It was the worst of halves; it was the best of halves. The Kansas City Chiefs again turned the ball over too much and made critical mistakes before halftime. But they came out in the third quarter and executed on both sides of the ball, burying the Washington Football Team.
Many of the changes we wanted to see from this team paid dividends, and this team turned what could have been a miserable game into something that should give fans hope.
Here are a few of the standouts as the Chiefs got back to .500 on Sunday:
Tershawn Wharton: Wharton has been frustratingly quiet so far this season and was again on Sunday — until he made the defensive play of the game. Pulling an interception off the helmet of an offensive lineman will land you on the winners' list every time.
L'Jarius Sneed: The announcers pointed it out on the broadcast: you saw the complete Sneed experience in back-to-back plays in the second half of Sunday's game. First, he came over in perfect position on a deep pass, putting himself between the ball and the receiver, breaking up the play. Then, he flew in on a screen play and got the tackle for a loss. Don't look now, but Sneed might be back to making big plays for this defense again.
Rashad Fenton: It's time we put some respect on his name. Fenton has emerged as arguably the best cover corner on the field for the Chiefs over the last couple of weeks. He was tough today, with two passes defended to go along with seven tackles. It's yet to be seen how this group will shake out once Charvarius Ward eventually gets healthy, but Fenton has made his case for a significant role this season.
Darrel Williams: Coming into this week, Williams knew that he'd be the guy, as Clyde Edwards-Helaire headed to injured reserve. He responded with a two-touchdown performance and some good hard-nosed runs. The yards-per-carry (3.0) and total yards (62) weren't impressive, but Williams got the job done on this day.
Nick Bolton: Some laughed at the idea of Bolton being part of the solution for the Chiefs linebackers. But with Willie Gay getting more snaps and Anthony Hitchens leaving the game injured, Bolton really showed up against Washington. The rookie was all over the field, in on nine tackles this week, including one for a loss. He looks like a player that can at least be a force against the run moving forward.
Steve Spagnuolo: Some were calling for his job, and everyone was calling for some personnel changes. Spagnuolo responded with a couple of moves that resulted in a much better day for the Chiefs' defense. The most significant move was giving Juan Thornhill the nod over Daniel Sorensen, which seemed to pay dividends. We saw fewer (but not zero) miscommunications in the secondary and some better tackling and closing speed. The Chiefs also changed up their linebacker rotation, giving more snaps to Gay and Bolton. The results were evident, as the Chiefs held the Football Team to under 100 rushing yards and under 200 receiving yards. But most importantly, Washington scored 13 total points, and zero in the second half. The Chiefs can build on this.
Patrick Mahomes: The narratives have been all over the place; he's pressing, he's forcing the ball, he's too tentative, not taking care of the football, not himself. It felt like that would continue in the first half, as another well-thrown pass went through Hill's hands and was intercepted. Then, Mahomes made another ill-advised toss-up instead of taking a sack. Both turnovers were in the red zone, and things were looking bleak. But Mahomes and the Chiefs offense came out firing in the second half and put away an inferior opponent. The best player in the world had some vintage passes, including an insane one that didn't count due to penalty. He finished with just under 400 yards and two touchdowns in a surgical second half, featuring three consecutive touchdown drives. Mahomes, the NFL leader in yards per carry, also had 31 crucial running yards that kept drives alive. He's had his struggles, but he's still the best player in the world, and, judging by Sunday's game, resilience might be one of his better qualities.
Josh Gordon: This should have been the game that Gordon got more opportunities, but he went without a catch or even a target. Other Chiefs receivers stepped up this week, with Hardman, Robinson and Pringle all getting involved on a good statistical day for the offense, even if it looked grim at times. Perhaps Gordon's turn will come next week.
Chiefs' pass rush: They got close a few times, but there isn't any excuse for these guys not getting home against a depleted Washington offense. Even when multiple defenders got a hand, arm and body on Taylor Heinicke, he managed to escape. Frank Clark and Jarran Reed each had two quarterback hits, but both of Frank's may have come on the same play. The defense as a whole was much better this week, but you'd like to see some more production from Sack Nation.
Jerick McKinnon: Like with Josh Gordon, we hoped that McKinnon could add an explosive weapon to the Chiefs offense. But, even with Edwards-Helaire out this week, it was more of the same minuscule production for No. 1. Three rushes for 10 yards (with a long of just five yards) wasn't great. Perhaps more disappointing is that McKinnon, who profiles to be the pass-catching threat, had only one catch on four targets, resulting in five yards.