By Matt Derrick
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — At the end of a bruising, physical battle at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday afternoon, it turned out that a chess move setup a week in advance and planned on Saturday night proved the decisive play in the Chiefs’ 33-28 win over the Baltimore Ravens.
Facing a third-and-9 from their own 37-yard line with 1:51 remaining in the game, quarterback Patrick Mahomes faked a quick pump pass toward De’Anthony Thomas to the left side, then turned right in dumping off a screen to running back Darrel Williams, who rattled off 16 yards for a first down that iced the victory.
“That one there was Pat’s call,” head coach Andy Reid said. “He wanted that play if we got into that situation, and so we called it.”
Every Saturday night before a game, head coach Andy Reid and the offensive coaching staff and quarterbacks meet to review the game plan. They dissect specific situations and choose what play they believe works best in each situation. Reid asks each quarterback what play call they prefer.
Third-and-10, 4-minute offense, that was the play Mahomes said he wanted.
“It just shows that every little detail matters,” Mahomes said. “We had talked about that play the night before, and you think people would kind of just let that go after we hadn’t called it for a couple of years now. But we had it prepared and we were ready to call it, and we called it and we succeeded when we got the opportunity to run it.”
Much went into making that play the right call at the right time. The Chiefs used an identical formation last week against the Raiders with a different outcome. They counted on Baltimore’s defense remembering that look.
“We knew especially with the Ravens, they have a good veteran group of guys, so they saw the exact same formation and kind of thought we were going that way,” Mahomes said. “We were able to kind of slip them out the backdoor and give them the pass and get the first down.”
The Chiefs also helped setup the play with two conservative runs up the middle with Darrel Williams on the previous two downs. With Baltimore out of timeouts, the Chiefs could play in safe, run the clock down, and try to pin the Ravens deep with less than a minute to play. The Ravens were prepared to clamp down hard inside on the run.
Flawless execution of the play also proved critical. The offensive linemen love screen plays, even it it means moving quickly down the field. No screen play is the same because of all the moving parts on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. The Chiefs have run this screen and other screens in the repertoire countless times in practice, left guard Andrew Wylie said.
“Then we review them in the film room, too, just so we can see everything that might come, and then we’ll be ready for stuff that we haven’t necessarily prepared ourselves for and then we’ll just know what to do out there,” Wylie said.
That unexpected happened on this play as well. Williams caught the ball at the 31-yard line, needing 15 yards after the catch for a first down. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz moved out of the way linebacker Matt Judon, who frustrated the Chiefs all day long. Center Austin Reiter looked to pave the road in front of the play. He saw Schwartz take out Judon, then looked up field and saw no one left to block.
“I was like, let me check one last time behind, because I just knew with the timing, I think the back’s 5 yards behind me,” Reiter said.
When Reiter turned his eyes, he saw linebacker Pernell McPhee charging toward Williams.
“I looked and I saw (McPhee) screaming,” Reiter said. ‘I just threw out the shoulder there, and all of sudden Darrel went right up behind me.”
That block freed Williams for the first down. Safety Tony Jefferson eventually tripped him up from behind, but it was too little too late. Williams turned in a big day in the first extended playing time of his career, rushing for 62 yards on nine carries while adding five catches for 47 yards.
“He kicked through that tackle right there, right there at the end,” Reid said. “He kicked through that tackle on the end there, which was big. He’s a big kid now, when he brings it on, he’s going to bring it on. He’s tough to bring down.”
Building the game plan with the right call takes the entire team working together, Reid says. He singled out quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka as well as pass game analyst/assistant quarterbacks coach Joe Bleymaier for their contributions to the the game plan and the Saturday night planning sessions. Reid says Bleymaier doesn’t get enough credit for the work he does below the radar.
“He’s a name behind the scenes that kind of helps feed some of these things that we do here,” Reid said. “There’s a lot of guys that go into this whole thing that we’ve been doing offensively.”
Reid readily takes the blame when a game plan fails, but he also frequently deflects the credit when he outsmarts the other side. Reid capture career win No. 210 on Sunday, moving him past Chuck Noll into sixth place on the all-list list for most most coaching wins in the regular and postseason. Reid, as usually, passed on the credit to others around him.
“It includes a lot of people,” Reid said. “That ends up being not a one man thing, it took an army to get there. All the players and coaches, ownership. I’ve been fortunate to have two great owners and I’m in a great position here which I love.”
Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and a contributor for Sports Radio 810 WHB. Follow him on Twitter @mattderrick.