Snap Counts: Chiefs Defense Survives Despite Playing 82 Snaps vs. Chargers

Sep 9, 2018; Carson, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens (53) gestures during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs' 38-28 Week 1 win over the Los Angeles Chargers provided the first true glimpse at the team's depth, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, and how head coach Andy Reid's team may handle substitution patterns going forward.

But one big discrepancy stands out. On a day where field temperatures topped 100 degrees at StubHub Center, the Chiefs productive but at times inefficient offense consumed just 56 plays, leaving an overtaxed defense on the field for 82 snaps.

The Chargers ran 30 plays in the fourth quarter while gaining just 244 yards. The Chiefs ran just 12 offensive plays and picked up a mere 4 yards, helping to fuel the Chargers' too-little-too-late rally. The fumbled punt forced by De'Anthony Thomas played a pivotal role in the outcome. That play gave the Chiefs a 2-yard touchdown drive that left the Chargers not enough time at the end to mount a comeback.

“We only had 4 yards in the fourth quarter, which is ridiculous,” Reid said. “You got to do better than that. We've got to do a better job there. And really a half of their offense happened in the fourth quarter.”

Break down of snaps for Week 1 vs. the Chargers:

Offense (56 snaps)


Patrick Mahomes (100 percent)

Running back

Kareem Hunt 40 (71 percent)

Anthony Sherman 17 (30 percent)

Spencer Ware 9 (16 percent)

Damien Williams 5 (9 percent)

Hunt carried the bulk of the work in the backfield but Ware was productive in his limited snaps. Sherman also filled in as a backup tight end rather than in a true fullback role, and once again excelled playing out of position.

Tight end

Travis Kelce 56 (100 percent)

Alex Ellis 10 (18 percent)

Kelce didn't figure into much of the offense, but fatigue may have been a factor there. The Chiefs didn't deploy Ellis that much, choosing to use Sherman instead. Demetrius Harris returning this week should help lighten the load on Kelce. The Chargers made a concerted effort to take Kelce out of the game plan, which certainly contributed to the big day for Tyreek Hill.

Wide receiver

Sammy Watkins 51 (91 percent)

Tyreek Hill 40 (71 percent)

Chris Conley 35 (62 percent)

De'Anthony Thomas 7 (12 percent)

Demarcus Robinson 5 (9 percent)

The Chiefs targeted or handed the ball to Hill on a full quarter of his snaps. If that trend continues, expect Hill to have a monster season. Thomas was targeted on two of his seven snaps, showing if he's in the game it may be a played designed for him. Watkins and Conley handled the bulk of the work as the starters without much help from Robinson.

Offensive line

Eric Fisher 56 (100 percent)

Cam Erving 56 (100 percent)

Mitch Morse 56 (100 percent)

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif 56 (100 percent)

Mitchell Schwartz 56 (100 percent)

Jordan Devey 3 (5 percent)

The Chiefs floated the idea during the week of giving Andrew Wylie some snaps, particularly in difficult weather conditions. But the offensive line handled all 56 snaps without any substitutions. Devey came in as an extra blocker late in the game, but the Chiefs looked predictable in that formation and didn't accomplish much.

Defense (82 snaps)

Defensive line

Chris Jones 60 (73 percent)

Allen Bailey 55 (67 percent)

Xavier Williams 30 (37 percent)

Derrick Nnadi 18 (22 percent)

Jarvis Jenkins 18 (22 percent)

Only about 20 percent of the time did the the Chiefs deploy a three-man front, opting for an extra defensive back particularly late in the game as the Chargers stayed in a pass-heavy mode. But it speaks to durability of Jones and Bailey to play so many snaps in hot conditions. Expect this kind of rotation to continue, although you may see more of Williams and Nnadi against the Steelers, who expect to run the ball more than the Chargers.

Outside linebacker

Dee Ford 73 (89 percent)

Justin Houston 63 (77 percent)

Breeland Speaks 19 (23 percent)

Tanoh Kpassagnon 10 (12 percent)

The Chiefs did sub out Ford very often, although both he and Houston would likely play a few more snaps in more favorable conditions. Speaks clearly appears the firm backup at edge rusher right now. It remains to be see if the Chiefs favor Kpassagnon against a run-heavy team like the Steelers or trust Speaks and his physicality to handle the workload. Speaks certainly appears ready to play more snaps than others in their rookie seasons, such as Ford and Kpassagnon.

Inside linebacker

Anthony Hitchens 78 (95 percent)

Reggie Ragland 42 (51 percent)

Terrance Smith 37 (45 percent)

Hitchens display great endurance to stay on the field 95 percent of the time, and the most encouraging sign is he appeared to get stronger as the game wore on. Hitchens looked like he needed to knock off rust in the first half, but he started piling up the tackles in the second half, eventually tallying 15 stops, or making plays on nearly 20 percent of his snaps. The Chiefs remained stayed with two inside linebackers most of the game but favored Smith in passing situations in favor of Ragland, particularly late in the game.


Kendall Fuller 82 (100 percent)

Steven Nelson 82 (100 percent)

Orlando Scandrick 68 (83 percent)

Fuller and Nelson are workhorses for sure, but Scandrick was called on for a few more snaps than normal due to the game situations. His snap count tells you exactly how much of the game the Chiefs spent in substitution packages. Also telling is that with an experienced pass such as Philip Rivers the Chiefs didn't go to rookie Tremon Smith, who remains a project at corner.


Eric Murray 82 (100 percent)

Ron Parker 82 (100 percent)

Armani Watts 3 (4 percent)

Murray solidified his role as a trusted hand in the backfield but it's the reliance on Parker, who re-joined the team just a week ago, that says much about the team's current secondary depth. Watts received looks in some dime situations, but until Eric Berry and Daniel Sorensen return, it's up to Parker and Murray to hold down the back of the defense.

Special teams (32 snaps)

Special teams only: Jordan Lucas 24 (80 percent), Dorian O'Daniel 20 (67 percent), Marcus Kemp 20 (67 percent), Ben Niemann 19 (63 percent), Harrison Butker 13 (43 percent), Dustin Colquitt 11 (37 percent), James Winchester 11 (37 percent), Andrew Wylie 6 (20 percent) and Tremon Smith 6 (20 percent)

Offensive players: Anthony Sherman 24 (80 percent) De'Anthony Thomas 17 (57 percent), Chris Conley 9, (30 percent), Cam Erving 6 (20 percent), Mitch Morse 6 (20 percent), Mitchell Schwartz 6 (20 percent), Eric Fisher 6 (20 percent), Laurent Duvernay-Tardif 6 (20 percent), Alex Ellis 6 (20 percent), Jordan Devey 6 (20 percent), Damien Williams 6 (20 percent), Demarcus Robinson 5 (17 percent), Spencer Ware 4 (13 percent) and Tyreek Hill 2 (7 percent)

Defensive players: Terrance Smith 18 (60 percent), Tanoh Kpassagnon 17 (57 percent), Armani Watts 15 (50 percent), Orlando Scandrick 10 (33 percent), Eric Murray 6 (20 percent), Breeland Speaks 5 (17 percent), Kendall Fuller 4 (13 percent), Anthony Hitchens 4 (13 percent), Chris Jones 4 (13 percent), Allen Bailey 4 (13 percent) and Xavier Williams 4 (13 percent)

Lucas, O'Daniel, Kemp and Niemann are integral special teams players despite none of them taking snaps on offensive or defense. Sherman carried a pretty big workload with 41 total snaps between offense and defense. Murray payed 88 total snaps followed by Hitchens (82) and Scandrick (78), which might be a few too many on day like Sunday in the heat.