On Sunday afternoon in the intense heat of Florida, the Kansas City Chiefs faced the daunting task of saving their season down ample injured talent against a desperate Miami Dolphins team. The Chiefs answered the bell, keeping their campaign alive for at least another week with a 34-15 win.
Kansas City deserves a lot of credit. It is not easy to win without Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry, not to mention Donald Stephenson, Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito. The Chiefs mustered an excellent defensive performance, a killer run game and top-notch play on third down to overcome a litany of errors.
The best part about this game can't be found in the box score. It is the Chiefs playing far from their best game, without many of their best players, and they still won by 19 points on the road.
Alex Smith was statistically superb but not at optimum performance. Smith made a bonehead play with a third quarter fumble inside his own 25-yard line, fumbling away a crucial turnover when an obvious blitz was coming and the hot reads were open. The offensive line was bad in pass protection with the allowance of five sacks, but Smith still needs to make that play.
However, Smith made huge plays to help win the game. The Chiefs were 9-of-16 on third down due in large part to Smith, who went 19-of-25 for 186 yards and three touchdowns. Smith also converted a key third down with momentum slipping away. Leading 14-10 with 9:23 remaining in the third quarter, Smith ran for 13 yards on third-and-8 to keep a drive going that ultimately resulted in a touchdown.
Kansas City also got great contributions from Knile Davis, who ran hard for 132 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries.Travis Kelce scored his first NFL touchdown and Joe McKnight caught six passes for 64 yards and two scores. As a team, the Chiefs only took four penalties and sacked Ryan Tannehill four times, pressuring him near a dozen occasions.
Even with the win, it should not be forgotten plays that need to stop happening if Kansas City has playoff aspirations. On the first drive, Andy Reid called a reverse which almost turned into a nightmare. A.J. Jenkins was lazy and failed to hand the ball off to Frankie Hammond, instead tossing it to him. The ensuing fumble turned into a 15-yard loss. It could have been seven points the other way.
Then there are Davis' fumbles. The first occasions happened inside his own 10-yard line. The other came when ball security is at an absolute premium, with the Chiefs trying to run out the clock late. Davis jumped on the first and lost the second, with neither play causing much difference. They certainly will if Davis continually puts the ball on the ground.
On special teams, the penalties need to cease. Twice, big punt returns were wiped out by blocks in the back, both pinning Kansas City deep in its own territory. Dave Toub is a fantastic coach and needs to show why; quickly.
In the grand scheme of things, the Chiefs accomplished their mission. Kansas City is now 1-2 and gearing up for a massive Monday night showdown at Arrowhead Stadium against the New England Patriots. New England is beatable, and with Charles and perhaps even De'Anthony Thomas and Berry back, the Chiefs could be in position to get on a roll. But they won't without better play from special teams to offensive line, and from Smith to Davis.
The potential is there. If the improvement follows, Kansas City could make the 2014 season very interesting.