KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Evolution in the NFL doesn't happen overnight, but oftentimes evidence of the ever-changing game manifests itself in a single crystallizing moments, and no game ushered in the league's new offensive era more so than the Los Angeles Rams' mesmerizing 54-51 victory Monday night over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Even Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, arguable a principal architect of the new offensive golden age, found himself appreciating the battle that captivated football fans across the nation.
“You love being in the moment there, two good football teams playing each other,: Reid said. “We work so hard at our profession of doing what we do that when you get an opportunity like that, it's unbelievable.”
Monday night's game established several new marks indicative of this new era of professional football. Both teams combined for 105 point, third-most in a game in league history. The Chiefs became the first team to score 50 or more points and lose an NFL game.
But they probably won't be the last. The NFL wants with high-powered offenses lighting up scoreboards across the league. The Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints both remain on pace to break the league record for most points in a season. The Rams are only one point per game off the record pace of 606 points by the 2013 Denver Broncos.
“The new part of this is that there are no rules,” Reid said. “The rules you've got to be in this position here, the old kind of box that you were in before is different.”
The progression in the professional game stems from the changes at the high school and college level, Reid says. Gone are the days of teams operating old-school run-first offenses from pro-style sets. Now the teams that win in high school and college throw the ball with reckless abandon.
“I've said before the great thing about getting players from the offensive side there is that they've all had opportunities to throw the ball and catch the ball and pass protect and so on, which fits a little bit more into the way the NFL game has been for a number of years,” Reid said.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes came from that model, running the same variation of the Air Raid offense both in high school and in college at Texas Tech.
Saints coach Sean Payton, preparing for his team's Thanksgiving night tilt against the Atlanta Falcons, told reporters he sees a big benefit from more college quarterbacks with greater experience throwing the ball before they reach the NFL.
“Now, in the evaluation process, the challenge is separating these guys that have throw for a lot yards in a wide-open offense,” Payton said, “but do they have the ability to do that at the NFL level, and obviously a player like Mahomes does.”
Monday night's game served perfect examples of how today's offense stress defenses. Reid's playbook includes concepts borrowed and inspired from college offenses, including run-pass options, quarterback read-options, pitches, motions and multiples fakes.
“You're spreading the field, you're running option plays and the run game,” Reid said. “You're getting everybody – there's nobody on the field that's in an eligible position that isn't a viable option, whether it's the pass game, run game, these jet sweeps.”
While some see today's wide-open offenses as a dramatic paradigm shift, Payton and Reid take slightly different views. The changes in today's game serve as merely a chapter of the ever-continuing pendulum swing between offense and defense. There's nothing necessarily new, Payton says.
“We had the Rams for years,” Payton said. “We had if you went back even further, you had the run-and-shoot. You go back to the Oilers, you go back to the San Antonio Gunslingers in the (USFL), so I think it's just a matter of what a team is doing philosophically.”
The same creativity that went into building offenses such as the Chiefs, Saints and Rams will now be invested into defensive concepts, Reid says. It's how professional football continues evolving.
“Defenses, the way this league works, it might be the old good for the goose, good for the gander type deal,” Reid said. “We're right there where defenses will adjust and they'll catch up to it and then the offense will have to do something else, that's just how this thing rolls.”
–S Eric Berry appears increasingly likely to return to practice following the team's bye week. Head coach Andy Reid said the team hopes to begin easing him back into practice if Berry feels comfortable and the team's medical staff gives its approval.
–WR Sammy Watkins played just five snaps Monday against the Rams before leaving the ball game. Reid said Watkins could have returned to the game if needed due to injuries, and claims the receiver did not suffer a setback with his injured foot.
–RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif remains on injured reserve, but Reid expressed optimism the starting lineman could return later this season. Duvernay-Tardif underwent surgery last month for a fractured fibula and ligament damage in his ankle. He had the cast on his leg removed last and remains in a boot but non-weight bearing as he continues his rehabilitation.
–C Mitch Morse missed his fifth-straight game while in the league's concussion protocol, but there remains no clear timetable on his return.
–DE Chris Jones picked up two sacks Monday night, extending his consecutive games with a sack streak to seven. His nine sacks on the season tie him with Dee Ford for the team league. The team's five sacks on Monday night leave them ranked No. 4 in the league with an average of 3.3 sacks per game.