NFL Key Drive: Kansas City Chiefs’ Crucial Fourth Quarter Drive

The Kansas City Chiefs snapped their five game losing streak with a 23-13 victory over the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers. Their offense rode a crucial fourth quarter drive to the win; Mark Schofield breaks done the three key plays from that drive.

Twice before in the 2015 season, the Chiefs have enjoyed a lead late at home. But on both occasions they failed to finish the job, dropping games late to the Denver Broncos and the Chicago Bears. A similar situation arose Sunday against the Steelers when Kansas City took over possession of the football with just over ten minutes remaining while holding a slim three-point lead.

Play Three

After two short plays the Chiefs face a 3rd and 4 on their own 22-yard line with 9:11 left in the contest. Kansas City puts quarterback Alex Smith in the shotgun with 11 offensive personnel in the game, in pro formation to the right and a tight slot to the left. The Steelers have a 4-2-5 sub package on the field and they show Cover 1 before the snap:NFLR7KCPlay1Still1

But just before the play, the defense rolls this into Cover 2 man under with linebacker Lawrence Timmons (#94) sliding to his left to cover tight end Travis Kelce (#87):NFLR7KCPlay1Still2

Smith has a number of options on this play. On the left side, the Chiefs use a curl/flat concept, with the slot receiver running a quick out route, while the outside receiver runs an intermediate curl pattern. On the pro side of the field, Kelce runs a seam route while rookie wide receiver Chris Conley (#17) runs a deep curl pattern. Running back Charcandrick West (#35) runs a Texas Route:NFLR7KCPlay1Still3

The quarterback knows that he has an advantageous matchup with his TE drawing a linebacker, with the added benefit of Kelce aiming for the soft middle of the field between the two safeties. Smith is quick to strike:

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The end zone angle shows how the QB makes a nice anticipation throw, placing the football in a spot where Kelce is the only player who can make a play on the ball:

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The nicely-executed seam route gives Kansas City a fresh set of downs near midfield.

Play Four

On the next play, the Chiefs put Smith under center with 21 offensive personnel on the field in a weak i-formation with the pro alignment to the left of the offense. Pittsburgh brings their base 3-4 personnel into the game, dropping a safety into the box over the TE and showing Cover 3 in the secondary:NFLR7KCPlay2Still1

Kansas City runs an outside zone play here, with West taking the handoff heading to the right. The offensive line flows in unison to the right as well:NFLR7KCPlay2Still2

The effort from left guard Ben Grubbs (#66) here is outstanding. With this defensive front, the LG is uncovered, and will look to perform a combination block with center Mitch Morse (#61) on nose tackle Daniel McCullers (#62). Grubbs will aim for the right shoulder of the NT, looking to help on him before moving to the second level. The guard will read the backside, right knee of McCullers and, if he sees that the defensive tackle is crashing to the inside, he will stay on the combination block until it is secured. However, if McCullers shows the back of his knee and is moving away from the guard, Grubbs will move to the second level.

Here, McCullers helps the offense by flowing to the outside and away from Grubbs, allowing the LG to work to his second read quickly – and find some work:

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Grubbs is able to get a punch with his left hand on defensive end Cam Thomas (#93), slowing the DE’s pursuit to the ball carrier. The LG then works to Timmons while West cuts in behind his offensive guard. While Grubbs handles the linebacker, the RB lowers a shoulder into LB Terence Garvin (#57). After breaking this initial tackle, West accelerates into Steelers’ territory where he is finally dragged to the turf by free safety Robert Golden (#21). The 36-yard run sets Kansas City up inside the Pittsburgh red zone.

Play Eight

On the eighth play of the drive, Smith and the offense face a 2nd and goal at the Steelers’ 6-yard line. They have 12 offensive personnel in the game and the quarterback under center, using a tight slot formation to each side of the field. Pittsburgh has their base 3-4 in the game, showing Cover 1 in the secondary.

The Chiefs run a mirrored passing play here, using the curl/flat combination to each side of the field:NFLR7KCPlay3Still1

The Steelers send the two inside linebackers on a cross blitz while dropping outside linebacker James Harrison into the underneath “hole:”NFLR7KCPlay3Still2

Smith takes the snap and reads this play to the left – the wide side of the field. With the inside receiver breaking out to the flat and the outside receiver working inside on the curl, the Steelers can choose to use a “banjo” call, where the cornerbacks switch their responsibilities. Or they can decide to stay with their man as indicated by pre-snap alignment.

If the banjo call was made, someone might have missed the message:

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As tight end Demetrius Harris (#84) releases on his curl route from the outside alignment, Harrison drops under him him while Golden rotates over to him. Meanwhile, from the slot, Conley cuts to the flat. Cornerback Antwon Blake (#41) begins the play over Harris and initially drops with the tight end before breaking on the WR. But the slight delay gives Smith enough of a window to find his wide receiver for the touchdown.

The score extended the Kansas City lead to 23-13 and, for the first time this season, the Chiefs were able to hold on and salt away a home victory. These three plays showed how just how important execution is – and how the slightest misstep can cost a defense.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.

Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.

2 thoughts on “NFL Key Drive: Kansas City Chiefs’ Crucial Fourth Quarter Drive

  1. Hey, love the site, my new favourite xs and os hit. Just one nitpick, I would say play four is outside zone. The O-line is reaching and running and the fullback heads outside rather than leading through the B gap. Keep up the good work!

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