Las Vegas – With the Super Bowl on the line in the fourth quarter a year ago, coach Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs put a twist on their frequent pre-snap move.
Two open touchdown passes that helped the Chiefs beat the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 for the Super Bowl title.
Kansas City returns to the big stage on Sunday to take on San Francisco in a game that should feature players moving at a staggering pace based on how Reid and 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan use movement to create mismatches in their offenses. .
“I’m sure he’s going to have some tough times for us,” Niners defensive end Nick Bosa said of Reid. “Hopefully we can anticipate some of them.”
Reid was able to catch the Eagles off guard a year ago with the way he used motion on two key plays near the goal line in the fourth quarter with a concept Kansas City called the “corndog.”
On the first play from the 3-yard line, wide receiver Kadarius Toney was lined up on the right side and pretended as if he was going to rush to the other side of the field. Cornerback Darius Slay passed it to a defender on the other side, but Toney quickly reversed field and was left open in the right flat for the touchdown that gave Kansas City its first lead of the game.
The Chiefs then scored on a similar play to wide receiver Skyy Moore on the other side of the field on the next drive and won the game.
The Niners bear the scars of past matchups against Reid’s Chiefs, including the jet moves and sweeps they used repeatedly in a 44-23 regular-season win in 2022 for big runs around the perimeter.
Then there was a wrinkle removed from Michigan’s 1948 Rose Bowl playbook that led to a key fourth-down conversion in the first Super Bowl meeting between these teams.
Several players in the backfield turned simultaneously, pushing Mahomes away from the center and causing a snap to running back Damien Williams for a first down.
“It gives you different types of looks, different plays, different deflections,” 49ers All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner said. “Coach Reid is one of the best at creating different plays as there has been in this league. “So there will be different things that we have seen in the game that we have never seen before, but we have to be able to line up, play and overcome opportunities.”
Reid even has history with some peculiar pre-snap movement in this Super Bowl stadium, using a play nicknamed “Snow Globe” last season against the Raiders when the entire group spun in a circle before running toward the line. for a quick snap to catch the defense off guard.
The key for the Niners is to ignore the bells and whistles and try to defend the play.
“They want you to fall in love with the whole movement and all of a sudden they shove it down your throat,” defensive coordinator Steve Wilks said.
The use of pre-snap motion has been on the rise across the NFL over the past decade, going from a usage rate of just 37.5% of plays in 2014 to 56.1% this season, the highest rate registered, according to Sportradar.
The 49ers and Chiefs were among the most frequent users, with San Francisco ranking second in motion usage with 76.4% of plays and Kansas City fourth with 63.7%, according to game chart data from Sports Info Solutions.
The Niners were the most efficient offense with motion in terms of expected points added per play, according to SIS, with Kansas City ranking 10th despite a drop this season in overall offensive production.
Perhaps due to the familiarity of facing offenses in practice that are so proficient in using movement, both teams rank in the top 10 in defense, with the Chiefs in fifth and the 49ers in ninth, according to SIS.
Teams have long used motion to help the quarterback determine whether the defense is in man or zone coverage based on whether a defender follows the player throughout the formation.
Player movement is often reset on those plays, but the 49ers have adopted the so-called “trap” move popularized by Miami this season that has a player run to the side at the snap for only a short distance instead of run across the field. , to reach maximum speed even earlier than usual and put defenses on their heels.
Coach Kyle Shanahan uses movement with his play-action concepts to generate big plays.
“I think, simply put, they do a very good job of combining their running plays with their passing plays,” Chiefs linebacker Drue Tranquill said. “Specifically at the linebacker position, it’s very difficult to see the difference between a running play and then the same play after that.”
While most teams use motion at a high rate in today’s NFL, in the past quarterbacks like Peyton Manning preferred static looks so they could see where the defense was lined up before the snap.
But with more defenses disguising coverages and switching after the snap, the move can confuse defenses and create gaps in coverage.
“You have to take a step back and say, maybe we have to adjust the way we do this, that or the other,” Niners offensive line coach and running game coordinator Chris Foerster said.
“Now all nickel defense is played on the base. There’s always a challenge as defenses evolve and we evolve with the moving pieces. It’s always a chess game.”
Chiefs and 49ers increase intensity
The Kansas City Chiefs have been having fun at practice this week as the start of the Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers approaches, culminating in a brawl involving members of the offensive and defensive lines on Wednesday.
Left guard Trey Smith, who has a reputation for having a rough patch on the field, laughed when asked if he was the instigator. But he went on to say that everything was resolved before the end of practice.
In fact, several Chiefs said they prefer to see that type of fight earlier in the week, as long as they save something for game day.
“You know guys like it,” Chiefs safety Justin Reid said. “You want that aggression to be there. It’s a lot easier to try and, as a coach, you want to stop guys. When you try to put intensity on guys, you can’t put something that’s not there. So you want everyone to have that tenacity, that energy, that ready violence, and then just hold it back.”
Let’s get serious
The 49ers had their most intense practice this week, according to a group report, lasting one hour and 27 minutes.
Coach Kyle Shanahan said he was pleased with the effort.
“I think it’s been great,” he told the group’s reporter. “The first two days (of Super Bowl week) are always a challenge. Yesterday was really good, today was even better. Having these two days in a row where we can get as close to our routine as possible is fantastic.”
Laying down the law
Patrick Mahomes may be the face of the Chiefs and the leader of their locker room, but he’s usually not the one attacking wide receivers when they drop a pass (they led the league in that this season) or commit a penalty or run for the wrong route.
Instead, he sends Travis Kelce to deliver the message.
“I’ll play the bad cop. He’s fine,” the Chiefs star tight end said. “I get the same energy when I screw up.”
Receiver Rashee Rice, who set a number of rookie records for the Chiefs this season, remembers more than once Kelce cornering him on the practice fields after a play went wrong. But that didn’t always mean he was about to receive a reprimand.
“He’s not running towards me. “I’m running toward him,” Rice said. “What I want is to learn from him. He just tells me things, like where the defense is coming from or what to do if there’s someone here, you know?
The Niners players had an early wake-up call, thanks to a false fire alarm at their hotel.
Shanahan said he and the other coaches were already up and working in the basement when the alarm went off at 6 a.m. and they didn’t hear it.
But once he saw his players later in the morning, he found out everything.
“When I saw the players and asked them how they spent the night, they were all complaining about the fire alarm and having to go outside,” Shanahan said. “I didn’t realize how important it was until I met them. … I think it was a pain for them to get up at 6 and go out.”
This year’s Super Bowl has special meaning for Chiefs intern Jade Thomas, considering where the game is played and the legacy that bears her name. The public relations specialist is a UNLV graduate and Las Vegas native. He starred on the Centennial High School national girls’ basketball team before playing for the Runnin’ Rebels.
She is also the granddaughter of Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Emmitt Thomas, who played for the Chiefs from 1966 to 1978. She played in two Super Bowls, including a 1970 victory over Minnesota, and coached from 1979 until she retired in 2018. after a nine-year stint as the Chiefs’ defensive backs coach.
“It’s amazing to be back in Las Vegas, especially coming back in such a different perspective and position,” Jade Thomas said. “Being an intern in the NFL is amazing, but getting to the Super Bowl in my first year is another level.”
He said hearing stories about his grandfather and holding his championship ring had made it a dream.
“I am very grateful to be a part of this staff and come along for the ride,” Thomas said. “Among all the craziness, having my family here has been another blessing. “It definitely gives me a sense of calm just hanging out with them after a long, crazy day.”
Perfect in Las Vegas
The Chiefs might feel especially at home this week given that they are 4-0 at Allegiant Stadium.
“We love the atmosphere in Las Vegas,” Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones said. “It’s Las Vegas, right? I think Allegiant Stadium is one of the best stadiums in the NFL. They have bottle service at the stadium. There’s nothing like playing at Allegiant Stadium. They light the torch (Al Davis Memorial). “We’re used to crazy Raiders fans with masks on and everything.”
The Chiefs and Raiders have an intense rivalry, which makes the Kansas City digs unique. The Chiefs will use the Las Vegas locker room on game day and are practicing at the Raiders’ headquarters.
“Their facilities are top-of-the-line,” Chiefs right tackle Jawaan Taylor said before admitting, “Sometimes it’s a little strange seeing the (Raiders) logo every day.”