KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The gruesome moment Kansas City’s blazing 5-0 start took a turn for the worst came when wide receiver Chris Conley scooped up an onside kick and planted his left foot to accelerate toward the end zone for a touchdown to ice a big win over the Houston Texans.
Since then, nothing has been right with the Chiefs offense.
It didn’t help matters further that earlier in the same game wide receiver Albert Wilson suffered a sprained knee. The knee injury and a hamstring issue have kept Wilson out of three games, and don’t think for a minute head coach Andy Reid doesn’t wish he could wave a magic wand and bring them back.
“To say you wouldn’t like to have those guys out, that’s wrong,” Reid said.
The high-flying Chiefs offense could do not wrong through five games. The team averaged 32.8 points per game. Since Conley’s season came to an end, the Chiefs have averaged just 19.6 points per game.
When both Conley and Wilson are on the sidelines, the Chiefs average a paltry 13 points per game.
Granted, Conley and Wilson are role players in the Chiefs offense. The passing game runs through tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Conley caught 11 passes for 175 yards in five games. Wilson grabbed 17 receptions for 221 yards in his seven games. But their value extends well beyond the box score.
Conley is the team’s best blocker among wide receivers. That comes in extremely handy in the team’s outside zone run game. His absence along with injuries to Mitch Morse and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif certainly explain the team’s ragged run performance.
But Sunday’s game against the woeful Giants run defense marked the first time Kansas City rushed for more than 100 yards in a game since Conley’s injury.
Wilson meanwhile is the offense’s Chief spark plug. He’s an emotional leader on the field, but his energy also comes in handy in other ways. The Chiefs like to use Wilson on their motion jet sweep packages. He also does much of the dirty work in underneath routes that help clear space for other receivers.
Those intangibles actually translate into a measurable statistic. The NFL compiles a statistic called net yards over average. The number calculates the value of a player in specific situations versus the league average. Among Kansas City’s everyday players, Wilson leads the way with 1.72 net yards over average per play on the field. Conley ranks second with 1.66 net yards over average.
Hill ranks fourth with 0.95 net yards per play.
Demarcus Robinson, who stepped in as a starter in Conley’s absence, averages a mere 0.03 yards over net average. De’Anthony Thomas averages 0.19 yards below the league average per play. They rank the lowest among Chiefs players with regular playing time.
Reid rightfully doesn’t want to take away from the job Robinson, Thomas and Jehu Chesson continuing doing when asked about the absence of Conley and Wilson.
“This is one of those questions that can be taken either way,” Reid said.
Sunday against the Giants, however, Robinson and Thomas combined for 100 snaps but contributed just three catches for 18 yards.
Reid believes in his young receivers and they can eventually make meaningful contributions. But right now, they lack the experience that Conley and Wilson brought to the offense.
“I’ll tell you we’ve got young guys out there that are learning and getting better as they go on and we’re still able to do some things with them out there,” Reid said. “But again it’s new for them. But I still feel very positive about them.”