The Kansas City Chiefs rallied this week to surprise the street with a big victory. They weathered the early storm from the Patriots, and closed out strong in the fourth quarter.
Are we finally seeing the Chiefs explosive offense that can carry the team? Even more encouraging, we saw a confident Chiefs team in a tough situation continue to attack New England until the final bell.
Is this finally the year that the Chiefs show the ability to close out and dominate an opponent instead of hanging on and hoping to run out the clock? Positivity and optimism around the team are at an all time high. This team might finally be thought of as a contender -- at least for this week.
Andy Reid: If this week was a chess match, Andy Reid was Bobby Fischer. We saw Travis Kelce out of the wildcat and handling multiple inside shovel passes. There were shifts, motions, and misdirection on nearly every play. The route combinations were masterful and forced the Patriots secondary in to some un-winnable situations. Admittedly, I was worried at times in the first half because I thought they were too conservative on defense and reluctant to take shots deep on offense. Whether Reid was sandbagging, or he and Bob Sutton made adjustments, the second half was a different story. The Chiefs coaching staff and game plan were fantastic, and the team showed a lot of guts in this win. Credit to Big Red.
Kareem Hunt: We all agreed he’d contribute, but I don’t think anyone would have predicted an NFL record-breaking performance against the Patriots in his first game. Hunt was great at getting something out of nothing, breaking tackles and getting the tough yardage. He has elite burst and can do it all: caught all five targets for 98 yards and two TDs, ran for 148 yards and another TD with an 8.7 yard average. He was able to get every last bit out of his limited long speed, with a 78-yard catch and a 58-yard run. Hunt’s stock may be up more than any other NFL player this week.
Alex Smith: If Hunt was a mild surprise, this performance by Alex Smith might be a major one. Smith stumbled (literally and figuratively) in the first half, but made just enough plays to keep the team in the game. In the second half, he nailed deep throws to Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt en route to what was arguably Smith’s best regular season game ever. Smith ended up with 368 yards passing, four TDs, no INTs, 80 percent completion percentage and a stellar 10.5 average per attempt. If this is the version of Alex Smith we’ll get this year, the Chiefs will finally have an explosive offense to match their defense and special teams.
Justin Houston: Just like Smith, as the best version of himself can carry the offense to a different level, Houston can do the same for the defense. In the first half, Houston spent half of the defensive snaps in coverage, and some fans were concerned that he wasn’t back to himself. He did make strong plays in run defense throughout the game, but it wasn’t until the second half when he was really able to terrorize Tom Brady and the Patriots offensive line. Houston displayed the power, quickness and flawless technique that we had come to expect. He ended the game with five tackles (two for a loss), two sacks and four QB hits. The way he dismantled the flea flicker, and dominated on the edge this week shows that Houston is back, and the league’s offensive tackles are in trouble.
Tyreek Hill: The gadget player or No. 1 WR conversation hasn’t died down yet, but if you ask me, it’s irrelevant. Hill was fantastic this week in a full time role, playing 72 percent of the Chiefs offensive snaps. He led the team with seven catches for 133 yards, a TD and a peace sign. Hill still lined up in the backfield on multiple occasions with a couple of rushing attempts and a lot of fake jet sweeps. On punt returns, the Patriots were unwilling to kick to him for obvious reasons. Hill’s stock is still pointed upward, even from where he his today. It’s going to be a big year for the second year offensive weapon.
The entire offensive line: These guys really play as a unit, so I’ll give credit where it’s due which is across the board. Some will minimize their performance because the Patriots defense doesn’t have big pass rushing threats. Make no mistake, the Chiefs big uglies were fantastic this week. Smith consistently had time to throw, and Hunt had a huge day on the ground. When the game was on the line, the team was able to sustain drives and close out the defending champs. It all starts upfront, and we’ve been preaching continuity there all offseason. It appears that it’s paying off, along with the investment in guys like LDT.
Ron Parker: Others on the Chiefs defense get the headlines and the splashy plays. But, few are more valuable to the team than Ron Parker. This week, he had 11 total tackles and was all over the defense. What do I mean by all over? Per PFF, Parker played 16 snaps at FS, six at SS, two at CB, seven at Slot CB and 11 at the nickel LB position. Ron was a big reason the Chiefs were able to contain Tom Brady this week. With the loss of Berry and Steven Nelson before him, Parker will be counted on more than ever this season.
The Chiefs standing in the AFC: Conventional wisdom has kept the Chiefs in the “2nd tier” in the AFC. Not good enough to beat the Patriots or Steelers, but better than the rest of the field. “Experts” have been predicting that the Raiders were prime to win the division, and some even had the Chiefs as low as 3rd place. After one week, it’s pretty clear that conventional wisdom has been selling this team short. They are clearly a cut above the rest of the AFCW, and a decisive victory in Foxboro proves they can be in that top tier. The next test comes this week, as prior Chiefs teams might have been primed for a let down. Keep winning, and there is a new team in the top tier.
Others who are on the rise this week: Bennie Logan, Demetrius Harris, Chris Conley, Allen Bailey
The #Chiefs had 15 penalties for 136 yards, 4-11 on 3rd down, -1 in turnovers, forced no turnovers. No ST TD. But won by 15pts. Unreal.— Nick Jacobs (@Jacobs71) September 8, 2017
The flags: After the preseason, I was worried that this could be an issue. The Chiefs should not be the type of team that racks up double digit penalties each week. They just can’t be expected to overcome 15 flags for 136 yards and still win games. Yes, it worked out this week, but there were times when it looked like it would cost them dearly. Travis Kelce’s penalty doesn’t bother me as much as others, as he was clearly provoked, and well, that’s just his personality. I would expect the Chiefs, particularly the offensive line, Dee Ford and Terrance Mitchell to be focusing on cleaning up the penalties this week.
Chiefs special teams: I said in the preview that the Chiefs had to score on special teams or defense. It turns out I was wrong, just like I was in the score prediction ... and that’s OK because the team’s explosive offensive propelled them to victory. Everyone is happy. On special teams this week, the returners looked shaky at best, and they didn’t break any game-changing plays at all. Look for Dave Toub’s guys to get back on track next week because the offense won’t put up 42 every game.
Ross Travis: Travis won the Chiefs No. 3 tight end job last week, just like he did last year after training camp. Also similar to last year, he failed to contribute much when the regular season started. Travis was targeted once, but didn’t make the catch. I noticed him a couple of times attempting to block, but not helping much there either. Gavin Escobar hasn’t signed anywhere yet, and Orson Charles is on the Chiefs practice squad. I believe the Chiefs like Travis and aren’t likely to make a change right now, but he needs to produce when given the chance.
Others struggling or weren’t actively involved this week: Tanoh Kpassagnon, Chris Jones
Chiefs secondary: I’m already hearing the comments on this one. Yes, I know, the Chiefs held Tom Brady and the New England offense in check, didn’t allow a passing touchdown, etc. Yes, Marcus Peters was targeted only once with zero completions. Terrance Mitchell didn’t end up giving up too much, and had a good pass breakup or two, but he also had three penalties and appeared to struggle other times, especially in the first half. Gaines continued to be in position to make a play on the ball, but unable to do so. The Chiefs were actually quite fortunate that Brady missed on a couple of deep shots when they had busted coverage. In the end, they were good enough to win this week, but the Chiefs will be counting on the guys after Marcus Peters to be better this season. Losing Eric Berry will make it tougher on everyone, as they are now down two starters and one emotional and physical leader.
Eric Berry: He played a terrific game, was a missile in run support as always, and battled Gronk in coverage all night long. He hogtied the running back on that fourth down after Hunt’s fumble, and completely changed the momentum of the game. Berry was a big part of this win, and he’s a huge part of this defense. His injury is devastating and really puts a damper on the celebration. Yes, they can replace some of his production on the field, but they won’t be able to replace the whole package.
Dee Ford: I thought Ford looked pretty good rushing the QB this week. He was applying quick and consistent pressure and got a QB hit, though he didn’t record a sack. Against the run, it seems the Patriots identified Ford as a weakness and ran straight at him. Dee needs to work on getting leverage and consistently setting the edge in order to be a complete OLB. In the meantime, he is what he’s always been ... a quick edge rusher.
Ukeme Eligwe and Kevin Pierre-Lewis: These are guys many believe to be the future of the Chiefs ILB corps along with Reggie Ragland. Both played only on special teams this week with Ragland on the inactive list. The Chiefs gameplan was light on ILBs not named Derrick Johnson, as Ramik Wilson only played 31 percent of the defensive snaps. It appears that for now, Eligwe and KPL will have to make plays on the coverage units because they’ve yet to earn snaps in the Chiefs defense. The good news is both appear to be very good special teams players and each had a tackle this week.
The Chiefs run defense: They held New England to 124 yards, and a 3.5 yard average. They stopped the Patriots on two key fourth down and inches situations. They also yielded three rushing touchdowns with little resistance. Eric Berry was a big part of the success of the run defense with his missile-like tackles. The run defense will continue to be an item to watch going forward. They appear to be consistently inconsistent in their bend-don’t-break philosophy.
Others who are who we thought they were: Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Derrick Johnson