Analyzing Doug Pederson’s play-calling: Week 11 vs Chargers

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After an impressive display against the best Defense in the NFL, Doug Pederson would call his next plays against a weakened San Diego Chargers side. With key pieces missing Offensively and a real lack of Defensive identity, the game started predictably. But could Doug Pederson pick up where Andy Reid left off to secure a fourth consecutive win?

Pederson took the reins of the Offense in a comfortable scenario. The team headed into halftime with a 12-3 lead and forced the Chargers into a punt on the opening drive of the second half.

Drive one:
Result: Punt
Pass: 3/3, 30 yards
Rush: 1 att, -2 yards

The opening play was a scruffy screen pass that Jason Avant took 20 yards down the field. Smith took a little longer than optimal to get his feet set and the entire motion just seemed sloppy. While the intention was there and the result was unaffected, it was very almost batted down. For Eagles fans, this is almost bittersweet. As much as we grew to loathe the screen pass in 2015, Bradford’s release was very rarely sluggish..meaning there’s probably less chances of these near misses happening in the future.

After a failed rushing attempt, the Eagles..I mean the Chiefs, threw another screen. It was Travis Kelce catching the ball this time however in a play that could become very familiar to the birds in 2016. The play caught the Defense off guard completely..and with guys like Trey Burton on the roster who could really help in terms of creating blocks, this is the kind of play that will really bode well for Zach Ertz. The Chiefs picked up another nine yards here on a play that showed exactly what Pederson does best. Keeping things fresh and using the versatility of his players to pick up yards.

A short pass to West left the Chiefs shy of moving the Chains and forced them into a punt. With a 12-3 cushion, there wasn’t much need to try and dominate the game offensively, just try and strangle it by tiring out the Defense on a series of quick passes and outside rushes. Something they tried and succeeded in doing..but the lack of help on the ground prevented the drive from extending.

 

Drive two:
Result: Punt
Pass: 0/1
Rush: 4 att, 18 yards

Two punts to start the second half certainly didn’t set the tone Pederson wanted. After Smith threw a short incompletion to Maclin despite the best chance of success coming on the other side of the field. Another short pass attempt that spread the field well..but unfortunately, Smith was rushed into getting the ball out quickly.

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The Chiefs then decided to keep the ball on the ground. A short gain from Ware was followed up by an impressive nine yard gain. Ware bounced to the outside after the hole closed up and was able to hit the open field with some speed. It’s this kind of run that we can expect to see from Ryan Mathews in 2016.

Alex Smith scrambled to the outside to pick up 4 yards..something that’s becoming increasingly more and more prominent as Pederson spends more time in control of the Offense. Just one play later shows why Pederson was hasty in bolstering the O-Line however.

The Chargers are hardly the most dominant pass-rushing team in the NFL. Ranking 24th in sacks last season, the Chargers D still found a way to cause problems for the Chiefs..mainly because their offensive line was so inconsistent. Smith was forced into scrambling again before Liuget slipped past his blocker with ease and straight into the Chiefs quarterback. Another drive and another punt for Kansas City.

 

Drive three:
Result: Punt
Pass: 1/2, 5 yards
Rush: 2 att, 4 yards

After a defensive touchdown, the Chiefs had all the momentum in the world behind them..but again struggled to get anything going Offensively in the second half. Another two sacks on Alex Smith put out the fire yet again but the Chiefs special teams unit saved a drive here..but only temporarily. A recovered punt put Smith back in control..but a few plays later and they were back on the sidelines.

Smith tried to find Kelce on a short pass over the middle but overthrew the versatile tight end. The interesting here is how much more attention was placed into building a pocket for Smith. Kelce drew attention over the middle while Spencer Ware stayed back to help block..buying Smith some valuable time. The play may have been unsuccessful, but the fact Pederson tried to adapt to avoid being sacked for a fourth time in two drives is certainly a plus.

 

Drive four:
Result: Touchdown
Pass: 2/2, 16 yards
Rush: 4 att, 65 yards, 1TD

The Chiefs exploded back onto the field with a wild 52 yard run from Spencer Ware. The Chiefs running back broke an impressive tackle after bursting through the trenches and used his elusiveness to get as far down the field as he could. The play was almost like finally reaching the surface after struggling for air for the Offense, who were finally able to create a hole just big enough for Ware to run through. A decisive run up the gut to give the Chiefs Offense some life.

Smith found Maclin on a short comeback route for 9 yards and was finally able to hit a fluent screen pass a play later. With the Chiefs finally finding the red zone in the second half, it’s clear that both Pederson and Smith didn’t want to squander the opportunity and make sure they put up some points. Short and snappy has been the theme so far..and it looked as though that would continue deep into enemy territory. It’s also interesting to note that the Chiefs have been persistent in establishing a short-passing game ever since the drive in which they sustained two sacks.

The touchdown came just moments later. A would have been TD pass was called back for Defensive holding..but that didn’t stop Spencer Ware from assertively running up the gut and pushing through a tackle into the endzone. It’s THAT kind of play where you’d expect to see Kenjon Barner make an impact. A bigger back who can force his way into the endzone. A good play-call by Pederson here and easily his best drive of the day so far.

 

Drive five:
Result: Touchdown
Pass: N/A
Rush: 3 att, 24 yards, 1TD

With the Chargers failing to convert on fourth down, the Chiefs were out to kill the game. Pederson saw what was working last drive and made sure he hammered home his point in the red zone again here. Conor Myles posted an article yesterday stating how Pederson is likely to help improve the Eagles red zone production…and this drive only further cements that projection.

Ware again looked like he was covered in butter as he slipped through the trenches for a big gain..leaving the Chiefs in the perfect spot to keep the winning streak alive.

It was only fitting that the star of the second half scored another touchdown. Ware broke to the outside on another impressive run and the rest is history. It’s interesting that Ware seems to dominate where he can break to the outside or use offensive line errors to his advantage. It’s not taking anything away from a dominant game for him at all, but if the Chiefs line begins to collapse, Ware really thrives..instilling slight confidence for fans of the Eagles committee backfield.

 

 

Takeaways from the play-calling:
+ Tried to adapt a shorter style of passing..resulting in no offensive turnovers
+ Continued to pound the rock until they broke through
+Red zone efficiency
+ Game management
+ Using the mobility of the quarterback to transform the success of a drive
+ Adapting to poor O-Line play

 

– Didn’t attack the Secondary as much as they could have
– Screen passes were risky at times
– O-Line cost the Chiefs for the fourth straight game
– Travis Kelce almost invisible

Overall:
Probably the quietest second half we’ve seen Pederson coach so far. Smith didn’t ever find the time to exploit Offensive mismatches or air the ball out deep down the field..but a variance in plays and a level of unpredictability helped cement a victory for the Chiefs. It wasn’t overly dominant until the game was out of reach and it wasn’t as though Pederson made some drastic changes to shift momentum..but the subtle changes that were constantly being implemented to avoid complacency have to be applauded.

Grade: C

 

Photo credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Gif credit: NFL

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