Here is the special teams snap-count data from the Chiefs’ 21-13 win over the Oakland Raiders on Thursday, along with some personal observations. Special teams snaps for the entire season are also listed.
KEY: “R” denotes rookie. “C” denotes game captain. “INJ” denotes injury. “N/A” denotes the player was not a Chief at the time. “PS” denotes practice squad. “INA” denotes inactive.
Analysis: Phillip Gaines has been dealing with knee issues all season, and while that has kept him from making much of an impact on defense — he logged only one snap, a season-low for games in which he’s been active this year — it didn’t keep him from making an impact on special teams. Gaines worked as an end on field goal block, a gunner on punts, a corner on punt returns and a cover player on kickoffs. That’s a full special-teams workload, matched or surpassed by only the Chiefs’ regular special-teams mainstays. It will be very interesting to see if this continues.
Gaines, by the way, made a very nice tackle of holder Marquette King on the Raiders’ botched field-goal attempt in the third quarter.
▪ Chris Conley doesn’t play a ton of special teams, but he did play one snap on Thursday. So, what gives? Turns out he was used as a blocker on the kick-return unit for a unique formation special-teams coach Dave Toub trotted out just before halftime, after the Raiders scored to trim the Chiefs’ lead to 21-10.
You know the Chiefs were trying to break something because Tyreek Hill handled the kick; De’Anthony Thomas handled the other three kicks in the game. Hill, by the way, gained 25 yards.
▪ Hill saw his special-teams workload jump from 1 to 10 because the Chiefs forced eight punts. He also returned the one kick. I couldn’t find where the other snap came from.
▪ Some of the Chiefs’ defensive starters earned a stray special-teams snap in the first half, when the Raiders punted on fourth and 1 and the threat of fake was on. Marcus Peters, Dee Ford, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Ramik Wilson, Chris Jones and Ron Parker all earned a snap on a punt return they otherwise would not have.
▪ Starting corner Steven Nelson, who did not play any special teams against Atlanta, earned eight special teams snaps as a corner on punt returns. The Chiefs seemed pretty concerned with the left-side gunner; Nelson and Demarcus Robinson appeared to double that guy almost every time.
▪ When Nunez-Roches left the game in the first half due to back spasms, T.J. Barnes took his spot on the field goal/extra-point block unit. The Chiefs, by my count, used four different personnel alignments on this unit. They were subtle, primarily involving the switch of the interior six at a position or two.