Analyzing the offensive playcalling from Chiefs Vs Steelers

If you like scoring, this was the game for you. These two teams racked up 778 total passing yards and 79 total points. If you don’t like scoring, well I’m not really sure what to tell you. Football’s probably not the right sport for you, I’d suggest watching soccer. Or maybe the Arizona Cardinals.

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The Steelers started things off with 7 of their first plays being from a singleback set (your standard set with 3 receivers a tight end and a halfback). If fact, the Steelers ran a ridiculous amount of singleback sets throughout the game. They lined up from a singleback set 49 times, which was 59.0% of the time. Oddly enough, 9 of those plays were nullified due to penalty. I’m not really sure why that was, but I thought it was interesting so I figured I’d mention it. There was also a 2 point conversion attempt from that set (which was successful) so if I take those out, they ran a total of 39 plays from a singleback set. But what’s even crazier is that Pittsburgh only ran the ball 3 times from a singleback set, meaning that 36 of their plays were passes from a singleback set, taking out penalties that means that an even 50% of the Steelers plays were passes from singleback sets. For a point of reference, the Chiefs only threw from a singleback set 10 times, which was 16.9 percent of the time (although in fairness, that’s less than most teams, the average team throws from a singleback set around 20-25 percent of the time). However despite all that, Pittsburgh still averaged a respectable 6.03 yards per passing play out of that set (they averaged 6.51 yards per play overall throughout the game).

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As I alluded to earlier, the Chiefs didn’t use singleback sets as much as other teams. They still used singleback sets more than any other set, which is expected as it’s by far the most commonly used set in the NFL. But they used a singleback just set 18 times. They ran a play with a 5 wide set 15 times (25.4%), which was by far the most in the NFL in week 2. Using a 5 wide set is putting lot of faith in your quarterback, which a lot of teams wouldn’t do with a quarterback who’s only playing in his third game in the NFL. But for Kansas City, trusting Mahomes couldn’t have worked out better. Out of 5 wide sets the Chiefs averaged 12.69 yards per play. Even from a 4 wide set they averaged 7.0 yards per play, and from singleback sets they averaged 6.25 yards per play. In fact they averaged 8.48 yards per play overall last Sunday. The strategy of putting as many wide receivers as possible in the game makes a lot of sense, Pittsburgh’s weakness is probably their secondary, and the more wideouts in the game, the more Steelers defensive backs have to make plays. It took the Steelers good front 7 out of the game for the most part, and allowed them to take advantage of Pittsburgh’s Achilles’ heel.

However, not every set worked out perfectly for the Chiefs. They ran 10 plays with a fullback last Sunday. There’s a lot of disagreement when it comes to using a fullback in the NFL. Some think it’s a position that should almost never be used, however others like to have a fullback in frequently, as it can help run blocking along with pass protection. But for Kansas City, having a fullback in didn’t help too much. They ran the ball all but 3 of those plays, and gained just 2.1 yards per play with a fullback in. Not to mention their safety came with a fullback in the game as well.

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Speaking of teams who don’t use fullbacks very often, Pittsburgh is certainly one of those, as they used a fullback just 3 times (3.6% of all plays). Although they did get a 19 yard pass play with a fullback in the game. The Steelers only ran the ball 11 times on Sunday (15.3% of the time) and 7 of those rushes were out of a multiple tight end set. In theory having a couple of extra blockers will help the run game, however Kansas City was ready for the run when they saw multiple tight ends in the game, and only gave up a total of 3 combined yards throughout those plays (0.43 yards per carry). Passing was a lot better from those sets, as they were able to average an even 7 yards per passing play with multiple tight ends in the game. This kind of led to Pittsburgh abandoning the run, which I’m not totally sure they had to do, as they gained 21 yards in the four plays they ran from sets with one or zero tight ends in the game, which averages to 5.25 yards per carry. Admittedly that’s a small sample size, but if it were up to me I probably would’ve tried running the ball a bit more from those sets. Although sometimes there’s things that make me go “oh right, that’s why I’m a writer and not an NFL coach”. The Steelers used a 4 wide set with a tight end just twice in their first 26 plays, however they went on to use that set 15 more times in the game, and averaged 11.8 yards per play, which was almost as much at Kansas City averaged out of 5 wide sets. The adjustment to use more of these sets was pretty smart, after all if you’re going to abandon the run game, might as well get the halfback off the field. However I felt like they didn’t truly commit to the 4 receiver 1 tight end set when they should’ve. After Pittsburgh tied the game at 28, Kansas City scored a touchdown right back to make it 35-28. The Steelers went on to punt the ball on three consecutive drives, which really let the Chiefs take control of the game. It’s worth mentioning they only used the 4 receiver and a tight end set twice in those three drives, despite it being the set where they had found the most success. On their final touchdown drive alone they used it three times, and gained 60 yards. although honestly I shouldn’t really nitpick Pittsburgh’s offensive playcalling too much, the reality is the Steelers offense was great, Kansas City’s was just a little better.

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