National Football League
3 ways Andy Reid can fix Chiefs' struggling offense before it's too late
National Football League

3 ways Andy Reid can fix Chiefs' struggling offense before it's too late

Updated Dec. 14, 2023 4:31 p.m. ET

"What's wrong with the Chiefs offense?"

After another dismal showing for Patrick Mahomes & Co. in Week 14 against the Buffalo Bills, observers and analysts around the football world are openly wondering if Kansas City's offense is broken beyond repair. 

Not so fast. 

While the days of Tyreek Hill and the electrifying offense are in the rearview mirror, Andy Reid has enough time to tweak his scheme to spark a back-to-back title run.


After assessing the lineup's strengths and weaknesses and how the offense could best complement a defense playing at an elite level, here is how Reid could rework the unit to make it more potent down the stretch:

Get back to ground-and-pound

Despite the offense's high-flying reputation, the Chiefs have been at their best in 2023 when Isiah Pacheco & Co. are running the ball early and often. The second-year back leads the team with 779 rushing yards, and since Pacheco's arrival from Rutgers, the Chiefs boast an 11-2 record when he logs at least 15 rushing attempts.

Though Pacheco has been nursing a shoulder injury that kept him out of the Buffalo game and could keep him sidelined in Week 15, the hard-nosed runner provides the Chiefs with the ruggedness to navigate an AFC playoff field that could feature several teams who want to play "Bully Ball" in the trenches. 

Measuring 5-foot-10 and 216 pounds, Pacheco is a downhill runner with a gritty style that wears down defenders tasked with tackling him in the hole. In addition, his vision and subtle wiggle make him difficult to bring down in space. As the Chiefs feature an off-tackle running game with Pacheco running to the edges, the second-year pro's speed, quickness and power produce first downs and keep the offense on schedule. Pacheco is tied with Titans RB Derrick Henry for the four-most first downs with 48.

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Given his success on the ground, Pacheco's presence and production force defensive coordinators to make game-plan tweaks when he is featured prominently. At a time when defensive architects are willing to concede rushing yards while taking away big-play chances with split-safety coverage and "light boxes," Reid needs to routinely give the ball to his feature back to take advantage of the vacant lanes between tackles.

Although the tactic requires patience and discipline, handing the ball to Pacheco 20-plus times on an assortment of runs will enable the Chiefs to control the game. It will also set up big-play opportunities on play-action passes when defensive coordinators drop extra defenders into the box to slow down the hard-nosed runner.

With a greater commitment to running the ball with Pacheco, Reid can help the Chiefs offense get back on track with an old-school tactic that has previously worked for the team.

Feature the screen game 

As the Chiefs head into the season's final quarter, Reid must find a way to generate more "explosives" (20-yard plus pass plays) with the collection of playmakers at his disposal.

Surveying the group, the Chiefs have an intriguing mix of pass-catchers with punt returner backgrounds (Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore) and dazzling open-field running skills (Rashee Rice). In addition, the Chiefs' running back rotation features a group of pass-catching specialists with sticky hands and wiggle. Jerick McKinnon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Pacheco all excel in the passing game.

With those skills in mind, Reid's game plans should feature every conceivable screen pass in the book to accentuate his playmakers' strengths on the perimeter. The Chiefs' top players possess the skills to turn short, high-percentage passes into big gains with crafty runs in space. That includes Toney, Moore and Rice snagging collegiate-like bubble screens or jailbreak screens, McKinnon, Edwards-Helaire and Pacheco slipping out of the backfield on an assortment of slow screens and Travis Kelce touching the rock on a tight end delay or slip screen.

For a team looking to establish a rhythm while fortifying the trust between Mahomes and his pass-catchers, the screen game should boost the unit's confidence with "easy" catches, producing positive gains on the perimeter.

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Utilize an inside-out aerial attack 

After watching his squad operate over 13 games, Reid clearly understands the strengths and weaknesses of his roster. Moreover, he understands which players are ready for prime roles, and the game plan/call sheet should reflect the hierarchy.

Kansas City's most recent games show that the offense should run through Kelce, Rice and the running backs. Though the Chiefs featured the WR1 and TE1 prominently during the Tyreek Hill era, Reid showcased tight ends, slot receivers and running backs during his early days at Arrowhead Stadium. Reid's experience with Alex Smith, Jamal Charles & Co. proves he can build an inside-out attack. In such a scheme, the tight ends and slot receivers attack the middle of the field with the running backs operating as safety valves or check-down options to provide the quarterback with an outlet.

The current version of the Chiefs is best suited to take a similar approach, with Kelce and Rice established as the most reliable options in the passing game. Sure, Rice has struggled with drops, but the rookie is the team's second-leading receiver with 59 receptions and 663 yards, and he leads the team in touchdown receptions with six.

Despite the 34-year-old Kelce's slight decline as a playmaker, the four-time All-Pro remains a dangerous weapon as a freelance specialist between the numbers. His improvisational route-running skills make him nearly impossible to guard, as evidenced by his 77.6% catch rate and team highs in receptions (80) and receiving yards (896). With Mahomes clearly in tune with Kelce's body language as a route runner, the dynamic duo is an unstoppable force in the passing game. 

As Reid looks for complements to Kelce and Rice, the ball should go to Pacheco and McKinnon over the rest of the receiving corps. The pass-catching phenoms are exceptional after the catch and rank third (Pacheco, 305) and fourth (McKinnon, 203), respectively, in YAC yardage for the Chiefs. When Kelce and Rice are not options, Reid and Mahomes must put the ball in their top running backs' hands.

As Reid contemplates how to maximize the Chiefs' offensive potential down the stretch, he needs to trust his top playmakers to reverse the fortunes of an underachieving offense. 

Bucky Brooks is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. He also breaks down the game for NFL Network and as a cohost of the "Moving the Sticks" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.


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