Analyzing Doug Pederson’s play-calling: Week 13 vs Raiders

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After achieving their fifth consecutive win and coming from behind to do so, the Kansas City Chiefs travelled to Oakland with the intent of extending that streak to six. Doug Pederson had one of his most impressive second halves of play-calling against the Bills and looked to enjoy the same success against a Raiders team who were coming off of a win against the Titans.

At this point, we’re really beginning to see a clear picture of what Pederson’s Offense may look like in Philadelphia, but did the new Head Coach have any aces up his sleeve for the Chiefs week 13 showdown with Oakland?

Drive one: 
Result: Touchdown
Pass: 4/4, 57 yards
Rush: 4 att, 31 yards, 1TD

For the second time in a row, Pederson started the second half with a deficit..but this time he was 14-7 behind. However much like the explosive start we saw against the Bills, Pederson attacked the Bills with a series of snappy plays to help keep the drive alive and move his Offense down the field..these plays resulted in a touchdown.

The very first play of the second half really asserted some downhill dominance..but the most impressive thing here isn’t the 18 yard gain by Charcandrick West, but the efficiency of the Offensive line. During the last two games, Pederson has been able to be much more experimental with the running game due to a sudden improvement in run blocking that simply wasn’t there in previous weeks. The reliance on the arm of Smith isn’t as heavy and the Offense seems to run much more comfortably..a little less off-rails.

This is the kind of play that someone like Wendell Smallwood or Darren Sproles would execute perfectly. It’s a bold opening statement to open up the second half with..and it created momentum for the rest of the drive.

A sack and a couple of short passes (you can liken these to jabs from the Bills game) later and the Chiefs decided to go for a swing pass. The difference here in comparison to previous weeks is that there were actually passing options elsewhere. Smith made his first read over the middle for a potential checkdown but instead opted to throw it to West for a gain that was minimal. It may not be the most exciting play we’ll mention here, but the evolution of the “Pederson screen” and passes out of the backfield is certainly worth noting.

A short pass over the middle to Travis Kelce proved to be the right option a play later as the tight end took the ball 26 yards down the field. Another short pass followed as Jeremy Maclin hauled in a short comeback pass for another first down and with the Chiefs “jab” technique in full effect, it was only a matter of time before the knockout blow.

Surprisingly however, this time it came on the ground. Some good run blocking and brilliant motion in the backfield prior to the snap set up the perfect opportunity for the rushing touchdown and one that Spencer Ware didn’t hesitate in taking. This is the first time in the games I’ve analyzed so far that there were the same amount of rushing and passing attempts during an Offensive drive..the way Pederson’s unit can move down the field when there’s a balance is beautiful to watch.

 

Drive two:
Result: Punt
Pass: 2/2, -1 yards
Rush: 1 att, – 5 yards

Well that de-escalated quickly. The opening rush seemed almost predictable as the Offensive line tried the exact same thing in moving the pocket. The Raiders sniffed this out and after breaking through the trenches on what looked to be a miscommunication/blocking error on the Chiefs behalf, ran straight into West.

Alex Smith was somehow able to get the ball out after taking a big hit a play later for a gain of three yards but the O-Line that was so fluent just one drive ago appeared to be haunted by some old ghosts. The ball was 3rd & 12 and tucked away deep inside Chiefs territory. Smith attempted a screen fake and tried to find Spencer Ware on the opposite side..but what was a promising play concept and one that raised an eyebrow ended in abrupt fashion as again, the Raiders sniffed out the danger.

Bearing in mind that the Raiders were six points up again after a touchdown on the previous drive, it was almost relieving to see Pederson take each play as it comes and not chase the game. It would have been very easy to look deep down the field on that 2nd & long or even try to outwit the Raiders on the third down..but the fact Pederson was calling the game as he would in any other situation is a good sign.

 

Drive three:
Result: Touchdown
Pass: 1/1, 1 yard, 1TD
Rush: 1 att, 1 yard

After a crucial interception gave the Chiefs possession at the opposing goal-line, momentum was swinging back in their favor. A rushing attempt couldn’t get the job done and was followed by what might be Pederson’s most confident call to date. A screen pass that really shows how much the concept has evolved in his scheme.

Smith with arguably his quickest transition to date finds Jeremy Maclin for the score in a play that makes you lean to the edge of your seat in anxiety and anticipation. Upon a closer look however, Pederson was very..very smart. The bunch formation may seem strange here but notice how the two receivers block the opposing defenders. That small pocket allows Smith to get the pass off and give Maclin an even smaller window to find his way to the endzone. A carefully articulated play that really should excite Eagles fans. The failed two-point conversion out of a kick formation however, dampens the mood a little.

 

Drive four: 
Result: Touchdown
Pass: 1/2, 13 yards, 1TD
Rush: N/A

Another huge interception gave the Chiefs hope at turning this game around late in the fourth quarter. The drive started just inside the red-zone..and ended in the end-zone just two plays later. Smith found Maclin on a (you guessed it) screen pass that provided just enough space for Maclin to make his way down the seam and in for the score. Again, the blockers on the outside really made this play happen and it’s something that has been missing from previous Pederson screens. They may be a regular factor in his Offense, but if he’s found the winning formula..I’m sure Philadelphia fans will be more than okay with it.

 

Drive five:
Result: Punt
Pass: 0/2
Rush: 1 att, 2 yards

To put it simply this was a no nonsense drive from Pederson. With the Chiefs up by six with five minutes left on the clock, there was no “predictability” to be found. A lot of pass protection and quick routes over the middle in order to try and keep possession and drain the clock as much as possible. The result may have been a punt, but at this point the bigger picture has to be considered..and this was a very important game for the Chiefs. It almost backfired as a target for Maclin was batted down and almost picked off, but Pederson’s Offense walked off the field with a six point lead still in tact.

 

Drive six:
Result: Two- point conversion
Pass: 1/1
Rush: N/A

After ANOTHER Interception that was this time ran back all the way for a touchdown, Pederson bought his Offense onto the field to try and make up for the missed field goal and failed conversion earlier in the game..and why wouldn’t he? With a 12 point lead and 3 minutes on the clock..lifting that cushion to a two-touchdown game would all but seal the deal.

And it did. Smith put the ball in a place only Travis Kelce could reach it on an aggressive pass that saw chaos descend in the end zone. There was no symmetry in the receiving routes and if this was done intentionally to keep the Defense in a state of panic with the game on the line, then it worked wonders. Smith ran through three progressions before releasing the ball beautifully into the end-zone and deserves all of the credit along with Travis Kelce..but you have to applaud the play-call. Especially when it’s already been proven that they CAN rush against the Raiders.

 

Drive seven: 
Result: End of game
Pass: N/A
Rush: 1 att, -1 yards

Two plays to drain the remaining seconds off of the clock, again nothing more needs to be said here other than Pederson didn’t d anything silly in what was now a very comfortable scenario.

 

Takeaways from the play-calling:
+ The most balance we’ve seen from Pederson so far
+ Intricate details made a huge impact
+ Experimented with some new formations
+ Played the game and didn’t chase it
+ Used improved O-line form as a base to build on
+ Another layer added to Screen passes

 

– Screen passes seemed excessive
– Seemed to target running backs a little too often
– Didn’t take any shots down the field (didn’t “really” need too)
–  Maclin seemed to be the favored receiver, rare to see targets aimed at any other wideouts
– Early aggression with a failed 2-pt conversion could have cost them if it wasn’t for Defensive showcase

 

Overall:
For the second time in a row, Pederson took control of the Offense when his team was behind. The difference here is that he was constantly under pressure. Either being just in front or just behind until the Chiefs Defense came to the rescue, Pederson’s conservative yet extremely smart and strategic play-calling certainly gave the Chiefs life in the second half and took the fight to the Raiders. There were some things that I’m sure he would have liked to do differently, but this is possibly the most balanced, in-depth and methodical second half yet.


Grade: B-

 

PhoMark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
GIF credit: NFL

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