Are the Chiefs Blocking Downfield Illegally on RPO plays? Andy Reid Says No

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Denver head coach Vance Joseph and some members of the Broncos defense groused about the Chiefs offensive line blocking on run-pass option plays following Sunday's game, but Chiefs head coach Andy Reid doesn't believe anything rotten is happening on his watch.

“Those plays that we call, the guys are really working more lateral than they are up the field on those,” Reid said about the team's RPOs. “Those are stretch zones, so the guys aren't even down (field), that's not what they do.”

The Broncos beef stems from the Chiefs reliance on RPOs, or run-pass option plays. These are read plays in which the quarterback has the option to handoff to runner in the backfield or keep the ball for a pass. Offensive lineman don't know whether the ball went to a runner or receiver. If the quarterback doesn't throw the ball quickly, lineman man end up too far down the field and draw a penalty.

Once the mainstay of college spread offense, Reid and the Chiefs have popularized RPOs at the NFL level with brutal efficiency.

“I think we ended up with about 125 yards off of those,” Reid said of Sunday's game.

Joseph aclaimed Chiefs offensive “linemen are five yards down field” blocking. NFL rules state that ineligible receivers such as linemen cannot move more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage before a pass is thrown.

“How do we fix that? I don't know,” Joseph said. “What's the rule say? I don't know, but we have to figure this out, and that's on tape. That is on tape, I've seen it.”

Broncos defensive lineman Derek Wolfe spoke out even more critically of the Chiefs' blocking scheme.

“What's that cutoff point for an offensive lineman to be legally down the field in pass pro?” Wolfe told and ESPN reporter after the game. “When is a guy offsides and when is he not? Is it 12 yards now?”

Reid said he was unaware of the criticism from the Broncos.

“I didn't hear that, but I can tell you what we teach them,” Reid said. “It all times up well and we keep it as precise as we can with it.”

On this play from early in the fourth quarter against the Broncos, offensive lineman Cam Erving (75) approaches a defender approximately 3 yards down field as quarterback Patrick Mahomes releases the pass. Offensive lineman cannot move more than 1 yard beyond the line of scrimmage before a pass is throw except in certain circumstances. Photo courtesy CBS Sports.

There are three instances in which an ineligible receiver is not illegally downfield: if the player moves more than one yard beyond the line while legally blocking or being blocked by an opponent; after breaking legal contact with an opponent more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage, the player remains stationary until a forward pass is thrown; or after losing legal contact with an opponent more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage, he is forced behind the line of scrimmage by an opponent, at which time he is again subject to normal blocking restrictions for an ineligible offensive player.

While the NFL rules state lineman can move no more than 1 yard downfield before the pass, officials often permit some leeway, usually no more than 3 to 5 yards downfield.

A review of every passing play by the Chiefs on Sunday by Chiefs Digest revealed a handful of plays in which Chiefs offensive lineman venture up to 3 yards beyond the line of scrimmage before the pass was thrown. In several of those instances, lineman were downfield blocking legally because they engaged the defender within the legal 1-yard zone.

NFL Network's Nick Shook cited a Chiefs play with 11 minutes, 40 second remaining in the fourth-quarter as the most egregious example of the Broncos complaints. Left guard Cam Erving moved laterally to the left blocking for a potential outsize run by Kareem Hunt. He engaged a defender at the second level approximately 3 yards down field when Patrick Mahomes threw the ball to the opposite side of the field to Sammy Watkins.

Reid said he heard nothing from game officials about any concerns with ineligible players blocking down field.

“I always ask the officials beforehand if there's ever anything I need that I need to make sure that I tell my guys to let me know, but that's never been an issue,” Reid said.