Chiefs New OL Paved Way for Success Against Pittsburgh

It was the fourth offensive line combination of the season

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Entering Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line had surrendered a second-to-last-in-the-league 24 sacks through six weeks of football.

Following the Chiefs fifth loss in a row to the Minnesota Vikings, head coach Andy Reid explained to the media that he had seen enough.

"I think he's taking a lot of hits – too many hits," he said of quarterback Alex Smith last Monday morning after the game. "I've got to make sure that I take care of that part. It's hard to play that position and do that and survive throughout the year."

Against the Steelers, Reid followed up on his statement by making a change to the offensive line. The Chiefs started Jeff Allen for the first time in 2015, moved Eric Fisher back to left tackle and reinserted Laurent Duvernay-Tardif in what became the fourth offensive line combination this season.

2015 Offensive Line Combinations

Week

Opponent

LT

LG

C

RG

RT

1

Texans

Stephenson

Grubbs

Morse

Duvernay-Tardif

Reid

2

Broncos

Stephenson

Grubbs

Morse

Duvernay-Tardif

Reid

3

Packers

Stephenson

Grubbs

Morse

Duvernay-Tardif

Fisher

4

Bengals

Stephenson

Grubbs

Morse

Fulton

Fisher

5

Bears

Stephenson

Grubbs

Morse

Fulton

Fisher

6

Vikings

Stephenson

Grubbs

Morse

Fulton

Fisher

7

Steelers

Fisher

Grubbs

Morse

Duvernay-Tardif

Allen

The move, against a high-pressure Steelers team that invented zone-blitz pressure, paid dividends.

The Steelers sacked Smith just twice all day long, and he had the room and time necessary to earn the Chiefs a win they desperately needed.

"I thought the offensive line did a pretty good job," Reid said Monday after that game. "I say that telling you that I think Pittsburgh has a pretty good front, and they gave us a few different looks. The thing I saw, and again, it wasn't all pretty, but the effort there was – and the ability to set a tempo, I thought was raised from what it was before.

"I've said this from day one: that's where it starts on the offensive side. I liked the way the guys handled themselves. Are there things we can get better at? Yeah, we've got to keep improving there, but the effort definitely was there."

102715-AlexSmith-ia.jpg

The result in the passing game was 251 yards, a touchdown and Smith's best passer rating since the Week 1 win against the Houston Texans.

"They had their hands full," Smith said of the O-line. "Those guys had a tall task. There had to be a lot of communication. I thought for the changes that got made this week, those guys did such a great job of communicating and being a unit. That's the important thing playing a team like we were today."

The rushing game, in its second game without Jamaal Charles, put up a combined 138 yards led by the best game of Charcandrick West's young career—a final line of 110 yards rushing and a touchdown.

"With how the offensive line was blocking today, anybody could have gotten back there and ran," West humbly said after the game. "They did a great job."

During one point in the game after the whistle had blown, Steelers safety Mike Mitchell looked to be twisting West's leg and perhaps trying to cause injury.

Left tackle Eric Fisher, upon seeing this, immediately darted over to stop Mitchell and received a taunting penalty in the process. While Reid acknowledged that the team couldn't take a penalty like that, he understood and went as far to say that he appreciated the leadership Fisher showed on the play.

"[Gay] was twisting Charcandrick's leg right in front of the official." Reid said. "Somebody has to do something about it. He probably could have handled it different, but at the same time, you're going to stick up for your guys. So (if) you're going to try to tweak the ankle of one of our guys, we better be coming to the rescue as an offensive lineman. I was proud of him for that."

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One of the most important keys to an offensive line's success is communicating and the cohesiveness that comes with it. An offensive line has to gel to give the quarterback time and to facilitate a sharp running attack.

With a new combination of players heading into Week 7, this version of the Chiefs offensive line had to accomplish that on the fly, making the week of practice leading up to the matchup against the Steelers critical.

After the game, several players on the line commended each other's efforts in preparation. Rookie center Mitch Morse, who has been one of the lone two consistent pieces (with left guard Ben Grubbs) on the line all year, went as far as to say that after their week of practice, the success and progress wasn't a hope.

For him it was an expectation.

"I could have told you this was going to go this way on Friday," he said, "the kind of week of practice we had, the camaraderie we had. We went on that five-game losing streak and no one was down. We were frustrated, we felt a sense of urgency. But we bounced back, collectively as a unit and we met the challenge."

The Chiefs hope they have found the offensive line combination that continues to meet that challenge heading into London against the Detroit Lions, into the bye week and beyond.

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