KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Todd Haley has said he feels the need to make some unconventional maneuvers with the Chiefs given their considerable deficiencies. He's living up to his word.
The Chiefs lead the league in fourth-down conversion attempts with 27 — more than two a game — heading into Sunday's game against Cleveland at Arrowhead Stadium.
They went for it on fourth down four times against Buffalo last week. The Chiefs have only one game this year, against Jacksonville, where they didn't attempt to convert on fourth down.
"There are a lot of different factors involved," Haley said. "Sometimes, it's how we think we're playing overall, and that may be a positive or negative thing.
"We may feel like we're getting great movement and we can get a yard. Other times we're struggling a little bit on defense and we need to take advantage of this opportunity.
"There are a lot of different factors that come into those decisions. You go with what you feel."
That the 3-10 Chiefs have tried so many fourth-down conversion attempts is due in no small part to the fact they have been behind in most of their games. But the 27 attempts can't be explained away by that alone.
The 2-11 Browns, for instances, lag in most of their games, like the Chiefs. But Cleveland has tried fourth-down conversions just 11 times.
Haley has ordered fourth-down attempts in traditional spots, such as desperate situations near the end of games, but also early in games with the Chiefs comfortably on their side of the field.
"Those are decisions you've got to make and you've got to make off what your team is doing on that particular day," Haley said. " I don't think it's anything you can necessarily predetermine what you're going to do because you don't know what the situation is going to be and when it's going to be upon you."
The large number of attempts is also driven by the large number of fourth-down and short-yardage situations. The Chiefs have faced an unusual number of fourth-and-1 or fourth-and-2 plays.
"It's crazy," quarterback Matt Cassel said. "We're getting right to the sticks, but for whatever reason we're coming up a yard short or a couple of inches short."
Another crazy thing for a team deficient on third downs is that the Chiefs have been pretty good on fourth downs. They've converted on 13 of 27 tries ( 48 percent).
The Chiefs are last in the league in third-down conversions, about 25 percent.
"I think we're doing a pretty good job at times," Haley said. "At other times it's a missed block here or a missed read. We've been unable to get above it. Now, overall on fourth down going into the last game specifically ... those haven't all been short-yardage situations. We've converted some fourth-and-longs and have done a pretty good job.
"You just like to stay out of those situations. But when you're struggling a little bit you find yourself in those a lot more."
Haley's fourth-down decisions have at times paid off. Jamaal Charles scored on a 44-yard touchdown on a fourth-down play in last month's win in Oakland.
More often, they've failed spectacularly. A fake punt blew up on the Chiefs in the game against Denver two weeks ago and fueled a Broncos' 20-point run that cracked open a close game.
Last week, the Chiefs tried to convert rather than kick a field goal on fourth and 10 from the Buffalo 21 with more than 2 minutes left and trailing 16-10. Cassel's pass was deflected and then intercepted.
The Chiefs got the ball back again with a minute left. But they needed a touchdown instead of a field goal at that point, and Cassel's desperation pass into the end zone on the final play was intercepted.
"Yeah, definitely thought about (kicking the field goal on fourth down) and had a brief little discussion and we just felt like we were just far enough out that it was not a sure thing and we had a play that we liked after the timeout," Haley said. "We felt like we had a very good chance to get the first, and it would be a very good opportunity for us.
"If we execute just a little cleaner, we probably would have had a first down and have had at least three or more shots at it.
"As it is, I have no regrets about the decision. We got the ball back and had another shot at it. We had our opportunities."