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Chiefs-Cowboys rapid reaction: 7-4 at the bye week

The one thing we know is that the Chiefs have seven wins with six to play — what else can we really say for sure?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs defense is an absolute force to be reckoned with — and it led the way in a 19-9 win over the Dallas Cowboys at Arrowhead Stadium.

The defense (also known as... the good)

The story from Sunday begins with defensive lineman Chris Jones, who registered 3.5 sacks and a fumble recovery on the evening. Defensive end Frank Clark, who forced the fumble Jones picked up, looks as healthy he has been since the final stretches of 2019 and 2020 — and that has been a game-changer on the line.

In that same regard, his fellow defensive end Melvin Ingram has provided a juice that did not simply did not exist before the Chiefs acquired him from the Pittsburgh Steelers in early November. The Steelers reportedly were looking for other Ingram suitors — not wanting to trade him to the AFC — and that inclination is proving right. Through three games, it is looking like a mistake.

Nick Bolton and Willie Gay Jr. have continued to be the young stars at the second level. Bolton registered another tackle for loss — and week-by-week, Gay looks more and more like the pure athlete the Chiefs have been missing at that level since the days of Derrick Johnson, Justin Houston and Tamba Hali.

News broke before the game that safety Tyrann Mathieu was suddenly questionable due to knee swelling, and he gutted it out for three tackles. Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed has been looking like one of the best tacklers in the league — and he had Sunday’s game-winning interception. And if Jones was the star of the unit on Sunday evening, Charvarius Ward deserves an honorable mention. Ward’s play in the second quarter to intercept Dak Prescott in the end zone — along with his fourth-quarter pass breakup on a pass intended for Cedrick Wilson — were critical plays in the game.

The Cowboys were hurt, missing wide receiver Amari Cooper and left tackle Tyron Smith — as well as an in-game injury to Lamb — but they took care of business when it came to the players on the field.

The offense (also known as... the not so good)

After a Week 10 performance against the Las Vegas Raiders that made us believe the Chiefs’ offense and regained its swagger, the game against the Cowboys felt like a reversion to what we saw against the Green Bay Packers in Week 9.

Rookie defensive playmaker Micah Parsons is well-deserving of a hat tip here. It is easy to see that even at the age of 22, Parsons is a budding star as a hybrid linebacker-defensive end game wrecker for the Cowboys — and is the type of weapon that should make Chiefs fans happy they only see the Cowboys in the regular season every eight years.

Up front, Parsons single-handedly caused nightmares for the Chiefs — almost getting Dallas back into the game in the second half. Chiefs starting tackles Orlando Brown and Andrew Wylie did an admirable enough job to hold on — and that is saying something.

The Chiefs scored on three straight possessions to begin the game, getting up 16-3 before the offense stalled for most of the second, third and fourth quarters. The unit had two turnovers — one caused by Parsons, which is almost understood — and an interception that simply bounced off the hands of Travis Kelce. The offensive failures of this year have been on the skill-position players as much as Mahomes, with Next Gen Stats laying it out.

The referees were awfully stingy — but at times, the Chiefs still hurt themselves, taking five penalties on offense.

It was a concern before the year— and through 11 weeks, the Chiefs have yet to find a consistent answer as a No. 3 target behind Kelce and Tyreek Hill. It seems as though Mahomes hardly looks anywhere else. The undrafted Byron Pringle seems like the best possible option over former second-rounder Mecole Hardman and newly-acquired Josh Gordon. Mahomes may be beginning to notice.

Edwards-Helaire had a nice game in his return: 12 attempts for 63 yards and a touchdown — a 5.25 yards-per-carry rate that Darrel Williams just does not offer. Hill played an intelligent game and became Mahomes’ go-to when he needed a first down against the Cowboys.

...and can’t leave here without mentioning

In yet another ugly victory, the special teams unit deserves some attention. Harrison Butker made 2 of 3 field goals, including a key 53-yarder in the third quarter, and Butker’s pooch punt (downed by punter Tommy Townsend) pinned the Cowboys at their 3-yard line when they were down 10 points in the fourth quarter.

7-4 at the bye week

Offensive consistency has been tricky to find this season — and through 11 weeks, we really still don’t know who the 2021 Chiefs are. The defense — that started historically bad — is now suddenly great.

It is difficult to know what to make of these Chiefs, other than the fact that they are 7-4 with a wide-open AFC and six more regular-season games in front of them. That may be the only thing we can say for sure.

And maybe — right now — that’s OK.

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