Chiefs' aggressiveness on returns leaves them vulnerable to fake punts

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs were victimized by a fake punt in last week’s game for the second time this season. This time, David Bruton of the Denver Broncos, the blocking back for their punter, took a direct snap and ran a sweep for 13 yards and a first down.

The Chiefs were also beaten for a first down earlier in the season by the San Francisco 49ers and last year by the San Diego Chargers.

The Chiefs are vulnerable to the fake because they put so much emphasis on punt returns. There’s some value in that as well. Dexter McCluster twice returned a punt for a touchdown last year and this year the Chiefs are fifth in the league in punt return average.

But there’s a price to be paid for that and they made a payment against the Broncos.

“We are going to double[-team] the gunners," special-teams coach Dave Toub said, referring to the opponents’ main punt coverage players. "We are a return team. We take a little bit more risk than other teams do. We don’t put a lot of guys in the box. I could probably help the guys out a little bit in situations where we think there’s going to be a fake by putting more guys inside the box.

“But we try to push the return game. We double the gunners and we have six guys in the box and they ran the sweep on us and they got us. We could do a better job of tackling and getting there and noticing it."

The Chiefs shouldn’t back off that position just because they allow the occasional first down on a fake punt. They get few big plays offensively and create few turnovers, so they need the field position created by a long punt return more than most other teams.

The Chiefs just have to be ready for a fake punt no matter the situation. Denver ran its fake at an unconventional time, on a fourth-and-7 from its 36 and with a 14-0 lead.

“It was a gutsy call," Toub said. “Those things happen sometimes."