Snap Counts: Offense Lightens Load for Chiefs’ Overworked Defense Against 49ers

Sep 23, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Allen Bailey (97) in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs aimed for two goals in Sunday's home opener against the San Francisco 49ers designed to take the burden off an overworked defense, and they achieved both in a 38-24 win.

Head coach Andy Reid's offense wanted to control the ball, and they did just that. The Chiefs rattled off 41 first-half snaps en route to 76 offensive plays for the game and winning the time of possession battle, albeit by all of 2 seconds. Kansas City controlled the ball for 30 minutes, 1 second.

But that was enough to limit the methodical 49ers to 68 snaps, a significant drop from the 82 snaps the defense played in each of the first two weeks of the season.

Cornerback Kendall Fuller felt the lower workload made a different in the second half and in the fourth quarter.

"You could tell," Fuller said. "It was definitely not as many plays as we did the last two weeks."

OFFENSE (76 snaps)


Patrick Mahomes 76 (100 percent)

Running back

Kareem Hunt 47 (62 percent)

Spencer Ware 18 (24 percent)

Anthony Sherman 9 (12 percent)

Damien Williams 7 (9 percent)

The Chiefs utilized Hunt a bit more as a decoy Sunday than usually. Typically when Hunt's on the field, the ball comes his way via a run or pass close to 50 percent of the time. The Chiefs went to Hunt on just 40 percent of his snaps against the 49ers. Ware saw a big jump in snaps from six last week to 18 this week despite entering the game as questionable and sitting out practice Friday to rest his knee. Williams doesn't see a ton of snaps, but he's often on the field for some of the team's most effective plays. The Chiefs have used Williams as the lead back in 11 personnel 13 times, picking up seven first downs and scoring two touchdowns.

Tight end

Travis Kelce 71 (93 percent)

Demetrius Harris 26 (34 percent)

Reserve tight end Alex Ellis did not play Sunday.

Wide receiver

Tyreek Hill 69 (91 percent)

Sammy Watkins 68 (89 percent)

Chris Conley 49 (64 percent)

Demarcus Robinson 11 (14 percent)

De'Anthony Thomas 4 (5 percent)

Marcus Kemp 1 (1 percent)

Hill and Watkins remain stalwarts at receiver, often taking a breather when the Chiefs go with a multiple tight ends or tight formations. Conley actually saw a small increase in his percentage of snaps despite briefly exiting the game with a right ankle injury. Kemp caught his first regular-season pass on his one and only offensive snap.

Offensive line

Eric Fisher 76 (100 percent)

Cam Erving 76 (100 percent)

Mitch Morse 76 (100 percent)

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif 76 (100 percent)

Mitchell Schwartz 76 (100 percent)

The Chiefs offensive line remains a group of iron men after three weeks with no one missing a snap. The Chiefs also didn't deploy any heavy offensive line formations with extra blockers for the second straight week. That decision looked like it paid off on Hunt's pair of 1-yard touchdown runs where the Chiefs opted to go light and a spread out the defense using the threat of speed off the edge to open holes up the middle.

DEFENSE (68 snaps)

Defensive line

Chris Jones 50 (74 percent)

Allen Bailey 48 (71 percent)

Xavier Williams 47 (32 percent)

Derrick Nnadi 18 (26 percent)

Jarvis Jenkins 16 (24 percent)

The Chiefs maintain a consistent rotation along the defensive line, preferring to keep Jones and Bailey around 50 snaps and splitting time between Williams and Nnadi, who has played the most defensive snaps of the team's five draft picks on that side of the ball. Nnadi also picked up three total tackles in his limited snaps. Jenkins continues to deliver solid play as a backup spelling Jones and Bailey. Bailey picked up his second sack of this contract season, quickly closing in on his career-high five sacks set in 2014.

Outside linebackers

Justin Houston 64 (94 percent)

Dee Ford 62 (91 percent)

Breeland Speaks 6 (9 percent)

Tanoh Kpassagnon 4 (6 percent)

The Chiefs didn't give Houston or Ford much of a breather this week, with Speaks and Kpassagnon playing their fewest snaps of the season The Chiefs appear comfortable with Houston playing up to around 70 snaps per game early in the season. Ford undergoes an MRI Monday for a groin injury suffered during the game, and if he misses time that means Speaks and Kpassagnon must step up. The depth chart suggests Speaks would step into Ford's role if he misses time. But don't be surprised if Kpassagnon sees a larger role as well.

Inside linebacker

Anthony Hitchens 70 (88 percent)

Reggie Ragland 49 (72 percent)

Terrance Smith 16 (24 percent)

Ragland saw his most playing time of the season Sunday against the 49ers as the Chiefs pulled him in passing situations less frequently. He continues wearing a brace on his left knee and remains on the club's injury report, which suggests he's not yet fully recovered from the swollen knee that limited him in camp. Some argue that Ragland appears a bit slower and less aggressive than last season, but the Chiefs showed faith in keeping him out there most of the time. He also lead the team with seven combined tackles along with Ron Parker. The Chiefs also deployed two inside linebackers most of the game again, preferring to go with two down linemen in nickel situations.


Steven Nelson 68 (100 percent)

Kendall Fuller 68 (100 percent)

Orlando Scandrick 42 (62 percent)

Tremon Smith 1 (1 percent)

The 49ers played catchup much of the game, but the Chiefs played their nickel subpackage less this week than in either of their first two games. The club continues their pattern of playing Fuller and Nelson on the outside in the base formation but moving Fuller inside when Scandrick enters as the nickel. Smith remains a dime corner and primarily special teams player at this point in his rookie season.


Ron Parker 68 (100 percent)

Eric Murray 68 (100 percent)

Armani Watts 8 (12 percent)

The Chiefs played their standard 3-4 or nickel packages most of the game, going to a dime defense in less than 10 snaps. But when the Chiefs do go dime, they favor Watts as a third safety over using Smith as a corner or Dorian O'Daniel as a linebacker. Watts appears the most comfortable at this stage with the defense and appears most in line to see more playing time as the season progresses. But the Chiefs also appear content with Murray and Parker as their safeties for now until the potential return of Eric Berry or Daniel Sorensen — or another roster move that could come.

SPECIAL TEAMS (28 snaps)

Special teams only: Jordan Lucas 20 (71 percent), Dorian O'Daniel 14 (50 percent), Harrison Butker 13 (46 percent), Dustin Colquitt 8 (29 percent), James Winchester 8 (29 percent), Jordan Devey 6 (21 percent) and Andrew Wylie 6 (21 percent)

Offensive players: Harris 24 (86 percent), Sherman 20 (71 percent), Kemp 18 (64 percent), Thomas 18 (64 percent), Robinson 12 (43 percent), Damien Williams 7 (25 percent), Duvernay-Tardif 6 (21 percent), Morse 6 (21 percent), Fisher 6 (21 percent), Schwartz 6 (21 percent), Conley 4 (14 percent), Ware 4 (14 percent) and Hill 4 (14 percent)

Defensive players: Terrance Smith 22 (79 percent), Watts 18 (64 percent), Kpassagnon 15 (54 percent), Tremon Smith 11 (39 percent), Murray 4 (14 percent), Fuller 4 (14 percent), Hitchens 4 (14 percent), Jones 4 (14 percent), Bailey 4 (14 percent), Speaks 4 (14 percent), Nnadi 4 (14 percent) and Scandrick 4 (14 percent)

Harris again led the Chiefs in special teams snaps. Terrance Smith saw the largest jump in snap counts this week. Watts and O'Daniel saw at least half of special teams snaps and have most ingrained themselves in teams among the rookie class. Lucas ranks among the trusted veteran on coordinator Dave Toub's teams along with Harris, Sherman and Terrance Smith.