If it seems like the Raiders and Falcons and most teams have produced more offense than the Chiefs this season, some statistics support your hunch.
Through 13 games, the Chiefs have recorded fewer yards, plays, first downs and possession time than their opponents.
They have, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, the statistics of a team that would expect to own a record that approaches 8-5.
Instead, the Chiefs take a 10-3 mark into Sunday’s home game against the Tennessee Titans and have the inside track at a top two seed in the AFC playoffs.
How does this happen?
The Chiefs lead the NFL in touchdowns not scored by the offense. They have seven. Five by the defense, with four of those being interception returns for scores.
The two special teams touchdowns were supplied by Tyreek Hill, on returns over the past three games.
Plus there was Eric Berry’s defensive conversion, the field length interception return for the two points that provided the winning margin against the Falcons.
As valued as defensive and special teams scores are, more production from the offense would give the Chiefs the look of a powerhouse.
It could start with the Chiefs hanging on to the ball a little longer. The Raiders ran 75 plays to the Chiefs’ 55 and the Falcons’ 73 to the Chiefs’ 49.
“We have to do a better job at sustaining drives,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “If you’re scoring a ton of points and doing it quickly you don’t mind it.”
The Chiefs don’t mind letting opponents keep the ball if it means they’re scoring a non-offensive touchdown in between, such as Hill’s 78-yard punt return for a score against the Raiders. Oakland had the ball for nearly all of the final eight minutes of the first half, but trailed at the break 21-10.
Still, the Chiefs have run fewer plays than their opponent in eight games this season, and part of that been the inability to sustain a rushing attack.
The Chiefs have been held under 100 yards rushing yards in six of the past seven games and rank 25th in the NFL at 96.2 yards per game. Reid credits opposing defenses.
“They’ve done pretty good against us,” Reid said. “But we can do a better job there.”
Perhaps like the Titans, who enter Sunday’s game averaging 144.5 yards per game, third in the NFL. They are led by DeMarco Murray, who ranks behind only the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott among rushing leaders. Murray has 1,135 yards.
In their 13-10 victory over the Broncos on Sunday, Tennessee rushed for 180 yards with Murray going for 92 and Derrick Henry for 42.
“(Sunday) they were a downhill bunch,” Reid said.
The Chiefs have had trouble moving in that direction this season. Rushing leader Spencer Ware has 790 yards and a 4.3 yard average carry. Charcandrick West, who notched his first rushing touchdown last week, has averaged 16.3 yards per game.
There is also the Alex Smith factor. The Chiefs quarterback was the team’s second leading rusher last year with 498 yards. This season, he’s rushed for 56.
More from everyone would add up to more plays, possession time and more margin for error in games when the Chiefs don’t get points from their defense or return teams.
“We’re scoring enough to win the game, which is the important thing,” Reid said. “You’d like to hang on to it a little bit longer.”