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The Chiefs use of pre-snap motion will keep the Bengals defense moving

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Andy Reid uses motion to create opportunities for his play makers.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

It is well-established that the Kansas City Chiefs have a plethora of weapons on their offense, but what really makes that offense special is their scheme. Andy Reid has figured out how to make full use of all of his tools. He uses creative play designs to get the ball in the hands of his play makers. A large part of this involves his use of motions.

The Chiefs start out in a bunch formation on this play against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins motions across the formation, then comes back in and the ball is snapped as he approaches the quarterback. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes lobs Watkins the ball as he passes by then carries out a play fake with running back Kareem Hunt. Watkins plays off the blocks of his fellow receivers and picks up the first down.

Since Watkins started in the bunch, the defense had already declared how they would align to three receivers on that side of the formation. This means that before he even started his motion, his blockers knew who they were blocking because they knew how the defense would respond to him coming back across the formation. The Chiefs also run this Jet Sweep play from under center with the receiver motioning just once.

The Chiefs start out in an empty formation (no back in the backfield) with quads, or four receivers to the left. One by one De’Anthony Thomas, Watkins, and Tyreek Hill all go in motion. The ball is snapped as Hill approaches Mahomes giving the threat of the Jet Sweep. The San Francisco 49ers defense is forced to adjust to this flip-flopped formation, and Hill is open on the swing pass and picks up a first down.

On this play, Hill starts off aligned tight, but motions out wide outside of Watkins. Reacting to Hill, Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Casey Heyward also moves out and safety Derwin James bumps out slightly. Mahomes carries out the action with Hunt, but keeps the ball as linebacker Denzel Perryman steps towards the run. As Watkins runs the arrow route, James takes a step to the outside towards Watkins’ route. This opens up the window Mahomes is looking for to hit Hill on the slant. Hill’s speed does the rest as this short pass turns into a 58-yard touchdown. The motion created the space the Chiefs needed to get the read on this play.

This is a form of Run/Pass Option (RPO) which is essentially just triple option. Hill starts off as the third receiver on the top of the screen. He motions across the formation, then back into the backfield and behind Mahomes. When the ball is snapped, Hunt crosses Mahomes’ face. This part of the play is a simple zone read, and since the defensive end starts to bend, Mahomes keeps the ball. With two receivers remaining to the right, the Chiefs can block to defenders on that edge. That means the next read is the third defender, in this case Perryman. Perryman turns back to Mahomes for just a second, but it is enough to know that Hill’s speed will prevail on the edge. Hill is able to pick up the first down.

The next play starts off the exact same as the last play. Hill goes in motion in front of and then behind Mahomes. Mahomes and Hunt mesh and Mahomes pump fakes to Hill on the swing, but then turns to the other side of the formation and throws the tight end screen to Travis Kelce. This is a great misdirection play that allows Kelce to pick up the first down.

The block on the defensive end is the most important block of the Toss play and is often handled with a wide receiver coming from the outside on a crack block. Here the Chiefs get their biggest and strongest athlete in a position to make this block by motioning Kelce across the formation and then back in to time up the snap and hit the end on the move. Unfortunately, the Jacksonville Jaguars defensive pursuit stops Hunt for only a short gain.

This is another motion that sets up a Kelce block. Here he is lined up wide to the bottom of the screen and motions in tighter to the formation. This allows him to swipe across the formation on the snap and block the backside defensive end. This sets up a nice cutback opportunity for Hunt on the Inside Zone play. After handing the ball off to Hunt, Mahomes carries out a fake reverse with Hill.

This play works off the play in the previous clip. This time Kelce lets the defensive end bend and instead continues to the outside. Mahomes fakes the hand off to Hunt and then gives the reverse to Hill. Kelce blocks out on the first defender he sees on the edge, but once again the Jaguars’ defense is able to minimize the Chief’s gain.

The Chiefs continued to build on this concept against the New England Patriots. Kelce once again swipes across the formation, but this time he is pass protecting. Mahomes fakes the hand off to Hunt and the reverse to Hill and then throws the screen to Hunt who picks up 25 yards on the play. Once again Reid builds another play off of the same basic look.


The Bengals will need to be flexible on defense and make on-the-field adjustments in order to prevail over the Chiefs. It is important to note that in two specific cases above one play had a counter working off of it. The Bengals must be aware of this and expect those counters to come. The Jaguars were able to mitigate the Chiefs gains on a couple of these plays with good pursuit. It will be important for the Bengals defense to rally to the ball in these situations and not allow a play to break for a big gain.