How Chiefs Line Overcame Injuries

Kansas City Chiefs OL Trey Smith
Kansas City Chiefs OL Trey Smith
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 17 - The Chiefs lost a heartbreaker in a bit of a bizarre finish against the Bengals this past Sunday. They tied the game at 31-31 with about six minutes to go but never saw the ball again. After a penalty gave the Bengals a fresh set of downs at the goal line, Cincinnati kneeled the ball out and kicked a field goal with no time on the clock. It had to be an agonizing drive for the Chiefs offense to watch from the sidelines.

Before they got to that point though, they had a third-and-5 in the red zone. They were down by three at the time, and if they could have punched it in, Cincy would have needed a touchdown instead of a field goal on that last possession.

The Bengals absolutely sell out on the blitz and play Cover-0 behind it. The Chiefs actually pick this up perfectly. They check to a full slide protection and pick up everyone but the widest rusher, who happens to be a defensive back, which is the ideal situation on this blitz. You can't protect this blitz any better. The Chiefs offensive line did a good job with blitz pickup most of the game in fact.

Patrick Mahomes played well last week, but this play was on him. He has to stand in and make a throw here; drifting into the pressure doesn't help. Still, I doubt anyone for Kansas City expected the final six-minute drive that came after this.

To even get in a position to tie the game, the Chiefs' line had to overcome quite a bit of adversity. Left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. hurt his calf in pregame warmups and missed the game. They kicked regular right tackle Lucas Niang to the left side to replace Brown, but then Niang got hurt early in the first half. Once Niang went down, left guard Joe Thuney moved outside and replaced him. That meant the Chiefs were playing with two reserve offensive linemen and a guard playing out of position.

All that considered, I thought it was a really good performance. The pass protection got a little leaky at times, but wasn't a game-changing issue by any means. They also did a good job of creating some holes in the running game. Let's focus on the pass protection first.

Here the Chiefs are getting beat on a game, but at least they're getting beat slowly—slowly enough for Mahomes to find a receiver 40 yards down the field. Right guard Trey Smith (65) and center Creed Humphrey (52) can't get this twist passed off. Oddly enough, they are the only two Chiefs linemen playing in their regular spots. Humphrey doesn't do a very good job of blunting the penetrating rusher. He doesn't flatten the tackle or knock him off his course at all. That allows the nose tackle to completely blow Smith up.

I also want to point out Thuney (62) at left tackle. It's not what you see from a lot of tackles from a looks standpoint, but he finds a way to get it done. He doesn't get much of a punch and he's leaning a little bit too much, but he's competing and he runs the defender by the quarterback. Thuney wasn't perfect, and there were a lot of times where it looked like it was going to go bad, but he always seemed to hold on just enough.

This is what I'm talking about from Thuney. He's kicking out a little awkwardly, he's reaching for two defenders at the same time, and the play ends with him on all fours, but he did just enough to run the blitzer by. And this is just about the worst-case scenario for a guard playing tackle, being asked to kick past an edge rusher to a blitzing defensive back who's way quicker and faster. It wasn't pretty, but Thuney did his job here.

The reason Thuney was able to push the rusher by Mahomes, though, is that the interior offensive line was really good here. Smith and Humphrey have an easy job being able to double-team a nose tackle, but backup left guard Nick Allegretti (73) is just as good with a much tougher task. He's kicking out to the slanting defensive end, and look at how he widens the defensive end right back to where he came from. The defensive end dips his shoulder, but Allegretti gets both hands right on the target to widen the rusher and give Mahomes a huge alley to step up into.

Before we go, I did want to take a look at the run game and maybe the prettiest play I have seen all year. It was just an absolute work of art up front from Kansas City.

Kansas City is gashing the bear front with power and I just love it so much. If NFTs were a serious form of art, a token of Allegretti on this play would be our culture's new Mona Lisa. Look at him pull around and dip his hips on contact to give that linebacker (Markus Bailey, 51) the forearm-flipper and displace him from the hole. That's called feeding him the burrito, where the forearm is the burrito. He even maintains contact and finishes the linebacker to the ground. Perfect block. No notes.

The tight end (Blake Bell, 81) and fullback are really good here too. Fullback Michael Burton is giving up 20-plus pounds to the defensive end (Sam Hubbard, 94) here, but gets under him and holds his own. Look at him throw his hips into the block and arch his back to hold his ground against the bigger man. Great leverage. I could watch this play on a loop, so I'm glad that it's a GIF.

That'll do it for this week. Barring a miracle -- and Jacksonville winning a game at this point in the season seems like a miracle -- the Chiefs will be the only team I covered this year to make the postseason. So expect a lot more of them in coming weeks.

Comments

2 comments, Last at 07 Jan 2022, 12:13pm

1 Excellent analysis, Muth.

It will be interesting to see when Brown is able to come back from his calf injury.  Not wild about Wylie starting at RT, but one could do much worse.