Anatomy of a Divisional Round win: Can Cleveland’s iffy safeties survive Patrick Mahomes?

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Mark Schofield
·3 min read
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I am the last person that Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy need to turn to for advice.

Reid is a Super Bowl-winning head coach who has crafted one of the NFL’s best offenses, a modern version of the West Coast offense on steroids. Bieniemy has been his right-hand man, putting his own flavor on the offense and as such he is destined to be a head coach sooner rather than later. They have NFL success, rings, championships and accolades.

I’m drinking a caffeine-free diet coke at the moment and listening to “Africa” by Toto.

But if those two football wizards happen to be poking around the internet, they might stumble across this bit of advice I would have for them: When you put together a game plan for this Sunday and the Cleveland Browns, make sure you are looking to attack downfield in the passing game. Wild concept, I know, given that your starting quarterback has broken the mold of quarterback evaluation and can put the football anywhere on the field from any platform, but hear me out on this…

Cleveland has gotten inconsistent safety play this season. That is probably due to the fact that their safeties are more strong safety types than anything else, and when asked to handle half-field or single-high responsibilities, the execution has been lacking. This video highlights some of the instances where the Browns secondary has given up big plays this season:

Now, do these route concepts look like plays that the Kansas City Chiefs might already have in the playbook? They should. For example, this breakdown of Mahomes’ game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers highlights some of what the Chiefs do in the downfield passing game, and the play at the 1:35 mark has Tyreek Hill attacking a safety on a deep crossing route:

At the 0:46 mark of this breakdown you’ll see Kansas City running a “stutter-and-go” concept from a reduced split, again attacking the safeties:

This breakdown has more examples of the Chiefs stressing the safeties in the middle of the field with Hill:

The Browns are considered the biggest underdogs this week, at least according to the minds in Las Vegas. Perhaps they’ve been watching the Browns’ safety play this season as well. Expect Reid and Bieniemy to dial up some shot plays early in this game to test the back half of the Cleveland secondary.

OddsMoney LinePoint SpreadTotal Points
Buffalo
+150+3.5O 54.5
Kansas City
-176-3.5U 54.5