This week we have a meeting of an unstoppable force and an immovable object. The vaunted Kansas City Chiefs defense will be taking on the high-scoring Atlanta Falcons. The Chiefs are coming off an emotional overtime win on Sunday Night Football against the Broncos that undoubtedly has left them fatigued. They will need to all be back and playing at their full potential however if they want to come away with the win against the league’s best offense.
Kansas City Chiefs Week 13 Keys to Victory
Get Pressure on Matt Ryan
The Atlanta Falcons are a well-oiled machine on offense. They currently are at the top of the league in scoring, third in passing yards, and fourth in total yards from scrimmage. No defense has found an answer to stopping the combination of Julio Jones and Matt Ryan. Julio Jones, the 6’4” receiver from Alabama, currently leads the league in receiving yards as well. They live on the deep ball, Matt Ryan is averaging just over 13 yards per completion, while Julio Jones is averaging 17 per reception. This requires time in the pocket. Ryan is not mobile and the majority of his interceptions are thrown while he is on the run or throwing off his back foot. If Kansas City can get to Matt Ryan, he won’t be able to look for the deep route every time and will make him more prone to interceptions.
In 2015 Atlanta’s offensive line wasn’t very consistent. That’s why this off-season they went out and signed Alex Mack to a 45 million dollar contract. They also have an all-pro tackle in Jake Matthews. It will be a tall order for the Chiefs if they are unable to get some of the players they were missing from last week back. Dee Ford, the team leader in sacks, was back in practice this week as was middle linebacker Derrick Johnson. This could also be the first time we see Dee Ford and Justin Houston paired together for most of the game. If Houston can perform the way he did against Denver and Ford can get be back at 100% they should be able to collapse in on the pocket with regularity.
Work the Ball Downfield
Last week we once again saw the Chiefs offense struggled to get anything going through the passing game. In fact, in the first half, only 17 yards were made through the air in which not a single pass was thrown more than a yard downfield. Similar to the Chargers game in week one and the Panthers game a couple weeks ago, we saw the Chiefs score points quickly in the fourth quarter. So what is the cause of this? I would attribute it to our two-minute package or hurry up offense. If you watch, when running in this package Alex is comfortable working the ball downfield. It consists of some quick spot routes to Chris Conley 5-10 yards downfield on the outside, double hitches over the middle (Spencer Ware at the line of scrimmage, and Travis Kelce 10 yards downfield) as well as some inside runs from the shotgun. There are no screens or check-down receivers behind the line of scrimmage for Alex Smith to lock on to with many of these plays. This forces him to work the ball downfield. I’m not saying only run the no-huddle offense, that wouldn’t work since there are only a finite number of plays in said package. What the Chiefs should do is incorporate some of those schemes and looks into the game plan more. By removing the check down option for Alex Smith he becomes more aggressive which could result in a more efficient offense.
Focus on the Task at Hand
The Chiefs are no doubt exhausted from playing five quarters of football against a division rival in the altitude last week. That would be hard for any team. On top of this, the Chiefs will also have a game Thursday against AFC West division leaders in the Oakland Raiders. It would be easy for this team to start looking ahead to a division rivalry. When a team isn’t 100% focused on the game at hand you see mental lapses such as blown coverages and stupid penalties like too many men in the huddle. Errors like this can’t happen when you’re playing one of the best teams in the NFC.
It’s going to be a tough game for Kansas City. There is some fear this game will end up looking like the Steelers game from Sunday Night when the Chiefs were destroyed by the deep ball. I believe the Chiefs are in a better position this time around however, the defense has steadily improved through the season and were starting to see some injured players return. If Kansas City wants to be considered serious playoff contenders then they need to win games like this.