Chiefs need better efficiency on third downs

An examination of what the Kansas City Chiefs must do after their loss to the Tennessee Titans:

It turns out that the Chiefs' sluggish offensive play in the preseason was a genuine issue and not something that was going to resolve itself once the real games started. The Chiefs converted just once in 12 tries on third down in their 26-10 season-opening loss to the Titans.

The Chiefs were minus-3 in turnovers against Tennessee, but a bigger factor was the game’s imbalance on third downs. The Chiefs converted just 8 percent of such situations, the Titans 44 percent. The result: Tennessee had the ball for almost 38 minutes and ran 19 more plays than did the Chiefs.

To correct that in Sunday’s game against the Broncos in Denver, the Chiefs must do better on early downs. They were stuck in third-and-long far too often. They needed 5 or more yards on nine of their third-down plays.

The Chiefs in Denver will see the return of one of their best offensive players in Dwayne Bowe. He was suspended by the NFL for the Tennessee game. They also might get back speedy rookie De'Anthony Thomas, who sat out the Titans game with a sore hamstring.

The Chiefs need to make a strong effort to get the ball to both players. Bowe isn’t fast and is more of a possession receiver, but he can help the Chiefs avoid the third-and-long situations and also convert on third-down plays. Thomas is only 174 pounds, so the Chiefs have to monitor his number of plays. But wise utilization of his speed can help a struggling offense.

Then there’s the Chiefs’ best offensive player, Jamaal Charles. After giving him a contract extension on the eve of training camp, the Chiefs almost ignored Charles against Tennessee. He has to get the ball more than the 11 times he did against the Titans.

Smarter utilization of Charles is another way the Chiefs can avoid the third-and-long situations. But on third downs, the Chiefs can make better use of him as well. It’s not a coincidence that the Chiefs threw a pass to Charles for their only third-down conversion in the Tennessee game.