Spencer Ware: 199 total yards and a TD ... and that doesn’t even do his performance justice. Ware sparked the rally with big plays and his refusal to be tackled. Player comments after the game said that he was rallying the defense after each drive, saying get us the ball back. Just a dominant and inspiring performance for a guy that deserves to get the ball plenty this season.
Alex Smith: You’ve heard the stats and the criticism. He doesn’t win shootouts, can’t bring the team back, etc. He may not have debunked them all, but he took a massive step in that direction with a clutch second half and OT performance on Sunday. He trusted his receivers, throwing to Maclin and Kelce even when covered. After a rough 1st half, Smith ended up with 363 yards with two TDs in the air, and the game winning TD on the ground. Is this type of game now something we can expect from Smith?
Chris Conley: The Chiefs offense doesn’t feature a second WR. It just doesn’t. The offense flows through dominant RBs, a dominant TE and a great No. 1 WR. All you can ask of the second WR is to make plays when his number is called and not be invisible. Conley did just that in his 2016 debut (4 catches, 43 yards), and all signs point to him being much improved and a viable option for the team this season. And that’s a very good thing.
Others making positive impressions: Tyreek Hill (1st NFL TD), Nick Williams, Eric Fisher
Marcus Peters: Known for playing with a high level of emotion, Peters seemed to get rattled by Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen (Allen had 6-63 prior to being injured). Peters was flagged for a facemask and a PI in the endzone. These penalties were costly, but two penalties that weren’t called would have been absolute killers: another facemask and a shove of Rivers when he got in Peters’s face. Marcus did rally and make plays in the second half, including a drive-killing near-INT in the fourth quarter. For Peters to take the step forward into shutdown CB territory, he needs to be better in coverage and start to get to the point that QBs don’t test him. He’s clearly not there yet.
Dontari Poe: Constantly double-teamed, Poe left big holes up the middle for both RBs in the first three quarters. He did step up in the fourth quarter along with the rest of the defense and got a QB hit and played more stout in the run game. But the ability for the Chargers to run through the middle of the Chiefs defense was concerning, and certainly points at the big guy struggling.
Frank Zombo: To my eye, Zombo doesn’t bring anything dynamic to the defense. If you don’t make big plays on defense, you damn sure better not allow big plays. His role is to be the solid and reliable veteran that balances out the boom or bust guys like Dee Ford and Dadi Nicolas. On Sunday we saw missed tackles and no pass rush from Zombo. His one shining moment was the pass he batted down after getting no pass rush (which was admittedly big). But that won’t help erase the memory of him lost in coverage on the TD with Berry and Peters looking around wondering why he wasn’t there.
Others that struggled at times this week: Derrick Johnson (uncharacteristic missed tackles), Ron Parker (had one great PBU though), Albert Wilson (3 catches, 1 yd)
Stock Flat (they are who we thought they were)
Travis Kelce: His two catches on the overtime drive were critical in keeping the offense moving and giving the team a chance to win. Six catches, 74 yards, that’s a standard Kelce line. You know what you’re going to get from this reality show star each week on the field.
Jeremy Maclin: Big catch over the middle and a back shoulder TD. He clearly has the trust of his QB and he reminds us why. Maclin is both reliable and explosive, and he’s the go-to guy in the passing game. He showed a lot of toughness when the team needed a big play, going up and getting the ball (and nearly a concussion) knowing he’d take the big hit. The back shoulder TD catch is one that we have long watched other teams execute on KC, and say “Well, there’s nothing you can do to stop that play”... why haven’t we ever seen the Chiefs execute it? With Maclin, it’s possible.
Dee Ford: Didn’t do enough to make the stock up category, but did some good things. The sack was huge, and very timely. It ended a Chargers drive and kept the Chiefs in the game. I think he could be a gamer: a guy that shows up in the clutch, even if he’s not consistently dominant. I did notice him fighting through blocks and getting himself in the right position so perhaps he could be on the rise.
Other consistent performers: Justin March (team high 9 tackles, but wasn’t always where he needed to be), Mitch Schwartz (stud), Mitch Morse (stud)