KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he learned a long time ago, when he was in college, that there's no situation when throwing a pass is inappropriate.
"I went to BYU, so every down is a throwing down," Reid said. "I was educated that way by LaVell Edwards to throw any time, any place, and I've tried to keep a little bit of that with me as I've gone forward. I think if you have confidence in it, then it's really no different than the run."
Reid is proving recently that those aren't just words. He's calling pass plays in some nontraditional late-game, late-down situations and they're helping the Chiefs finish off victories.
The latest example came in Sunday's divisional round playoff win over the Cleveland Browns. With the Chiefs ahead 22-17 and facing a fourth-and-1 from their 48, Reid declined to punt and perhaps pin the Browns deep in their own territory with just more than a minute remaining and no timeouts.
He also declined to have the Chiefs run for the first down. Instead, Reid put his trust in backup quarterback Chad Henne, who was replacing the injured Patrick Mahomes. Henne took the shotgun snap, moved a few quick steps to his right and threw a pass in the flat to an uncovered Tyreek Hill, whose 5-yard gain allowed the Chiefs to run out the clock.
"Not that we knew, but the film study showed that they would be in man coverage and we had the play, talked about the play Saturday night," Henne said. "Patrick and I and the coaching staff go over the plays that we like and when I came to the sideline, it was one of the plays that we picked. We felt confident in that play and a one-on-one matchup with Tyreek Hill, majority of the time he's going to win. He did a great route, and I just had to put the ball where it needed to be."
The Chiefs weren't shocked by the playcall, even though a failure to execute might have cost them a victory.
"When they were kind of measuring where the ball was, we got a chance to get together as a group and talk about what we were going to do and sure enough, we went out there and just executed the play [well]," tight end Travis Kelce said. "We've run that play plenty of times and sure enough, no better time to run it than on fourth down of the playoffs."
The Chiefs weren't surprised by the playcall because they had run it before. In Week 14 against the Miami Dolphins, the Chiefs faced a fourth-and-1 from the Miami 40 with 2:31 left and a 30-24 lead. Mahomes threw a pass on a similar play to Hill to allow the Chiefs to convert and go on to kick a clinching field goal.
In Week 12 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Chiefs faced a third-and-7 from the Tampa Bay 49 with 1:15 left and a three-point lead. Mahomes passed to Hill for 8 yards and the Chiefs ran out the clock.
"There's normally a plan prior to it and we talk through that plan the night before ... thinking about if this particular scenario comes up, what are we thinking here," offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said after the Dolphins game. "So, yes, there is a plan and there is a conversation.
"Sometimes those conversations can be a little heated, sometimes they're very easy to have, but they're always exciting. And the thing that we love about it is our guys knew exactly what we wanted from them, they knew exactly what to do, and they went out and executed and they gave us an opportunity to go ahead and win the game."
The Chiefs ran an offensive play on fourth down this season 15 times. Only six teams tried to convert fewer times. But that's to be expected from a 14-2 team. Some of the Chiefs' fourth-down tries came late in a lopsided win when they were running out the clock.
Still, that number is up from 2019, when the Chiefs ran just nine fourth-down plays, last in the league.
"The philosophy hasn't necessarily changed, but you're going to evaluate things that might change around your thinking," Reid said. "So maybe it's your football team and the quality of players that you have. Then, at that moment, how are you feeling about that situation at that particular time in the game and so on.
"I would tell you that obviously this team, this offense, is a veteran group of guys and I've got trust in them, so I just felt that it was OK to go there [against the Browns]. I mean, I had another situation down earlier that we didn't go and we attempted a field goal. So, there's a time and a place for everything and you just try to have a feel on that as best you can."
If Reid is simply playing to his strengths, a fourth-down pass makes sense if Mahomes is the quarterback. But he didn't flinch when Henne was in the game during a crucial situation. The Chiefs went with the play they decided on the night before for just such a situation.
"We didn't alter it," Reid said. "We didn't think it would be with Chad running [it]. ... There was no doubt with anybody.
"It was, 'This is what it is. Here we go, Chad.' We all knew it and let's go."