Considering Goff's Replacement

When the Chiefs scored the game-tying touchdown in the final seconds of the fourth quarter Sunday, I planned to discuss how effective the offense suddenly became when – midway through the fourth quarter – right guard Mike Goff left the game.

Despite hope that Goff would serve as a significant upgrade from Adrian Jones, it's obvious he's been a major disappointment to this point. With backup guard Andy Alleman filling in, the performance of the Chiefs' offense in their final two series against the Cowboys would have been all the evidence anyone needed to prove that a change should be made.

Unfortunately for my plan, when the Chiefs had the ball in overtime, Goff was back in his spot on the offensive line.

I missed his return, and judging from reactions since Sunday, I wasn't alone. Due to the total lack of attention Goff's return received from announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, it's entirely possible some viewers weren't aware Goff ever came back.

What happened while he was gone?

Officially, Goff only missed six plays during the Chiefs' next-to-last drive of the fourth quarter. That total excludes a play that was negated by a Cowboys penalty. All told, Goff was replaced by Alleman for seven snaps. It's not a huge sample size, but we should still be able to get an idea of how Alleman and the Chiefs' offense performed while Goff was out. Here's what happened:

1) Alleman aided on a double-team block as Matt Cassel completed an 11-yard pass to Dwayne Bowe.

2) On a Larry Johnson run up the middle, Alleman stood up Marcus Spears. He didn't drive Spears back, but held his ground. Johnson gained eight yards on the play, his best run of the game to that point. Was that merely happenstance, or did Alleman – through the simple act of tying up his man and holding his ground – provide more of a contribution to the running game than the Chiefs had been getting from Goff?

3) On a Johnson run to the outside, Alleman again stood up his defender. In fact, he ended up pancaking the Cowboys' defensive tackle to the turf near the end of the play. Unfortunately, the impressive nature of that feat is somewhat diminished by the fact that the Dallas tackle in question was ex-Chief and infamous draft bust Junior Siavii. Johnson gained 10 yards on the play, his longest run of the game. Since it was an outside run, Alleman's contribution was less notable than on the previous play, but it was still good production.

4) Johnson ran to the right for a gain of three yards. Alleman appeared to make a solid enough block, but the right side was so congested with bodies that Johnson quickly ran out of space.

5) On a play negated due to a Cowboys' offsides penalty, the entire right side of the Chiefs' line (including tight end Sean Ryan) provided a nice pocket for Cassel to release a downfield pass intended for Bobby Wade that fell incomplete.

6) On a run to the right side, Jay Ratliff manhandled Allemen, driving him straight into the backfield and right into Johnson's path. Johnson had to fight just to get back to the line of scrimmage for no gain.

7) Cassel kept the ball on a quarterback sneak, quickly darting through the open space between Rudy Niswanger and Brian Waters.

What conclusion can we draw?

Out of seven plays, there are two (1, 7) where Alleman didn't play a critical enough role in order to form an opinion. That leaves five snaps where Alleman played a meaningful role. On four snaps (2, 3, 4, 5) he ranged somewhere between good and acceptable, and on one (6) he was beaten so badly it ruined the play.

We have to keep in mind the small sample size, but even taking into account the solid job on the other four snaps, the negative play left Alleman with a 20 percent fail rate. In other words, based on this tiny sample of data, he has a chance of single-handedly causing things to fail on one out of every five plays.

Without any stats to back this up, I'd wager Goff's percentage isn't much better, and there's more than five plays to judge him on.

But we also have to temper Alleman's performance with the knowledge that he came into the game as a fresh body against linemen who'd been on the field for three and a half quarters. If, on just his sixth snap, he was driven that far into the backfield by a tiring Ratliff, how would Alleman have held up against fresh defenders, or when he was just as winded as they were?

Taking all of that into account, it probably doesn't add up to overwhelming evidence that Alleman deserves to start in Goff's place. We also have to be fair and acknowledge that the key drive of the game, the one in which the tying touchdown was scored, came with Goff in the lineup.

Ultimately, though, while Goff was on the sideline the Chiefs produced two positive rushing plays to the right or up the middle – running lanes that had been all but non-existent to that point in the game.

Cassel also had good enough pass protection to release two throws that traveled farther than 10 yards, and he wasn't hit after releasing either ball. Again, this is something that was exceedingly rare against Dallas.

Maybe it's nothing but a coincidence. Perhaps, as speculated on by the Compass Media Network radio broadcast, the Chiefs' offensive line simply got fired up after the flagged hit on Wade.

But neither of the things we just covered – open running lanes and solid pass protection – occurred with much frequency while Goff was in the game. Immediately after he left, that changed.

We might not have proven that Alleman deserves a chance to start at guard, but there's more than a little bit of evidence to suggest that Goff no longer does. In fact, according to stats.com, only one starting guard in the entire NFL has allowed more sacks than Goff's 3.5 this season. So if Alleman's not the answer, who is?

Why not Wade Smith?

Although he entered Sunday's game and was shockingly competent at left tackle, Smith is actually listed on the depth chart as the primary backup at center and guard. If he could adequately replace Branden Albert on such short notice, surely he could do the same at a much more familiar position.

The only problem with that scenario is the backup left tackle job would be left to Ike Ndukwe, and no one wants to see that potential disaster unfold, particularly with Albert's status still uncertain for this weekend.

But once Albert is healthy, Smith deserves a chance to upgrade his status from "utility man" to "starter." He earned it with his play on Sunday.

WarpaintIllustrated.com Top Stories