Kansas City Chiefs: Establishing running game key to playoff success

If the Kansas City Chiefs want to be playing in the final game of the NFL season, the run game needs to get going. That is the key to a Super Bowl appearance for the Chiefs.

Patrick Mahomes is one of the best football players in the world. It is natural to fall in love with his playmaking ability, leadership, and competitiveness. At times, though, it seems like the Kansas City Chiefs rely too much on Mahomes’  greatness.

Too often, the Chiefs aren’t able to “grind out” games at the end after getting a big lead. Some like to point to Andy Reid being too conservative. This year, however, it has been a slightly different story.

Against the Titans, Chargers, and Patriots, the Chiefs offense needed one more first down to ice the game. They didn’t do it in any of those games.

Luckily the defense pulled through and was able to get stops in two of them. All three of those games came down to the opposing team marching into the redzone as time expired. If the Chiefs had been able to get a first down in their previous drive, they could have just iced the game.

As great as Mahomes is, the Chiefs lack of a rushing attack is a quiet concern for a team that plays their games in the cold come playoff time.

This week on the KC Kingdom podcast, which I have linked just below, we discussed the Chiefs need to get the running game going moving forward. We also talked about the Chiefs vs Patriots and what we saw defensively, as well as previewing the upcoming Chiefs and Broncos game.

Give it a listen if you have the time. If that doesn’t interest you, keep reading below at why the running game is going to be important for the Chiefs come playoff time.

First. let’s examine last year just how well teams in the playoff field ran the ball last year.

By pure rushing yards, the top five teams were the Patriots, Rams, Colts, Chiefs, and Cowboys. As you can see from that list, three of the five were playing in their conference championship games. The other two teams, the Cowboys and Colts, lost in the divisional round. The Colts did have success on Wild Card weekend, however, and were able to pick up a victory to move on before they fell to the Chiefs at Arrowhead. This supports the idea that a run game in the playoffs can be beneficial for team success.

Now, I am not saying the Chiefs need to change their identity and be a running team. Passing is still the most efficient way to move the ball in the NFL, especially when you have Patrick Mahomes as your quarterback.  The Chiefs just need to have the ability to run the ball.

Being able to establish the run, or run it on crucial downs, is important; Not only for clock control purposes, but also to be a balanced offense capable of dominating games. Being one dimensional in the NFL is a killer. No matter how good you are, defensive coaches are smart. They can take away cetrain elements and make life rough on NFL offenses.

This year, Chiefs fans have felt that the offense has been a little “off” so to speak. That could be because this years rushing attack hasn’t been reliable. Last year, the Chiefs averaged 115.9 rushing yards and 309.7 passing yards per game. This season, the Chiefs are still at a respectable 288.7 passing yards per game, fourth best in the league.

The dip in yards per game can be traced back to the offensive injuries of players like Tyreek Hill, Eric Fisher, and Patrick Mahomes. In full games played this year, Mahomes is averaging right around 319 yards per game, which is even better than last season.

The running game, however, is down to just 93 yards per game. That is a big drop off in production. That big dip could be a big reason why the offense has looked out of sync. The rhythm  of the offense could be off right now.

Part of the Chiefs running game issues can largely be attributed to health as well. The Chiefs offensive line has seen starters Eric Fisher, Andrew Wylie, and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif miss extended time. The Chiefs have also had Damien Williams, Darrel Williams, and LeSean McCoy miss games throughout the year.

Darrel Williams is now on injured reserve, and Damien Williams hasn’t played for three weeks now. The hope is that once the line starts playing more and more snaps together, they can gel down to stretch and become a unit that can open lanes for Kansas City’s running backs.

It will be interesting to see if the Chiefs approach the running game differently moving forward. Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy is a former running back and running backs coach, and knows the importance of having a ground attack.

Obviously, the Kansas City Chiefs should remain a pass heavy team. They don’t need to be run first by any means. They just need to be able to run it effectively when the situation arises.

We will see what approach the team takes in the coming weeks as the season comes to an end.

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