One of the more underrated things of the Chiefs early success this season is how improved the team has been in the red zone.
The last few seasons were a disaster for the Chiefs inside the 20, and it was a big reason why the Chiefs have struggled to win football games. Take a look at what the Chiefs have done in the red zone since 2009.
Year – Red Zone Attempts Per Game (Rank) – Red Zone TDs Per Game (Rank)
2009: 2.4 (28), 1.1 (27)
2010: 3.1 (17), 1.8 (10)
2011: 2.2 (29), 0.8 (32)
2012: 2.3 (30), 0.6 (32)
KC was the only team in the NFL last season to average less than one red zone touchdown per game last season. They only had three red zone touchdowns on the road all of last season.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the one year the Chiefs were above average in scoring touchdowns in the red zone was the one year the Chiefs had a winning season under Scott Pioli.
John Dorsey seemed to make the red zone a priority in the offseason by bulking up at the tight end and fullback position. The versatility that comes with having tight ends and fullbacks who can both block in the running game and catch passes gives the quarterback – and the team – more options in the red zone to score. Up until this season, the burden was on Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe to make something happen. NFL teams quickly caught on to the fact KC quarterbacks couldn’t get the ball to Bowe, so the only real person that needed to be targeted was Charles.
Thus, terrible red zone efficiency.
This year, with a new quarterback and more short-yardage weapons – the Chiefs have been able to be far more effective in the red zone.
2013 Red Zone Stats
3.7 red zone attempts per game, tied for 7th in the NFL
2 red zone touchdowns per game, tied for 10th in the NFL
While the Chiefs are not an explosive offense, they have been able to take advantage of red zone opportunities. Entering the Philadelphia game last Thursday night, the Chiefs were 5-for-5 in scoring touchdowns in the red zone.
Not surprisingly, with Anthony Fasano, Travis Kelce, and Tony Moeaki all inactive for the game, the Chiefs had more issues scoring touchdowns in the red zone. KC kicked four field goals and scored just one touchdown in six red zone attempts against Philadelphia.
When the Chiefs have at least one of their starting tight ends active, they are far more effective with what they do in the red zone.
Complimenting what the Chiefs are doing on offense in the red zone is what the defense is doing in the same situation. Like the offense, the Chiefs defense struggled terribly in the red zone over the past four seasons.
Year – Red Zone Attempts Per Game (Rank) -Red Zone TDs Per Game (Rank)
2009: 3.3 (21), 1.9 (23)
2010: 2.5 (2), 1.6 (19)
2011: 3.2 (16), 1.8 (19)
2012: 4 (30), 2.1 (28)
Again, not a surprise that the Chiefs best defensive red zone year was also the only year they’ve had a winning record. KC’s bend-but-don’t-break philosophy allowed for a lot of red zone attempts. That ended up leading to a lot of touchdowns simply because opponents had so many chances to score. KC actually ranked 15th in touchdown percentage in 2012, but they allowed so many chances that their success rate was rendered moot.
This season, KC’s defense has been let loose. They’ve used the great field position generated by Dustin Colquitt, a great pass rush, and turnovers, to keep teams out of the red zone.
The result has been one of the best defenses in football.
2013 Red Zone Stats
1.3 red zone attempts per game, 1st in the NFL
0.3 touchdowns per game, 1st in the NFL
The only touchdown Kansas City has allowed in the red zone this season is a leaping catch by Dez Bryant.
It is not a stunning to find that when a team puts themselves in a position to score more touchdowns and the defense prevents good touchdown chances that a team ends up coming out with the win in the end.
Turns out that if the Chiefs score more points than the opponent then the Chiefs win.
Preventing and scoring touchdowns in the red zone is obviously a complicated thing, but the Chiefs have clearly made the moves necessary to improve in those areas. As a result, the Chiefs enter Sunday with a perfect record.