KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Andy Reid’s greatest coaching enemy likes cheeseburgers and frozen Snickers bars, and stares back at him in the mirror every day.
Big Red makes it too hard, sometimes — on himself and on everybody else. The Kansas City Chiefs’ venerable head coach has to fight a tendency to be cute, to be clever, to prove to Katy Perry and everybody else in the free world that he’s the smartest guy in the room.
Even if it flies in the face of his team’s strengths. Or common sense.
Exhibit A: Since September 2013, the Chiefs are 12-5 — .706 winning percentage — when they attempt to run the ball 24 times or more in a game. When it’s 23 or less, that record dips to 1-4 (.200) — and that one victory was last November in Buffalo, where they ran it exactly 23 times.
"When you get the ball in the fourth quarter, you’ve got to make sure you keep the ball and keep drives going," Reid said Monday as he greeted reporters on the heels of a 22-17 Week 5 loss at San Francisco. "That’s where some of our execution can be better, right there."
The play-calling, in hindsight, could’ve been better, too.
Exhibit B: The Chiefs faced nine scenarios of third-and-five-or-less against the 49ers. Whether out of desperation or design, they elected to throw on all nine.
In Reid’s defense, it worked the first time. And the second. And the third. And even the fourth.
But you know what they say about a Jim Harbaugh team — pull the same stunt four times in a row, and by the fifth time, they’ll start to catch on.
After scrapping for a 17-13 lead three minutes into the third quarter on De’Anthony Thomas’ 17-yard catch-and-run for a score, the Chiefs faced three third-down-and-five-or-less situations the rest of the half. From that, they managed only one completion — a 4-yard dump to Jamaal Charles on third-and-5 with 4:58 to go in the third quarter. Three attempts, one catch, four net yards, zero conversions.
On the day, Charles touched the ball 16 times. Reid’s newest young toys, second-year tight end Travis Kelce, second-year tailback Knile Davis and rookie scatback Thomas played on 58 percent, 14 percent and 12 percent, respectively, of the Chiefs’ offensive snaps.
That’s sure as heck not going to get it done in San Francisco. Or anywhere else, now that you mention it.
"If you’re in a third-down situation, you’ve got to make ’em," Reid continued. "The last two were really the primary ones that put us in a bad situation down the stretch of the game. I’ve got to make sure that I’m dialing up the right things at those times, and then, if they are right, then we’ve got to execute. It’s that simple."
So is this: Last fall, the 10 NFL teams that ran the ball the most in the regular season averaged 10 victories apiece; seven of those 10 reached the playoffs.
In 2014, the 10 teams that have rushed the ball the most — and the Chiefs open the week at No. 10 — have a combined record of 30-18. Of that particular subset, only one club — you guessed it, the Andy Gang — has a losing record. Sometimes, handing it off up the middle is the smartest dang move you can make. Even if it isn’t the sexiest.