Chiefs di­al­ing up cre­ative of­fense to stay 1 step ahead

Santa Fe New Mexican - - SPORTS - By Dave Skretta

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Char­can­drick West stood in front of his locker in the mostly empty Chiefs train­ing fa­cil­ity this week, the backup run­ning back hold­ing court af­ter an out-of-nowhere twotouch­down per­for­mance in last week­end’s vic­tory over Hous­ton.

He mused on just about ev­ery topic imag­in­able, from Kansas City’s un­beaten start to the un­ex­pected play of quar­ter­back Alex Smith to the suc­cess of rookie run­ning back Ka­reem Hunt.

When asked about the Chiefs’ cre­ativ­ity on of­fense, his grin threat­ened to break his face.

“It’s a dream, man. They’re mak­ing the Mad­den guys’ jobs hard,” West said, re­fer­ring to pro­gram­mers and de­sign­ers at EA Sports who are re­spon­si­ble for the sig­na­ture NFL video game.

“I don’t know how they’re go­ing to get all of this stuff in the game next year,” West said.

If they’re try­ing to repli­cate the Chiefs’ play­book, it might push the lim­its of tech­nol­ogy.

Whether it’s a jet sweep run through any num­ber of play­ers, on any po­si­tion on the field, to the tun­nel screens that have al­lowed tight end Travis Kelce to rack up the yardage, one thing is clear: The game plans that coach Andy Reid and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Matt Nagy have put to­gether this sea­son have pushed the boundaries of what seems pos­si­ble in a league known for its copy­cat ten­den­cies.

“Ev­ery week, de­fenses are try­ing to do some­thing to take away what you’re try­ing to do. That’s al­ways been the case,” quar­ter­back Alex Smith said. “I think the goal is to be re­ally bal­anced. You want a lot of guys that can pro­duce, you want to do it in a lot of dif­fer­ent ways, so you’re not one-di­men­sional — so they can’t shut you down that eas­ily.”

One-di­men­sional? Heck, the Chiefs are push­ing the boundaries of three-di­men­sional.

In some ways, that’s noth­ing new. Reid long ago earned a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing an of­fen­sive in­no­va­tor, putting Dono­van McNabb and Co. in cre­ative sit­u­a­tions in Philadel­phia. But many years, he’s been held back by the tal­ent on the field, forced to play to the strengths of a team lack­ing the right quar­ter­back or play­mak­ing wide re­ceiver ca­pa­ble of fully re­al­iz­ing his vi­sion.

That doesn’t ap­pear to be the case any­more. Alex Smith has never been con­sid­ered a su­per­star, but his run­ning abil­ity com­bined with a knack for avoid­ing turnovers has al­lowed Reid to put his quar­ter­back in unique sit­u­a­tions.

Like the pis­tol. Or the kind of read-op­tions that fans are ac­cus­tomed to see­ing on Satur­days.

Throw in the ver­sa­til­ity of Hunt out of the back­field, the abil­ity of Kelce to catch screen passes while also stretch­ing the field, and the world-class sprint­ing speed of wide re­ceiver Tyreek Hill, and you have a trio of play­mak­ers that al­low Reid and Nagy to try out just about any­thing.

Jet sweeps. Shovel passes. Lat­er­als and all kinds of mis­di­rec­tion.

“Their video is re­ally im­pres­sive, and an­a­lyt­i­cally — from a num­ber stand­point — they’re re­ally im­pres­sive,” said Steel­ers coach Mike Tom­lin, whose team will try to fig­ure out the Chiefs on Sun­day.

“In­di­vid­u­ally and col­lec­tively, they’re do­ing it at a high level,” he said. “They have bal­ance. They’re run­ning the ball. They have a young, tal­ented run­ner who is do­ing a good job. It’s a lot of things go­ing on well with the Kansas City Chiefs.”

The num­bers bear that out, too. The Chiefs are sec­ond in the NFL in to­tal of­fense, lead the league in yards per play and points per game, and are third in time of pos­ses­sion. The bal­ance is ev­i­dent when you con­sider they’re sec­ond in the NFL in yards rush­ing and ninth in yards pass­ing.

All that cre­ativ­ity has also come in handy as the Chiefs have dealt with a rash of in­juries.

They have yet to have their en­tire of­fen­sive line healthy, and fig­ure to have miss­ing pieces again Sun­day with right guard Lau­rent Duver­nay-Tardif still out with a knee in­jury and cen­ter Mitch Morse lim­ited by a foot in­jury. Wide re­ceiver Chris Con­ley was lost for the sea­son last Sun­day with a rup­tured Achilles’ ten­don, while run­ning back Spencer Ware went down in the pre­sea­son with a knee in­jury.

Reid mostly dis­misses any no­tion that things are markedly dif­fer­ent this year, but he does ac­cept that de­fenses have be­gun try­ing new wrin­kles.

“More in the run-game stuff than the pass game,” he said, “but ev­ery­one has their own flare.”

DAVID J. PHILLIP/AP FILE PHOTO

Both Kansas City’s quar­ter­back Alex Smith, left, and rookie run­ning back Ka­reem Hunt, right, have been vi­tal parts of an ex­plo­sive of­fense this year for the Chiefs.

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