Red Zone

Personnel analysis: Chiefs preferred three-wide and two-tight end sets vs. Jets

The Chiefs ran the ball 27 times against the Jets on Sunday, including 20 by running back Spencer Ware.
The Chiefs ran the ball 27 times against the Jets on Sunday, including 20 by running back Spencer Ware.

Here are some offensive and defensive observations based on the personnel groupings the Chiefs rolled out in their 24-3 win over the New York Jets on Sunday. All personnel groupings — and whether or not the Chiefs ran or passed out of them — were hand-charted and counted by The Star based on the tape of the game. If you enjoy this, you should check out my offensive snap-count observations from the game here and my defensive snap-count observations here.


▪ The Chiefs’ favorite personnel grouping remains “11” or “zebra” personnel, with one running back and three wide receivers. The Chiefs dialed this up on 48 percent of their offensive plays Sunday (30 out of 62 snaps). The Chiefs passed on 19 of those snaps, though the 11 running plays they ran out of this suggests that defenses must also account for the threat of a run.

▪ Dynamic rookie Tyreek Hill continues to get most of his playing time as a slot receiver in “zebra” personnel, rotating with Albert Wilson. I also noticed he is running many of the same package plays that De’Anthony Thomas used to run. Perhaps the club is keeping Thomas, even though he’s been inactive every week, because he offers injury protection for Hill, both on offense and as a returner. If Hill — who has also earned the odd snap as a running back — were to get injured, no one on the roster could fill in as ably as Thomas can. That would allow the Chiefs to keep a substantial part of the playbook in the game plan.


▪ The Chiefs’ second-favorite personnel group was “12” personnel, with one running back and two tight ends. They dialed this up on 23 percent of their snaps (14 out of 62 snaps). They were remarkably balanced, rushing seven times and passing seven times out of this.

▪ The Chiefs’ third-favorite personnel group was “13” personnel, with one running back and three tight ends. They dialed this up on 11 percent of their snaps (seven out of 62). While having three tight ends on the field obviously lends itself to running the ball, the Chiefs actually passed six out of those seven snaps. They also used “14” personnel (one running back, four tight ends) for the first time all season. They passed out of that, too, and would have had a nice gain if Demetrius Harris hadn’t dropped the wide-open pass.


▪ Finally, the Chiefs used “21” (two backs, one tight end) and “22” (two backs, two tight ends) five times each. The Chiefs ran all five times out of “22,” but three of those came when they were kneeling down at the end of the game.

▪ All in all, the Chiefs dialed up 27 running plays (43 percent) compared to 35 passing plays (57 percent), which is generally consistent with Andy Reid’s recent history.


▪ The Jets used a ton of three-, four- and five-wide sets, which explains why defensive coordinator Bob Sutton went to a six-defensive back package — featuring safety Daniel Sorensen as a dime linebacker — 52 percent of the time (34 out of 66 snaps). The Jets threw against this grouping an astounding 85 percent of the time. This appears to be Sutton’s defensive grouping of choice against the pass.

▪ By comparison, the Chiefs were only in their base 3-4 defense on nine plays Sunday. Nine. That’s only 14 percent of the time, folks. Football sure has changed. The Jets ran the ball on eight of those plays, by the way.

▪ The Chiefs’ second-favorite personnel grouping was their nickel package, featuring two down linemen and four linebackers with five defensive backs. Sutton dialed that up 15 times, or 23 percent of the time. The Jets passed against this 10 times.

▪ The Chiefs went to a 3-3 defensive front six times, including five times in the second half. The Jets passed against it three times and ran against it three.

▪ Finally, the Chiefs went to an ultra-rare 1-3 front, featuring one down lineman, three linebackers and seven defensive backs on two occasions. This is the grouping that allows rookie safety Eric Murray to see the field. The Chiefs were in this when he recovered a second-quarter fumble against the Jets’ five-wide package.