Word of Muth
Dive into the details of offensive line play with a former all-PAC-10 left tackle

Word of Muth: Championship Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs OL Eric Fisher
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

With the week off in between the championship round and Super Bowl Sunday, I'm going to take a look at both the Chiefs and the 49ers offensive lines in the lead-up to the big game. Since I figured everyone would be talking about the 49ers and their run game this week, I decided to focus on Kansas City instead. We'll take a look at their run game in a bit, but for Kansas City it starts with Patrick Mahomes and the passing game.

The Titans are running twists on both sides of the line here, and Kansas City picks them up beautifully. The right side of the Chiefs offensive line has the easier task because they're the zone side of the protection and they have a three-on-two advantage. They should win on that side. The left side of the line has it much harder but blocks it just as well.

Left guard Stefen Wisniewski's (61) awareness is so good here. When we're looking back at it on film, it's pretty clear that Tennessee's defensive tackle is not rushing normally, but it's really tough to recognize something like this in real time. He is basically just chopping his feet in place and not really getting up field at all. Wisniewski sniffed out something was up and got his eyes outside in time to pick up the defensive end making the hard inside move. Wisniewski has been playing a long time, and this is the kind of thing that experience brings, a feel when something has to be coming.

Eric Fisher (72) is just as good at left tackle too. Look at that lateral movement and change of direction. That kind of natural movement is why he was the No. 1 overall pick. He sets out to a wide rusher and redirects inside without giving up hardly any penetration. He completely flattens the defensive end and allows Wisniewski to take over the block. Then he slides back out and picks up the looper. He keeps a good base the whole time to boot -- he's moving quickly, but not so quickly that he's overstepping and losing balance. This is great football.

via Gfycat

This time the right side of the offensive line is doing the hard work. Where Fisher picked up a twist with quick feet, right tackle Mitchell Schwartz (71) does it with solid footwork and a natural stoutness. He gets a little surprised by the blitzer, but because his body position and feet are solid, he can absorb the blow without getting knocked ass over teakettle. Mahomes gets the ball out quickly too, which helps, but I think Schwartz would've been in a good position to sit down on this if he had to.

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (76) at right guard doesn't get much of a punch to help out Schwartz, but he gets just enough. He also makes sure to not over-extend so he is able to redirect back in on the looper. I cannot overstate how impressed I was with the Chiefs' pass-blocking. They were great, and I'm really looking forward to seeing them match up with San Francisco's touted defensive line.

The run game wasn't nearly as effective for Kansas City as Mahomes dropping back, but they had some moderate success. It was funny watching them back because a lot of their better run plays would've been dismissed as college stuff just 5 years ago.

via Gfycat

This may not seem revolutionary, but I promise that you did not see a lot of jet motion from the shotgun to set up a version of counter trey on Sundays in 2013. The scheme and motion are all well and good, but you still have to block it of course. Wisniewski gets an effective block on the defensive end when he pulls across the line. Blake Bell (81) at tight end also does a nice job of picking up the linebacker. This isn't a huge gain or anything, but it's an effective run play in a game where Kansas City didn't have a ton of those.

via Gfycat

This play is pretty much all scheme, condensing the formation and giving it to your fastest guy around the edge. Sammy Watkins (14) and Travis Kelce (87) do a solid enough job on the perimeter, but this is really just Tyreek Hill outrunning the defense -- there isn't a ton of blocking outside those two guys. Look at Tramaine Brock (35) -- he's lined up dead over Hill about 8 yards away. No one blocks him, and he has an 8-yard head start since he's lined up off the ball, but Hill just beats him with pure speed. Also, I know this is technically a pass, but come on, we all know what this really is.

At the end of the day though, Kansas City didn't make it to the Super Bowl Sunday because of their run game. They made it because of Mahomes and their ability to protect him. That synergy was never more apparent than on the play that sealed the win for the Chiefs.

via Gfycat

That's great pass protection.There's really not much else to say. They block Tennessee forever and allow a wide receiver to get behind the defense and give Mahomes enough room to throw it over the secondary's heads. The Titans are only rushing three, but you still have to block it. Fisher again is the star with his ability to redirect outside after passing off an inside stunt, but the Chiefs protected like this across the line for the entire game.

Again, this 49ers pass rush is a different beast, but I think Kansas City's offensive line could be up for the challenge. I know I'm not exactly stepping out on a limb saying that that's the key matchup of the game, but I really believe it. I simply cannot wait to see it.

Comments

5 comments, Last at 30 Jan 2020, 12:25pm

1 Great Analysis As Always

I'm inclined to agree with Muth here. The game could very well be decided by KC OL vs. SF DL. If Mahomes has time to throw with open lanes, that seems almost unbeatable. However, if the DL can pressure him and even get his jersey real dirty, SF has more than a puncher's chance.

2 Signing a guy like…

Signing a guy like Wisniewski off the scrap heap midseason, only taking up 700k in cap space, is the sort of fortuitous event that happens to teams in a championship season. How he and his fellow blockers hold up against the Niners sluggers is, to me, the biggest story of the game.

4 The KC O-Line has answered every challenge so far...

KC fan here. Even when the offensive line had a couple of guys out for significant time (Fisher missed several games, Tardif and the starting LG, who Wisniewski replaced quite well) the Chiefs handled that well. Against good pass rushers from the Chargers, Baltimore, etc. The Niners are good, and may be more than they can handle. but Mahomes makes great adjustments even under pressure. I think KC will score just enough to win, and maybe even score a lot more and win. I don't think Richard Sherman is going to be able to cover Hill or Hardman, and their second CB is okay but not great.

I think it's a good matchup and wouldn't be surprised if it's a close game. I also wouldn't be surprised if someone wins by 14. We'll see in 6 more days!

5 I am not sure what to think…

I am not sure what to think about Mahomes and that last play. He didn't need to drift or roll out of the pocket. That was great protection but he drifted anyways. That he made the crazy throw is notable, but its not proper qb play imo.