Science and mathematics are empirical, offering quaint graphs, theories, and formula. Although both reveal patterns, both fields often deliver uncomfortable trajectories and charting. Yet, would something as strange as quantum mechanics really offer comfortable patterns? Further, would the Kansas City Chiefs deliver comfort if the study of football was broken down into robotic theories? Football and quantum mechanics may seem far apart, but in the end, the Chiefs can be broken down into a sabremetric model of scientific trends in an emphatically fun manner. After one week of play, the Chiefs stats and charts offer a domineering trend of Alex Smith efficiency; fallible, but beautiful under an aggressive game plan.
Kansas City Chiefs Stats and Charts – Enjoy the Limelight
Football is chaotic. Anyone who has watched a season of up and downs knows this empirical truth. Chaos, however, can be explained mathematically by chaos theory – a science that does not attempt to explain the unpredictable, but simply chart it. To be subject to chaos theory study, a system must have dramatic effect to minor changes, or the butterfly effect, be spontaneous, and an incremental vector. Save the math and explanation; the Chiefs fit the football model of a chaotic organism.
In the win against the New England Patriots, chaos theory was in full effect, more specifically in one player: Eric Berry. Both his play early in the game and his injury represented a specific change in the present that affected the trajectory of the future, but not the approximate present and future.
The first play that changed the trajectory of the game came on a fourth and two. In a play that was lost amidst later explosive plays, Berry turned into a missile aimed at the Patriots offensive line and nailed Mike Gillislee to force a momentous turnover on downs. The second play, or set of plays, came in Berry’s defense of tight end Rob Gronkowski. He was the only player physical and skilled enough to stop two explosive pass attempts to Gronkowski.
The above graph conceptually shows how much Berry’s play affected the Patriots control of the game over time. The initial rise and then stabilization between .75 and .56 represents the Patriots driving down field, or a precise control of the game. However, the rise to .85 represents the moment the Patriots turned the ball over on downs – or, a loss of control and momentum. Although the iteration was still stable, the control gap was widening and trending toward more chaos.
The Chiefs have historically won on opportunity plays – takeaways from opposing teams. In fact, if the chaos iteration were to be continued, the Patriots grip on chaos would not stabilize over the tenure of the second quarter.
No player on the Chiefs is better at creating turnovers and causing mistakes than Berry, which brings up how tragic Berry’s Achilles tendon tear was. Without a game-changing player, the Chiefs will have tighter windows to capitalize. The offense must maintain mistake free-football in order to keep their own chaos window in control.
The Chiefs put together an offensive masterpiece on Thursday night. Smith was incredibly efficient in his old-school way. Yet, at the same time, he capitalized on small holes to create functional big plays. Smith showed the ability to take opportunity at hand and break through due to the Patriots lack of a pass rush. With time to deconstruct the defense, Smith was exactly as he should have been. And that is a huge credit to the offensive line.
Currently, Smith is on projection for a 4,500-yard season with 35 touchdowns. Realistically, Smith will not complete this kind of season as it’s not in his quarterback DNA. The Chiefs averaged 10.5 yards per pass completion by intermixing 27 completions on 27 attempts under ten yards, and then letting his running backs dynamically create more yards from those short passes. Smith is still Smith with a heavy volume of short-yard passes.
Projecting forward, a more realistic (although hyperbolic) endgoal for Smith will be 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns. But that’s still an immaculate season for a ‘game-manager’ quarterback. The difference between the Chiefs success this year and in years past is in the projection forward for running back Kareem Hunt and wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
Head coach Andy Reid ought to call plays that let Hunt and Hill turn under routes into longer gains on yards after the catch. Hunt was not anticipated to be a screen-play receiving back, yet may end up scoring a plethora of touchdowns on short red-zone targets that turn into 15-yard touchdowns. The Chiefs showed the propensity to spread out personnel and subsequently spread out linebackers, allowing open lanes in the middle of the field.
Hill and tight end Travis Kelce also present statistical anomalies for Smith. Defenses may pick up on the Chiefs new scheme by asserting a cover one theme. Yet, due to the physicality and athleticism for under targets in the red-zone, Smith may have a career high in touchdowns.
The projection for Hunt is currently eight receiving touchdowns, Kelce seven, and Hill 16. But, these stats are anomalies over one-week snapshots, and present little realism for the rest of the season. The primary takeaway is not an overtly impressive offense, but an offense that now finds momentum amid the check-down patterns.
No matter the final stats Smith puts up, the rhythm and efficiency down-field creates an offense that will score touchdowns, not field goals, in the red-zone. And taking this all back to chaos theory, a touchdown derives more momentous chaos for the opponents.
Bob Sutton’s defensive scheme relies on creating pressure, sacks, and mistakes. Thus, the most important stats to analyze for the Chiefs defense is pressure. Pressure creates tremendous opportunity for the secondary to take away plays from great quarterbacks, as exemplified by Tom Brady’s three completions on 15 attempts over 15 yards.
Brady was not allowed to create rhythm on deeper passes, initiated by the play of Berry, and assisted by Marcus Peters isolating his side and instituting physicality at the line of scrimmage. With Brady primarily checking one-side of the field, the defense could create insurmountable pressure.
Justin Houston capitalized with two sacks, and most importantly Allen Bailey landed a sack up the middle. Schematically and sabre-metrically, the Chiefs needed pressure from the middle, and Bailey improved as the game went on.
While Bailey and Bennie Logan created pressure down the stretch, they were slow to get going on run defense. Gillislee and James White both created north, south efficiency. Their ability to push forward into the next level was directly through the middle of the line.
Fortunately, the Patriots rely on deeper passing targets more than the middle running game. However, against teams that use the run to directly set up the pass, the Chiefs will end up struggling. Had the beginning of the game gone any differently, the narrative would have been how Gillislee and White were able to attack the middle of the Chiefs line of scrimmage. Statistically, the run defense must create more pressure and force running backs outside.
Forcing runners outside, however, plays directly into where the Chiefs excelled. Berry was not the only member of the secondary that domineered in physicality. Ron Parker finished the game with 11 tackles by playing up and tight against receivers and being willing to charge in against run formations. The intrinsic downside of having a player from the secondary as the lead tackler, is the implication running backs were more often than not able to make it into the second and third levels of the defense.
However, Derrick Johnson still projects to have an All-Pro season, landing eight tackles with two for loss. The implication is the Chiefs defensive line can create pressure up the middle that lets linebackers float free. The potential is there, but Logan and Bailey need to be more consistent from the outset of the game.
In a two-factored implication, the Chiefs are going to need to resolve their problems by finding a secondary member who can play physical enough to be a bump and run defender. Part of the intrinsic success against Brady’s passing attack was the lack of separation allowed for Gronkowski and Danny Amendola. Amendola was allowed 2.8 yards of cushion, while Gronkowski was allowed 2.9 yards of cushion. Brandin Cooks was not allowed anymore cushion, at 3.5 yards.
The physical level of play Sutton demands in his secondary is part of the aggressive mentality the Chiefs speak of. Cooks, for example, was targeted seven times, but caught only three of those passes. Further, Cooks was targeted an average of 20.3 yards down field. But, he was still met with a deep level of physicality most teams do not attack with.
To summarize the efficiency of the Chiefs secondary with succinct statistics, they are on pace for 48 team sacks, an allowed quarterback rating of 50, and 4,320 yards of passing. Hence, that physicality may give up the short passes, but true to nature, will not allow deep passes.
Daniel Sorensen thus presents to be the best player to take over in the Chiefs secondary. His ball hawk skills were displayed in training camp, he plays physical football, and has already become a leader on special teams. Terrance Mitchell fits the statistical model to play on the outside. He finished with five tackles and learned how to read and react throughout the game.
Statistically and schematically, the Chiefs are on a trajectory to be one of the most physical secondaries in the NFL. With an aggressive overtone again, the Chiefs are establishing the biggest implication of success in week one; allowing themselves to formulate a convincing game plan to win.