Chiefs Line Peaking at Right Time

Kansas City Chiefs OL Joe Thuney and Creed Humphrey
Kansas City Chiefs OL Joe Thuney and Creed Humphrey
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Divisional - Like everyone else that watched the Bills-Chiefs game on Sunday night, I came away from that experience fired up about football in general. It was an all-time game between two great quarterbacks trading haymakers to try to close the show. The closing four minutes of regulation and the overtime period will be remembered for a long time. I was excited to dive back into the game to watch it all over again.

While I don't want to say I was disappointed or the game wasn't actually great, it did remind me that watching games back on mute from the coach's film, while informative, doesn't make for the most exciting viewing. It also reminded me that even the craziest football games are mostly just two teams trying to out-execute each other slightly to keep moving the ball to a new set of downs. Everyone will remember the Tyreek Hill touchdown or the 13-second drive, but there were a lot of plays that took it from second-and-10 to third-and-4 that got us to that point.

Watching it back, you realize how important littler stuff is just to get your team to the point that a 13-second field goal drive even matters. So today in this space, we're not going to focus on the furious final four minutes of the game, but rather some nice things Kansas City did in the run game. It's not as flashy as throwing the peace sign on a 60-yard touchdown, but it's still winning football.

The Chiefs get a light six-man box here and take advantage of it with a chunk run. This almost looks like a straight Iso concept with tight end Blake Bell (81) acting as the lead blocker. The Chiefs create a huge hole on the left side.

It all starts with Orlando Brown's (57) split. A split is the amount of space you line up away from the next offensive lineman inside. Brown is practicing good social distancing here and has an exaggerated split from his left guard (Joe Thuney, 62). On a play where you know you're going to be one-on-one with the defensive end, it doesn't hurt to cheat a bit and widen a potential hole before the snap.

From there it's all about winning on the double team/combo at left guard and center. Thuney and Creed Humphrey (52) do a great job of driving the defensive tackle off the ball and into the linebacker's lap. Not even Ray Lewis is making tackles with two 300-pound offensive linemen and a 300-pound defensive tackle stepping on his toes. When the linebacker peeks inside, Humphrey comes off and gets enough of him to spring the running back for a big play. This is really well blocked.

This is the same concept as the first play, just to the other side, and once again Kansas City peeled off another big run. Just like the previous play it all happens because the Chiefs win at the point of attack with the double team. This time it's Humphrey and right guard Trey Smith. They don't get the movement that Thuney and Humphrey did on the defensive tackle (Star Lotulelei, 98), but they certainly do enough.

What I really like about Smith is his leverage to start on the defensive tackle. He fires off underneath the defender and uses his forearm flipper like a forklift to pop the defensive tackle up. Look at how high that defender's pad level is after Smith raises him. While he's doing that, Smith maintains great eye discipline on the linebacker (Matt Milano, 58). He can feel the defensive tackle, so he doesn't need to stare at him; get your eyes on the linebacker so you can see when you have to come off. Really solid football here.

This last run isn't as successful because right tackle Andrew Wylie (77) peels back to the wrong guy on the step-and-hinge. Wylie is supposed to step down and prevent the 3-technique from penetrating too much before the center can cut him off. Once Wylie feels his center, he is supposed to pivot back and pick up the most dangerous edge defender. Buffalo has two guys coming off his edge and Wylie picks the wrong one, and the unblocked player slows down the running back. Still, this is well blocked otherwise and went for 6 yards.

This is a basic counter blocking scheme gussied up with some cool backfield action. Orlando Brown and Joe Thuney on the left side collapse the play-side defensive tackle inside. Because the Bills walked that extra guy up on the back side, Brown could have stayed on the double team longer since the guy he's working to blitzed to the outside, but this is what you are looking for on this block. Both pullers do a nice job too, Trey Smith with the kickout and Travis Kelce (87) leading up. If Wylie blocks the backside better, the running back is up onto the safety one-on-one, which is exactly what you want on a running play.

Really, what I came away from the game thinking was that this completely rebuilt Chiefs offensive line has come together and been exactly what this team was hoping for. It has had some rocky points throughout the season, but they're playing some good football right now. It's not an all-time great unit, but it's a solid unit that allows the Chiefs' skill guys to be all-time great when they need to be, like they were in the final four minutes of last week's game. This is a group of professionals with one great player (Thuney), another very good rookie (Humphrey), and three solid NFL starters. That's all you can realistically ask for, and these guys gelling together as the season has progressed is a huge reason why Kansas City is playing in the AFC Championship Game this weekend.

Comments

7 comments, Last at 27 Jan 2022, 4:00pm

1 I really hope people don't…

I really hope people don't start using the Chiefs as an example for "oh, anyone can build an entire OL in a year." Like you said, they had some really rough spots and Kansas City spent a bucketload of resources for them. And you actually have to get the guys in free agency: if you're Thuney and you're choosing between KC and, I dunno, Houston, it's not much of a decision. In some sense KC was able to rebuild the line so quickly because the rest of the offense was already lock-solid.

4 Also

Also, Thuney came to KC because they made him the highest paid Guard in football. Not every team can, or should, do that.

5 Thuney was an interesting…

In reply to by Rufus R. Jones

Thuney was an interesting signing.  For a while, the organizational philosophy was to save money on the interior line and pay up at tackles.  I had thought that maybe the plan was to move Thuney to tackle but it wasn't.

To add to Pat's comment, not only did they have to have and spend big on Thuney, and use a 1st rounder to acquire Brown, but they hit on TWO rookie picks with Humphrey and Smith.  Even if the team did a good job scouting those two, getting them where they did is not something that teams can count on.

My big worry is Brown getting hurt.  With Niang and Remmers (not sure where he is on availability) hurt, the team is thin at tackle depth.  I fact Thuney had to play LT against the Bengals when both Brown and Thuney got hurt that day.  Having the o-line scrambled may have hurt the offense in the 2nd half of that game.

7 It worked out...

In reply to by Rufus R. Jones

It worked out really well because Thuney was able to slide over to LT when both Orlando Brown and Lucas Niang got injured for the regular season Bengals game. Thuney played extremely well at LT. His experience and flexibility may have made that a great value. 

2 It all starts with Orlando…

It all starts with Orlando Brown's (57) split. A split is the amount of space you line up away from the next offensive lineman inside. Brown is practicing good social distancing here and has an exaggerated split from his left guard (Joe Thuney, 62). On a play where you know you're going to be one-on-one with the defensive end, it doesn't hurt to cheat a bit and widen a potential hole before the snap.

How much information does a DE get from a lineman cheating a split?