us,” Smith said. “We will do more of it.”