The Dallas Cowboys welcome the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday for a crucial battle as the playoff chase heats up. The Cowboys will try to keep their momentum going, but face a strong Chiefs teams that is 6-2 on the season and boasts one of the best offenses in the league. How will the Cowboys defense contend with that? Let’s break it down.
The Chiefs are led by quarterback Alex Smith who is having an MVP-type year. His skill-set seems perfectly suited for an Andy Reid offense. As you’ll see below in the stats section, Smith ranks first in yards per attempt this season at 8.4. He’s third in completion percentage at 68.8% and he hasn’t thrown an interception all year while tossing 16 touchdowns. He’s having an astonishing season. If there is one downside to his stats, it’s the 22 sacks allowed by the Chiefs offense.
With an Andy Reid offense, you usually think of the short passing game, some gadget-type plays like shovel passes, bubble screens, and you would be correct. All of those things have been staples this year. But Reid has also incorporated the read-option with Smith, but has various ways to implement it. He’s running straight read-options, run-pass options, he’s even run a read-option into a bubble screen on the outside. Arrowhead Pride has a great breakdown of some of these plays in this article.
The Chiefs can also push it downfield to Tyreek Hill, a speedster who is a danger to take it to the house on any play. They also have tight end Travis Kelce, a nightmare matchup who can line up in the slot and play like a wide receiver. Those two are the big threats in the passing game, the Cowboys probably can’t make a living trying to cover Kelce with a linebacker. Byron Jones, or zone, is their best hope. They may also put Orlando Scandrick on him in the slot.
The surprise of the early part of the season was the amazing play of rookie running back Kareem Hunt. He burst onto the scene and was destroying defenses in his first five games. Over the last three, though, he’s yet to break 100 yards rushing. He can still hurt you out of the backfield, and with the Cowboys questionable run defense, there’s going to be nothing easy about containing Hunt. Also, don’t forget that Alex Smith can also hurt a defense running the ball. Typical of Andy Reid, though, is the fact that while the Chiefs are third in yards per rushing attempt (4.9), they are only 14th in rushing attempts per game.
Stats Corner Chiefs Offense
— Third in yards per game (377.9), sixth in passing yards per game (255.1), 12th in rushing yards per game (122.8), third in points per game (29.5)
— 10th in converting third downs percentage (42.2%), first in yards per passing attempt (8.4), third in completion percentage (68.8%)
— 10th in sacks allowed (22), first in passer rating (113.3), third in yards per rushing attempt (4.9), 14th in rushing attempts
Conclusion: The Cowboys defense cannot become over-aggressive. To play this kind of offense, a defense needs to stay under control; they need discipline and gap integrity. Knowing your assignment on any given play and staying with it is key. Andy Reid has an array of plays that can kill defenses that are not disciplined, with his screens, shovel passes and various read-option plays. Alex Smith scrambling or on designed runs will also hurt a team without gap discipline. In the secondary, all eyes should be on Travis Kelce, if you can slow him down then you stand a better chance of limiting the Chiefs success. If you’re going to blitz, using a zone blitz with an overloaded line to one side might be successful.