Chiefs

Film review: How the Chiefs’ Thursday night debacle happened

At the risk of rubbing salt in that still fresh wound, it’s worth taking a closer look at the plays that were and weren’t made in the closing minutes of the Chiefs’ one-point loss to the Los Angeles Chargers at home on Thursday night.

For some it may be weirdly therapeutic, for others it may fuel on an already raging fire of pessimism that has you channeling Michael Ray Richardson (Google him kids) and uttering “the ship be sinking.”

Either way, understanding what went wrong is always a necessary step.

The game film is courtesy of NFL Game Pass. The game-day television broadcasts, a condensed 45-minute version of every game and the coaches’ film, are available with an account at nfl.com/gamepass.

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Two-point deja vu

The Chiefs’ company line about how Mike Williams scored on a wide-open two-point conversion has not surprisingly been vague and not gone much past the fact that there was a “miscommunication.” During his Monday news conference, Chiefs coach Andy Reid, unsolicited, said, “I’m not going to go into the specifics of the last play, but obviously there was an execution problem there.”

The Chiefs allowed wide receiver Mike Williams (81) to run free in the end zone, while defensive backs Kendall Fuller and Orlando Scandrick both stayed with Tyrell Williams (16) on an in-breaking route while Williams broke toward the corner of the end zone.

“Just miscommunication,” Fuller said. “We just got to cover our pieces at the end of the day. That’s something that we’ve got to work on, prepare for and get better at to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

“They busted it,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “I think we had Travis (Benjamin) over there with him. We motioned Travis and so then we had to communicate that they’re playing man coverage and then had to communicate that they had two coming out and one coming in. It was the same play we ran when Mike had his first touchdown. We just dressed it up a bit.”

On the second-quarter touchdown pass Rivers referenced, the Chargers had the two receivers tightly bunched to Rivers’ left as opposed to the right on the two-point play (in both situations it was the wide side of the field).

In the earlier instance, it appeared as if the Chiefs were in sync with each other and also what route combination was coming. The Chargers ran the in-breaking route with the outside receiver who is off the line of scrimmage. That receiver (T. Williams) comes in behind the receiver on the line of scrimmage (M. Williams) who works upfield to draw the attention of the outermost defender. If the defensive backs simply matched up outermost and innermost with the receivers, then a natural “pick” or “rub” gets created to potentially knock the inside defender off his coverage responsibility.

Instead, the defender inside, Fuller gets right next to the outside cornerback Steven Nelson and is prepared pre-snap to get hands on the outside receiver as soon as he gets to the line of scrimmage and doesn’t give him a free run into the middle.

The Chiefs had that play defended, but Rivers put the ball up high enough that the 6-foot-4 Williams could get it over the 5-foot-11 Nelson.

The build up

:13

Mike Williams played a part in setting up the touchdown pass. While it certainly was a penalty open to interpretation, Williams drew the flag from the nearby official while running a seam route into the end zone while locked in one-on-one coverage with Fuller. At the snap you see three men in the middle of the field. Sorensen, just outside of the near hashmark, is responsible for tight end Antonio Gates. Ron Parker, in the middle of the field, comes up on the Gates route. Parker coming up leaves Fuller one-on-one. The throw wasn’t completed, but the official saw the hand-fighting — which you could argue Williams initiated — and threw the flag.

:08

Before the conversion play could happen, the Chargers needed to get into the end zone with 8 seconds left. They again turned to Williams isolated one-on-one breaking outside into space with the ability to go up and get a jump ball over a defender. Rivers takes the snap, gives a little crow hop, recognizes there’s no safety help on Williams and trust Williams to use his large frame — Scandrick might also point out Williams’ use of his hands — to come down with it.

Chiefs offense stalled

The Chiefs received the kickoff with a 7-point lead and 3:49 remaining. The Chargers had all three timeouts remaining. A sustained drive by the Chiefs could’ve drained the clock and effectively left the Chargers without enough time, including the ability to stop the clock, to mount a drive needing a touchdown.

They got started on the wrong foot when Charvarius Ward (35) needlessly threw an illegal block in the back of a player in the middle of the field that put the Chiefs deep in their own territory. Returner Tremon Smith would likely have gotten to roughly the 20-yard line if Ward doesn’t commit the penalty.

After the penalty, the Chiefs start their possession virtually in the shadow of the goalposts at the Kansas City 11.

Possibly due to a desire to run time off the clock and force the Chargers to use a timeout or possibly working against their own tendency (they pass 58 percent of the time on first down), they ran Damien Williams out of a spread formation with four receivers split wide and Mahomes out of the shotgun.

The defensive play on the of the line of scrimmage on the offenses right side is unblocked by design, but right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, arguably the best right tackle in football, must reach to block defensive tackle Darius Philon. Philon, who lined up outside eye of the guard, shot the gap from the start, beats Schwartz to the spot as the center Mitch Morse blocks the nose and the guard Andrew Wylie immediately works to the second level.

Philon dropped Williams for a loss to put the Chiefs in a second-and-13 at their own 8. The Chiefs forced the Chargers to use one of their three timeouts.

The Chiefs picked up 5 yards on second-down pass to Tyreek Hill to bring up third-and-8, and the Chargers used their second of three timeouts. Already in a long-yardage situation and backed up in its own end, the offense shot itself in the foot courtesy of a Demetrius Harris false start which negated the gain to Hill and brought up third-and-13.

After the Chiefs set the formation, the Chargers’ defense used late movement to create one-on-one matchups for both Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram III on the offense’s right side. Third-and-long is exactly the type of situation Schwartz alluded to earlier in the week where the Chargers move Ingram and Bosa around in order to give them opportunities to put pressure on the quarterback.

With a nose tackled occupying Morse and Bosa out wide and drawing Schwartz’s attention, Ingram (54) moved late and took advantage of the space provided by Morse being locked up with the nose tackle and Schwartz having to kick out to deal with Bosa off the edge. Ingram beat Wylie with a jab step and head-fake to the inside. He forced Mahomes to step up and pursued him as did Isaac Rochell (98), who was able to get off the block of Jeff Allen after Mahomes stepped up into the pocket.

The Chiefs’ possession ended with a net loss of 5 yards and having taken 1:12 off the clock. The Chargers saved one timeout and still had the two-minute warning remaining. The Chargers offense took the field with 2:37 left to play.

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.
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