Snaps Counts: Chargers Wore Down Chiefs Defense in Sustaining Late Drives

Dec 13, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Detrez Newsome (38) runs against Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller (23) in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium.© Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Kendall Fuller, Tyreek Hill deliver gritty performances through injuries, but Chargers used attrition to knock of Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Chiefs entered Thursday night second in the NFL in most plays allowed on defense, facing an average of 69 snaps per game, and saw that number go up against the Chargers.

The Chiefs played 74 defensive snaps, including 19 on the Chargers two scoring drives late, all coming within the last 8 minutes, 15 seconds of the game. If the Chiefs defensive looked haggard on the final Chargers scoring drive, the heavy duty of the fourth quarter might offer an explanation.

OFFENSE 60 snaps

Quarterback

Patrick Mahomes 60 snaps (100 percent)

Running back

Damien Williams 44 snaps (73 percent)

Darrel Williams 15 snaps (25 percent)

Anthony Sherman 3 snaps (5 percent)

Charcandrick West 1 snap (2 percent)

The Chiefs played with a single back set most of night, deploying the fullback Sherman in two-back set on just three occasions. The Chiefs ran the ball with a back just 12 times on Thursday night, but did target Damien Williams and Darrel Williams eight times out of the backfield. But the Chiefs are showing a bit more reluctance to utilize their backs with Hunt gone. Hunt touched the ball on 43 percent of his snaps, while Damien Williams received touches on 36 percent of his Thursday night. The entire backfield touched the ball on just 33 percent of the team's snaps.

Tight end

Travis Kelce 60 snaps (100 percent)

Demetrius Harris 18 snaps (30 percent)

Not many double tight formations for the Chiefs, who have gone with just two tight ends in recent weeks with Deon Yelder in active. Kelce picked up seven catches for 61 yards on nine targets, but it still seemed like a quiet night for him. Harris missed connections on both his targets.

Wide receiver

Chris Conley 57 snaps (95 percent)

Tyreek Hill 53 snaps (88 percent)

Demarcus Robinson 36 snaps (60 percent)

Kelvin Benjamin 12 snaps (20 percent)

Marcus Kemp 1 snap (2 percent)

The arrival of Benjamin sends Gehrig Dieter back to the inactive list, and Benjamin made a small splash in his Chiefs debut, picking up one catch on two targets in his 12 snaps. How in the world did Hill play 88 percent of the snaps on his hobbled right foot? He wasn't as sharp as usually, but Hill took one for the team Thursday night. The Chiefs shortened their bench with Sammy Watkins out, essentially leaning on just three receivers against the Chargers.

Offensive line

Eric Fisher 60 snaps (100 percent)

Jeff Allen 60 snaps (100 percent)

Mitch Morse 60 snaps (100 percent)

Andrew Wylie 60 snaps (100 percent)

Mitchell Schwartz 60 snaps (100 percent)

Allen performed well in place of Cam Erving at left guard, but still had highs and lows. For a team operating without 40 percent of its original starting lineup, this group continues make the best of a tough situation. Schwartz is in the midst of a Pro Bowl season, but he didn't have a Pro Bowl night Thursday. Everyone has a rough outing at times, especially against an elite pass rush unit the Chargers possess right now. But it's worth keeping an eye on during the closing weeks of the season.

DEFENSE 74 snaps

Defensive line

Allen Bailey 55 snaps (74 percent)

Chris Jones 51 snaps (69 percent)

Derrick Nnadi 34 snaps (34 percent)

Xavier Williams 19 snaps (26 percent)

Justin Hamilton 13 snaps (18 percent)

Jones remains extraordinarily productive, picking up 2 1/2 sacks in his 51 snaps and continuing to deliver well above average pressure on every snap. The job share at tackle between Nnadi and Williams continues shifting toward the rookie, who continues to show an improving effort and confidence. Hamilton has essentially stepped into the rotation in the role Jarvis Jenkins formerly held.

Outside linebacker

Dee Ford 72 snaps (97 percent)

Justin Houston 67 snaps (91 percent)

Breeland Speaks 9 snaps (12 percent)

The snap count that stands out most from Thursday night belongs to the guy with zero snaps. The Chiefs listed Tanoh Kpassagnon as a healthy scratch, opting for Frank Zombo in a special-teams only role over Kpassagnon. The club also leaned heavily on its veterans, spelling Ford and Houston for just nine snaps with rookie Speaks. Ford and Houston playing around 70 snaps in Week 15 certainly could have played a role in the team's four first-half sacks and just one in the second half. Pressured dropped off against Rivers late in the game. If the Chiefs can't afford to get Ford and Houston more rest, then they have get off the field and play closer to 60 snaps rather 80. Kpassagnon's healthy scratch in a game like this poses serious questions about this future in Kansas City.

Inside linebacker

Anthony Hitchens 54 snaps (73 percent)

Dorian O'Daniel 39 snaps (53 percent)

Reggie Ragland 30 snaps (41 percent)

The Chargers started their third-string running back and put the game in the hands of Rivers, hence the heavy use of nickel and dime looks and more O'Daniel over Ragland. O'Daniel now stands as the team's go-to coverage backer, and if that's the case he needs more looks to get ready for pass-happy offenses the Chiefs will likely face in the postseason.

Cornerback

Kendall Fuller 74 snaps (100 percent)

Steven Nelson 74 snaps (100 percent)

Orlando Scandrick 64 snaps (86 percent)

Give props to Fuller for gutting through the game with a thumb injury that could put him in a cast for the remainder of the season. He picked off one pass and defensed another with just one good hand. The injury doesn't seem likely to sideline Fuller, so the depth chart shouldn't get tested. But Scandrick remains the wildcard. The more snaps Scandrick faces, the more teams will target the No. 3 corner. Nelson is the most targeted corner in the league, in part due to his leading the league in snaps played. Scandrick grades out well, but offenses convert too many first downs picking on Scandrick.

Safety

Ron Parker 74 snaps (100 percent)

Daniel Sorensen 47 snaps (64 percent)

Eric Berry 30 snaps (41 percent)

Eric Murray 17 snaps (23 percent)

True to their word, the Chiefs had a plan for Eric Berry and stuck with it. He played just 30 snaps in his first appearance of the season, all in the first half before the Chiefs shut him down. The most encouraging takeaway: the defense played better with Berry on the field. Everyone showed an extra bounce in their step with Berry on the field, and communication and execution looked sharp. But once Berry exited, the problems returned, none more glaring than the game-winning two-point conversion. Would that have happened with Berry on the field? Hard to know for sure, but it certainly couldn't hurt. Sorensen took over Berry's position in the second half with Murray playing in a dime role.

SPECIAL TEAMS 23 snaps

Special teams only: Frank Zombo 19 (83 percent), Charvarius Ward 19 (83 percent), Ben Niemann 14 (61 percent), Tremon Smith 12 (52 percent), Jordan Lucas 10 (43 percent), Harrison Butker 9 (39 percent), James Winchester 8 (35 percent), Dustin Colquitt 8 (35 percent) and Austin Reiter 4 (17 percent)

Offensive players: Harris 20 (87 percent), Sherman 18 (78 percent), Kemp 16 (70 percent), Dar. Williams 12 (52 percent), Robinson 6 (26 percent), Wylie 4 (17 percent), Schwartz 4 (17 percent), Allen 4 (17 percent), Morse 4 (17 percent), Fisher 4 (17 percent), West 4 (17 percent), Conley 2 (9 percent) and Hill 2 (9 percent)

Defensive players: O'Daniel 16 (70 percent), Murray 10 (43 percent), Sorensen 6 (26 percent), Fuller 3 (13 percent), Bailey 3 (13 percent), Hitchens 3 (13 percent), Jones 3 (13 percent), Nnadi 3 (13 percent) and X. Williams 3 (13 percent)

Zombo got the nod at linebacker over Kpassagnon due to special teams. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub had to shuffle the deck a bit with Damien Williams stepping in as a starter along with Dieter and Kpassagnon inactive against the Chargers. Zombo, Ward, O'Daniel and Smith picked up most of the additional duties due to the lineup changes.

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