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Chiefs vs. Cowboys Instabreakdown: defense shines as offense sputters

A hot start from the offense — and pass rush from the defense — give Kansas City fans reason to be thankful.

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

Final Score: Kansas City Chiefs 19. Dallas Cowboys 9

Offense (Talon Graff)

The Kansas City offense started out the way it left off against the Las Vegas Raiders: explosive and efficient. A nine-play, 86-yard opening drive was capped off by a touchdown run by Travis Kelce on a direct snap. Then — following a fumble recovery by the defense — Harrison Butker added a field goal. The third drive was similar to the first: eight plays for 65 yards, finishing with a touchdown run — this time by returning running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

But that was it. The next six drives ended in punts, turnovers and halftime. The offensive tackles struggled to slow down rookie Micah Parsons, who ended up with two sacks, four tackles and multiple pressures. Former Kansas Jayhawk Dorance Armstrong also got to quarterback Patrick Mahomes, giving Dallas three sacks on the day.

Kansas City’s run blocking was good enough for the team to average 4.8 yards per carry. Edwards-Helaire looked good in his first game back from injury, leading the team with 12 carries — but most of those were toward the end of the game as the Chiefs were trying to put the game on ice. He finished with 63 yards — 5.3 yards per attempt — and a touchdown. He also caught both his receiving targets for 13 yards. In his backup role, Darrel Williams added 15 yards on five carries.

Tight end Travis Kelce dealt with drops again. One of those led to a Jayron Kearse interception — Mahomes’ only pick of the day — that nearly went for a score. Kelce was visibly frustrated on the sideline following the play, slamming his helmet. By his standards, he had a below-average day, hauling in five catches for 74 yards and his one rushing touchdown. But late in the game — when it mattered the most — Kelce did make big plays.

Wide receiver Tyreek Hill was clutch, gaining 77 yards — but his big-play ability came in handy down the stretch. His nine catches now give him 84 on the season. Fellow wide receivers Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle weren’t heard from often — but when they were, they made noise. Pringle had a big 37-yard strike and Hardman added 25 yards on two receptions.

Mahomes failed to throw a touchdown pass but completed 23 pass attempts for 260 yards through the air, leaning heavily on Hill and Kelce. After a week in which Darrel Williams went over 100 yards as a receiver, he managed only one reception on three targets.

Overall, it wasn’t quite the progression you’d want to see from the offense — but a win is a win. The Thanksgiving bye week will be a good opportunity to rest up and iron out the wrinkles.

Offensive Player of the Game: wide receiver Tyreek Hill

Hill was the most impactful offensive player in a Chiefs uniform. It wasn’t a day where he blew open the stat book, but his big-play ability at exactly the right times gave the Chiefs the edge necessary to get the win. Hill is on pace to break Kelce’s single-season record for receptions by a Chiefs player.

Defense (Bryan Stewart)

It’s time.

For over a month now, I have cautiously praised the Kansas City defense, suggesting it might have finally have found its identity. But ultimately, we needed to see a good performance against a high-level offense. On Sunday, Steve Spagnuolo’s defense passed that test with a dominant performance against the Cowboys’ elite offensive group.

Let’s expand on that identity. I believe the unit wants to be scrappy and physical at the line of scrimmage, getting its hands on opposing wide receivers early and often. Up front, Spagnuolo will do whatever it takes to create pressure — but thankfully, with a healthy Chris Jones and Frank Clark (and the addition of Melvin Ingram) it is a whole lot easier than it once was. The unit is forcing the issue at every level of the field. We can now see what it looks like when opposing offenses can’t win one-on-one matchups against the Kansas City defense: a dominating defensive performance.

The Cowboys entered the game as the first-ranked offense: 433.9 yards and 31.6 points per game. But against the Chiefs, they failed to score a single touchdown and posted just 276 total yards. Quarterback Dak Prescott turned the football over three times, throwing interceptions to both Charvarius Ward and L’Jarius Sneed — and fumbling on a Fank Clark sack.

Kansas City has now given up 47 total points in the month of November. That’s 11.75 points per game.

Looking at the rest of the AFC, we can firmly plant the Chiefs back in the conversation as one of the teams to beat. We have known the offense can be dangerous — but now, the defense has put the rest of the league on notice: it is dangerous, too.

Defensive Player of the Game: defensive tackle Chris Jones

Jones registered 3.5 sacks against one of the league’s better offensive lines — and most of his key plays were in critical down-and-distance situations. Although he started the game lining up at defensive end, it was along the interior where he made his greatest impact. Just ask Dak Prescott.

Entering the bye, Jones has 6.5 sacks on the season. Now arguably the team’s best defender, it will be essential for him to continue making this kind of impact when we see the team play against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium on December 5.