Chiefs’ heavy personnel (and Isiah Pacheco) could put a dent in Ravens’ great defense

You may think of the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense as a spread-’em-out vertical thing, but as expansive as it can be when it’s working well, the Chiefs do not cede to “spread personnel” nearly as much as you’d think. Nobody is trying to be Kliff Kingsbury, running four times as formations with four and five receivers as any other team.

Quite the opposite, in fast.

Over the last two seasons, the Chiefs have led the league in passes out of 13 personnel — one running back, three tight ends, and one running back — and they did so last season, as well. This season, Patrick Mahomes has completed 28 of 43 passes out of a league-high 49 dropbacks in 13 personnel for 380 yards, 118 air yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions, and a passer rating of 89.3. Middle of the pack, but that’s where Kansas City’s passing game has been all season. The volume is the point here.

It matters even more in a run game that has become a fulcrum of Kansas City’s offense to a large degree. Second-year back Isiah Pacheco is the man here, and he’s also benefited from 13 personnel. Pacheco has run a league-high 46 times out of 13 personnel for 199 yards, 116 yards after contact, and a touchdown. Pacheco is capable of making gains out of any personnel package with his slashing, violent style, but when the Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens face off this Sunday in the AFC Championship game, the Ravens will know that their opponents’ offense goes up to 13 more than any in the NFL.

Pacheco ran 15 times for 97 yards in Kansas City’s 27-24 divisional round win over the Buffalo Bills. Seven of those runs were in 13 personnel, and Pacheco gained 60 of those yards on those seven plays.

His 29-yard run with 12:53 left in the game was a pin/pull concept with tight ends Blake Bell and Noah Gray leaving the formation to block outside, and left tackle Donovan Smith as well. Left guard Nick Allegretti pinned defensive tackle Ed Oliver. Pacheco had a clean gap upfield in outside zone, and Pacheco made safety Micah Hyde miss in space with a nasty outside move. 

“I thought we did okay during the year with opportunities there, but I would tell you that [Offensive Line Coach] Andy Heck does a heck of a job – no pun intended – but he does a heck of a job with designing the runs and the guys execute them,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said this week. “Obviously, Pacheco back healthy, you’ve got a nice rotation in there that you can go to and the guys – as well as Pacheco’s doing – Clyde [Edwards-Helaire] when he has an opportunity jumps in and does a nice job also. The offensive line takes a lot of pride in doing what they do, and they know that it starts with them, and I think they’ve been very accurate with their blocking assignments.”

Pacheco is dealing with a toe injury this week, which will make those personnel concepts and blocking schemes even more important. The Ravens have faced runs out of 13 personnel just 15 times this season, and eight of those plays came at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the regular-season finale. Both Najre Harris and Jaylen Warren (whose caterwauling style more closely matches Pacheco’s) were able to grab decent gains in Pittsburgh 17-10 win. This 15-yard gain by Harris with 13:13 left in the third quarter shows how, as great as Baltimore’s defense is, there’s something to be said about getting nasty and going big-on-big in the run game.

“Anytime people are changing personnels on you, you have to make the decision on how we’re going to match it with the people that we’re going to put on the field,” Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald said of the Chiefs’ heavy personnel packages. “Without giving you the answer of how we’re going to do it, those are the decisions you have to make, and then where are the stresses of the calls you’re going to have to make. A lot of times, it’s going to morph and evolve over the course of the game. After you make a decision, you see how they make their decision you’re playing off one another as the game starts to unfold. We have an initial plan on how we’re going to play it, and obviously it’ll evolve as the game starts to declare itself.” 

In this week’s “Xs and Os with Greg Cosell and Doug Farrar,” the guys get further into how the Chiefs can set the Ravens on edge with these heavy personnel runs.

You can watch this week’s “Xs and Os,” previewing both conference championship games in detail, right here:

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Story originally appeared on Touchdown Wire