The Eye in the Sky: Chiefs vs. Texans (Week Seven) All-22 Breakdown
By: Matt Harmon
1) Case Keenum showed enough to get continued looks as the starting quarterback
1) Case Keenum showed enough to get continued looks as the starting quarterback
- When watching the film of this game, Case Keenum shows several solid traits and was a positive influence for this offense. Coming out of the University of Houston in 2012, the narrative on Keenum was that he was a system quarterback who did not have the necessary physical traits to succeed as an NFL starter. Well, watching this game, either Keenum has worked hard to improve his physical skill set or we missed something about him.
- Keenum showed that he has very good functional mobility; the ability to move around in the pocket, reset his feet on the move, and throw the ball downfield. Keenum did well in this game to elude pressure, and shows a knack for when to bail on the pocket, and rollout to fin better throwing lanes. On 42-yard gain to Andre Johnson, Keenum moves around to avoid being sacked by several Chief defenders, but has the awareness to know when to settle, reset his feet and throw the ball to his star receiver. Long time Texans starter, Matt Schaub, does not posses some of these traits, and they can bring a spark to the Houston passing game.
- Case Keenum also showed that he has plenty of arm strength to make deep throws. Despite the result being an incompletion, this throw from the first quarter really stood out:
- Here Keenum has rolled out of the pocket, and identified that his tight end, Garrett Graham, is running wide open down the seam. Keenum is once again able to reset his feet, throw back across his body, and uncorks a pretty nice deep ball that misses Graham by just the fingertips on an overthrow. Of course this is a missed opportunity, but it is an important play to note because it shows Keenum can put more than enough on his deep ball, despite the contradictory narrative.
- Probably the most impressive thing Keenum did with regularity in this game was he did a great job of reading the field. Often time’s young quarterbacks will come in and a coaching staff will only have them make one read; some quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco still struggle with this aspect of the game. Case Keenum did a nice job against the Chiefs scanning multiple levels of the field for his reads. On the touchdown to DeAndre Hopkins Keenum makes his first read (white circle) sees the short pass is not there, and reads a matchup he wants to exploit (red circle) and uncorks a nice deep ball to Hopkins:
- Against the best defense in the league, former undrafted free agent, Case Keenum, showed a nice deep ball, functional mobility, and awareness of the whole field. It is uncertain if Keenum can sustain this performance, but the film shows a quarterback who improved the Texans offense, and needs to get more reps going forward.
2) The Chiefs passing game is incredibly simple due to Alex Smith’s limitations
- The Chiefs are playing a very simplistic game with their passing offense. Alex Smith is often only required to make one read in the short areas, or flat, of the field. Sometimes Smith’s first and only read on plays is a dump off to his fullback for goodness sakes. Andy Reid really is doing a great job coaching this offense and scheming lesser receiving threats open. The reason this scheming is necessary is, because despite his unbelievably impressive record as a starter, Alex Smith is still a very limited quarterback. The All-22 tape shows a player who cannot throw the football accurately in the intermediate to deep part of the field with any consistency. Here are two plays where Smith misses big play opportunities on passes to Dwayne Bowe:
- On this next play Bowe crosses the middle of the field and breaks wide open down the field:
- Not only is Bowe open, he has a ton of real estate to work with after the catch. Unfortunately, despite a very clean pocket, Smith throws an inaccurate pass and Bowe has to break off his route and jump to grab the pass. Bowe catches the inaccurate throw, but since he had to stop, and jump to make the play, Bowe stumbles and is unable to gain any yards after the catch. A play like this illustrates why completion percentage can be misleading when determining a quarterback’s accuracy. Yes, Smith gets credit for a completion, but Bowe bailed him out on a poor throw. Worse yet, because the pass did not hit Bowe in stride the Chiefs probably lost another potential 15 yards that could have been gained on this play.
- Even though they are undefeated, the Chiefs continue to show up low in the Power Rankings because of their limited offense. If opponents just play single high safety against the Chiefs and dedicate extra men to stopping Jamal Charles and defending the short areas of the field, they have to feel pretty good about their chances against this simplistic and limited offense.
3) The Chiefs offensive line is struggling to run block
- With Jamal Charles having such a terrific season, this would seem like a preposterous statement, but the tape shows an offensive line that is much better in protection than it has been at run blocking. First overall pick and right tackle, Eric Fisher, has been struggling in both aspects of the game, but franchise, injured left tackle, Branden Albert, and left guard, Jeff Allen, have not had great seasons as run blockers. The reason Charles is having such a dynamic season is that he is creating most of his yards for himself. This run from the first quarter demonstrates how Charles has created opportunities for himself when his line has let him down:
- Here we see the Texans defensive line, keyed by the best defensive player in the league J.J. Watt, crash this run play and push the offensive line into the backfield, resulting in no available holes for Jamal Charles to run through. This play should easily result in a tackle for a loss thanks to the line’s poor block, but Charles has other plans:
- Charles spins off the back of Branden Albert and accelerates through a hole he has created on his own for a gain of 14 yards when he should have been brought down in the back field. These are the type of runs that are propelling Charles to a season that should be considered MVP worthy, no thanks to his line.
4) The Chiefs defense works very well as a unit versus the run
- The Chiefs are the best defense in the league, and one of the reasons why is because how well they work as a unit when stopping opponents’ ground games. Even a disciplined run game like the Texans’ could not find room to work with against the Chiefs. Take this Ben Tate running play from the third quarter:
- Dominant nose tackle, Dontari Poe, often occupies double teams which frees up solid defensive linemen, Mike DeVito and Tyson Jackson to have single blocks, and lets Derrick Johnson run free at inside linebacker. Outside linebacker, Justin Houston, makes his money as a dynamic pass rusher, but on this play shows us he is a terrific run player as he keeps the backside contain on this running play. With he and Eric Berry patrolling any cut back lines, and the defensive line plugging up all the holes, there just is not much running room to be found against the Chiefs.
5) The Texans are in big trouble without Brian Cushing
- Obvious statement, but it is very true. Cushing is one of the rare players who can play very aggressive football, but also stay discipline. He flies all over the field in run defense and pass coverage, but rarely gets himself caught out of position. The players tasked with replacing him do not have that same ability. On this play, Brooks Reed and Joe Mays both get caught playing undisciplined and allow Jamal Charles to make a big play:
- For some reason, Mays and Reed both take off together and leave Charles completely uncovered in the middle of the field. Charles knows he is going to be wide open before Alex Smith even sees him, and throws his hands up for a reception. These types of mistakes and uncorked aggression are going to be more commonplace with Cushing on the sidelines for the Texans. For two player to allow 8the Chiefs only true offensive threat to be come that wide open to chase after a fullback is inexcusable.