There is a common phrase that football coaches will utter in practice. No matter the wording, the notion of the phrasing is about the mentality heading into the game; winning football is not about beating the other team, but executing in excellence for 60 minutes. Some games come down to which team executes the playbook, disregards the opponent, and adheres to what they do best. As the Kansas City Chiefs head into the heart of Texas to play the Dallas Cowboys, they will be facing a team composed of a dynamic young quarterback in Dak Prescott, a tenacious defense lead by Sean Lee, and a running game that could be without all-pro Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys dynamism allows them to match any opponent in a unique way; compound those ideals without Elliott in the backfield, and the Cowboys will be approaching this game in a fashion they have yet to approach any other game. To avoid being caught off guard, the Chiefs week nine scheme is fundamentally about adhering to a principled strategy to create opportunity for stars to shine.
Kansas City Chiefs Week Nine Scheme Breakdown – The Star of Texas
Creating Dynamism Through Principles
One of the best functions of the Chiefs offense is a dynamic and explosive strategy comes intrinsic to their principles. To maintain fundamentals, some teams regress and stick to base personnel formations, which ultimately hurts the creativity. However, with Andy Reid at the helm, the Chiefs base nature is to create shining moments for the stars of the offense.
Beating the Cowboys defense will be more about how well the Chiefs handle adversity when it comes than alleviating what Dallas does. The Rod Marinelli defense does an excellent job of creating pressure, fifth in the NFL in total sacks with 26. Despite that pressure, Dallas allows 23 points per game. The Cowboys defense can be beaten, but their success revolves around intangibles bestowed by linebacker Sean Lee.
Marinelli has instituted a system which relies on leadership to direct an otherwise young defense. No one cornerback pops on the roster, instead opting to run an assist system. Much like the Chiefs own defense, the Cowboys secondary has improved as the pass rush has improved due to the connected reliance on one another. Marinelli appeals to the principle that pressure forces poor passes. As the season has gone on, the Cowboys are crafting a better defense as each unit plays more cohesively.
Lee is the inception of that leadership and education. With Lee healthy, he calls the game from the interior part of the field, serving as the defensive quarterback. The linebackers do not create pressure, instead put the defensive lineman in the best alignment to create offensive line confusion. Relying on creative stunts, Demarcus Lawrence has landed 10.5 sacks, David Irving five, and Tyrone Crawford four. The Cowboys defense is not an overtly inventive scheme, but a scheme derived on raw explosiveness and intelligent chaos.
The Chiefs offense has a unique advantage against the Cowboys defense based on forcing linebackers to commit. Due to the lack of interior linebacker blitzes, the Chiefs have a strict two-fold onus. First Mitch Morse is a high intangible center himself and will take the onus of pointing out fancy twists and stunts. However, Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz need to block straight up and perform at their highest level; again, recalling to the notion of playing fundamental football.
With the offensive line leading charged blocking, they can then move to the second wave of fundamental success. With the motion sets, Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt will be facing Lee and Jaylon Smith on short passes and counter runs. And just as the offensive line goes, once Hill and Hunt are in the one on one situations, they need to return to their fundamentals to turn short receptions and runs into long gains.
Reid will assert successful situations; the players simply need to execute with excellence for 60 minutes. There is a chance this game comes down to the wire, and puts Alex Smith in position to lead a fourth quarter icing drive. Thus, the offensive line must block with adherence and the receivers need to win their one on one battles. In doing so, the Chiefs can unlock Travis Kelce, the key to dominating the Cowboys defense.
With a secondary that can be marginally successful, if Smith has time to analyze the field, a young set of corners will fade throughout the game. The Cowboys safeties can be split through the middle of the field, exactly where Kelce converts his explosive plays. If everyone up front grinds through a drive and puts safeties on their heels, then Kelce will receive those precise passes that have made the Chiefs such a potent offense.
Dominating No Matter Who
The Chiefs defense has first and foremost given up egregious runs almost every single week. Only the Oakland Raiders were kept to less than 100 yards rushing, and that was due to Derek Carr and Amari Cooper destroying the secondary. The implication being, Elliott suspended or not, the Cowboys will attack run first.
Naturally, run defense gets easier without an all-pro with precise running technique breaking past the second level. However, the Cowboys derive success by dominating the line of scrimmage. If the Chiefs defense does not win the line of scrimmage, Derrick Johnson will spend another week getting swallowed by lineman while Alfred Morris, Rod Smith, or Darren McFadden dance to the end zone.
Beating the Cowboys starts with forcing Prescott to throw as much as possible. The Chiefs offense can assist by putting up a plethora of points, but the defense owns the onus of finally stopping the running game. The Cowboys scheme is built around zone-running establishing passing formations, and devolves when the run does not work.
An offensive line that blows up the initial attack, and then Elliott’s ability to craft big runs once in the second wave of defenders are potent enough. However, even without Elliott, the nature of the zone-blocking is that which will destroy the Chiefs. Guards and tackles will pull to create multiple lanes and patterns of attack. Thus, a running back has foresight to see the play developing and spot dark creases.
The pure athleticism of Tyron Smith and La’el Collins allows double-teams on the interior defensive line to quickly move to the linebacker section. Thus, as Allen Bailey and Bennie Logan demand double teams, they have the task of swallowing blockers instead of getting tackles. The zone-run scheme can be beat if the front line, including the likes of Dee Ford and Justin Houston on the outside, demand the double-team and allow second-wave linebackers to step into the different lanes.
Closing the lanes of running will the force Prescott to pass, or turn toward the run-pass option concept. Although not ideal in repetition, this variety allows a format of explosive plays. Which again, goes in favor of the Cowboys as the Chiefs have a habit of forcing Ron Parker and Daniel Sorensen to stop the run from the safety box. Thus, the onus is on Johnson and Reggie Ragland to make tackles instead of letting everything get behind them. In succinct fashion, contain the edge.
The Cowboys passing scheme is not overtly dangerous. Prescott is precise, but does not favor the deep ball. Dez Bryant has had an awkward season, but Cooper was also having an awkward season before the Raiders and Chiefs met. For Steven Nelson and Marcus Peters, the most succinct goal for them is to battle with their renowned toughness and technique.
If the run game dies, and if Prescott is forced to throw late in the game, the Chiefs chance to garnish turnovers then relies on the safeties to bait Prescott. Prescott is averse to deceptive schemes, and will opt for safe, high percentage passes. Hence, part of the success for Jason Witten and Terrance Williams in 72.3 and 67.7 percent catch mark.
However, if Prescott is forced to go deep late in the game, Bryant still possesses the physical traits to be a top tier receiver. Prescott is 15 of 30 on deep pass targets, but will struggle when forced to throw under pressure. Hence, the final note for the Chiefs defense is to generate the same pressure generated against the Broncos.
Execution from quarterbacks comes in comfort, and when Prescott has time, he is a top NFL quarterback. Thus, Houston et al need to begin generating pressure and disavow the convenience of time. Fortunately, pressure is built into the Chiefs system – again a recollection to the point of executing to the natural intent and not worrying about the opponent.
Summarizing the Plan of Attack
The Chiefs plan of attack begins by executing against the Cowboys defense with their own fundamental excellence in mind. Dallas does not have a fancy scheme, but a smart one. However, that intelligence can be out coached by Reid, launching Hunt and Hill to success in the short field. If the offensive line creates open lanes and gives Smith time to disseminate the defense, Kelce and the rest of the explosive targets will find the ball.
Defensively, the Cowboys have an attack that needs to be met head on. No matter who is at running back for Dallas, the Chiefs need to dominate the offensive line, push the line of scrimmage backwards, and launch Johnson and Ragland to career days. Forcing the ball into the hands of Prescott has inherent danger due to the potency of receivers, but if the Chiefs secondary plays as it ought, turnovers may come in high leverage situations. The defense revolves around playing according to excellent fundamentals.