Dissecting the Chiefs' Second-Half Collapse

Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Conference Championship - The Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Cincinnati Bengals in overtime of last Sunday's AFC Championship Game. Kansas City came out of the gate hot, but then watched the Bengals erase an 18-point deficit. During Cincy's comeback, the Chiefs were unable to score a point in the second half until they had fallen behind by three and had to kick a game-tying field goal to send it to overtime.

The second-half collapse from the home Chiefs was shocking. At least I was surprised watching it. The Chiefs just couldn't get anything going on offense. So today I wanted to focus on how each of Kansas City's six second-half drives ended to see what we can learn. Again, the plays in this column were the final plays on each of the Chiefs second half drives.

Center Creed Humphrey (52) rolls the snap back there, which is always terrible, but other than that, the Chiefs protect this well. The Bengals are rushing three with a fourth guy spying Patrick Mahomes that you have to account for with a blocker. Mahomes has time here and makes a nice (if strange-looking) pass to a well-covered Travis Kelce, who can't come up with it. Need a better snap and a catch, but most of the guys for Kansas City are doing their jobs.

This time the Bengals are rushing four and once again Kansas City is blocking them. Left tackle Orlando Brown (57) runs his man far past the quarterback. On the opposite side, Andrew Wylie (77) has a tricky block because he has to deal with so much space after his man collides with Travis Kelce (87) off the snap, but Wylie does a nice job of staying in front. Humphrey (52) has to block a nose tackle running very wide to try to pick the left guard, but stays with him the whole play. This is very good pass protection.

This was a weird play and I'm still not entirely sure what the Chiefs were doing. It looks almost like they're faking a screen and trying to throw a slot hitch, but I don't know. What I do know is that Joe Thuney (62) at left guard has to do a better job of engaging this defensive tackle and keeping his hands down. Mahomes is drifting to his left here, which screws Thuney because that draws his defender out, but you have to engage the defender enough that he can't get both hands on the ball like this. Against a wide 3-technique like this, you almost have to turn it into a wide zone block rather than a straight drive block. It's a tough alignment for this play, but again, you have to do something to get that guy's hands down.

The Bengals are once again rushing three and the Chiefs are once again doing a very good job of blocking them. Brown knocks his guy (Trey Hendrickson, 91) down and stops playing after that, which isn't ideal, but man does Mahomes hold onto this for a long time. I can't see a reasonable person blaming the offensive line for this. This was the first of a few costly second-half sacks.

This was the one play where I thought the offensive line really dropped the ball in the second half. Both tackles get beat around the edge and the rushers meet at Mahomes. Let's look at Brown first. His initial set is fine, but he just never brings any violence to his play here. This is not how Brown usually gets beat. Typically when Brown gets beat it's because he puts himself in a bad place with his feet. Here his feet are fine, but he never changes the rusher's (Hendrickson, 91) course. Not when he lands his hands on his punch, not when he turns to try to run the defender by. That defensive end never moves an inch from his path to the quarterback the entire play. You have to have more physicality at the top of your pass set to knock the defender off the loop.

For Wylie, it's all hands. He gets his hands knocked away by the defender (Sam Hubbard, 94) at the top of his rush and never recovers. He looks a little passive here and I'm not sure if he was expecting a chip from his back, but he never really throws his hands to punch. He's waiting for the defender to make a move, and when the defender doesn't move first Wylie just kind of places his hands out—I wouldn't call this a punch—and the defensive end knocks them right down and continues to the quarterback.

I mean, it is what it is at this point. Another three-man rush and another coverage sack. The same thing happened the play before as well. The Bengals continually rushed three on these third downs and the Chiefs just couldn't make them pay. There isn't much more the offensive line can do in these situations.

The frustrating part for me watching the game was that the Chiefs came into the second half with a good lead. They actually had some success running the football in the second half too. Kansas City ran it 10 times for 59 yards on non-quarterack runs in the third and fourth quarters. I get always riding Mahomes, but at some point it would have been nice to have a drive where you saw if you could pick up a couple first downs on the ground.

I was surprised how little the Chiefs offensive line played into the collapse. Yeah, Thuney could have been better on the interception, but it was a really tough look and probably a play that should have been killed at the line. The one sack ended a drive, of course, too. But other than that, the rebuilt Kansas City offensive line were basically bystanders, doing a good job on three-man rushes but jogging off the field after failed third-down conversions. It had to be a disappointing way for a season to end as an offensive lineman.


24 comments, Last at 10 Feb 2022, 2:16pm

#1 by jgov // Feb 03, 2022 - 6:29pm

I know this is an oline column but I'd love some insight into what the Bengals did coverage wise that was so successful in the second half compared to the first. It was impossible to tell from the broadcast which never showed downfield camera angles.

Points: 0

#2 by Raiderfan // Feb 03, 2022 - 8:56pm

Great idea.  Second the motion.  Ben, do you have any ex-DB friends that could fit the bill?

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#6 by Aaron Schatz // Feb 04, 2022 - 10:11am

The Bengals switched to rush only three guys most of the time in the second half. They switched up their coverages a lot, which seemed to confuse Mahomes. He had time to throw, but he couldn't find anyone open or figure out where his receivers might be open. That's the short version.

Points: 0

#21 by goathead // Feb 07, 2022 - 1:34pm

I was thinking the same thing. How much contact was there? What was Mahomes seeing down the field?

It's one of the most stunning defensive turnarounds I've ever seen, and I'm still wondering how a QB of Mahomes' caliber couldn't find anyone.

Points: 0

#3 by theslothook // Feb 04, 2022 - 12:41am

I didn't see the second half, but I am left to conclude from that the fault for this lies at Mahomes' feet. Well, sometimes great players have rough games. 


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#8 by theslothook // Feb 04, 2022 - 11:05am

Sure, that's how you could read into my comment.

Or, you might conclude that I read this article and posed questions in the audibles and the discord channel along with trying to read other accounts.


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#9 by jheidelberg // Feb 04, 2022 - 11:22am

Welcome back, although the Bengals did not blitz, there will always be blitzing fan commenters, regardless of what you post. 

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#10 by theslothook // Feb 04, 2022 - 1:05pm

I certainly didn't feel my comment made any controversial proclamations beyond my reading into things that Mahomes had a rough second half.

I need to add lots of qualifiers in the future it seems.

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#14 by LionInAZ // Feb 04, 2022 - 7:45pm

You already made the qualifying disclaimer "I didn't see the 2nd half", yet chose to give some take on it anyway. That kind of disclaimer usually means that you shut up, or ask for more information.

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#16 by theslothook // Feb 04, 2022 - 9:41pm

In the future I will shut up or add...."I didn't see the second half but all comments below are summaries of information gleamed from other posters from various sources that I thought I would share for those who missed the game AND missed the comments OR people who saw the game and missed the comments and have a dissenting opinion of which I can read and learn and discuss further with."

Apologies to the millions I have offended. And future apologies to anyone who has heard about this woefully dismissive and presumptive post and who have felt betrayed, misrepresented, or otherwise whos feelings were severely marred. Love and peace. 

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#4 by Otis Taylor89 // Feb 04, 2022 - 6:56am

Not only didn't they run the ball much at all in the 2nd half, but the didn't fake the run on any of these plays. Looks to me that the CIN was pretty awesome when reviewing these plays, especially LBs picking up crossers. But maybe KC should have thrown in a few RPOs or, you know, run the ball? They had so much success running the ball in the 1st half.

Points: 0

#5 by Will Allen // Feb 04, 2022 - 10:01am

Just looked at the play by play. On their first 3 possessions (the third ending on the int. by the defensive lineman), the Chiefs ran on 5 of 11 plays, which certainly goes against the Andy Reid stereotype. The int. was just a disastrous, game changing play.

I suspect the Bengals pass rushers just had a much better 2nd half, especially in their lane discipline, which prevented Mahomes from running around for 15 seconds, until he made a ridiculously talented throw. Combine that with some mental errors by Mahomes, and some good offense by the Bengals, and the collapse ensues.

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#11 by Ben // Feb 04, 2022 - 2:09pm

The coverage really did seem like it improved though. This is just going by memory, but I remember thinking that there were a number of plays in the second half where he did run airbus and buy time against a 3 man rush, but just never found anyone open. 

I’d certainly be interested in learning what changed in the Bengals secondary play between the first and second halves. 

Points: 0

#19 by Will Allen // Feb 04, 2022 - 9:57pm

Absent Mahomes running around for 15 seconds on a few plays in the 1st, the Chiefs likely only score 13 points. Yeah, their coverage improved, but so did the pass rush discipline.

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#15 by LionInAZ // Feb 04, 2022 - 7:52pm

I thought the game-changing play was the failure to score anything with 5 seconds left in the 1st half. Passes at the goal line should go into the end zone, not into the flat, not with 5 seconds on the clock and no timeouts. Just bad decision making, and too much dependence on Hill's speed.

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#18 by Will Allen // Feb 04, 2022 - 9:54pm

Sure, that was big. I still thought the Chiefs would win. After that int on their 3rd possession of the 2nd half, I thought they'd likely lose.

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#22 by goathead // Feb 07, 2022 - 1:37pm

I was watching this game about 30 min delayed, and with 5s left I fast forwarded 15 min to watch the start of the 2nd half, since it was obvious they were kicking a FG. I then had to rewind, to see WTF happened. That was just a spectacular mistake.

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#23 by ImNewAroundThe… // Feb 09, 2022 - 9:01pm

In reply to by goathead

But they had time for at least one more play before a FG attempt.

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#13 by reddwarf // Feb 04, 2022 - 3:34pm

His fundamentals in those first two plays look really bad to my (mostly uneducated) eyes.  Very strange arm angles when you have a clean pocket.  It's like he's gotten so comfortable making crazy plays that his basics have broken down.  Noticed the same thing in the Bronco games I watched against the Chiefs this year (especially the first one).  His accuracy is not what it was the prior two years.

Points: 0

#20 by barf // Feb 07, 2022 - 10:40am

I blame all of Mahomes' problems on Brittney and his brother. 

Points: 0

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