Final Score: Kansas City Chiefs 41, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31
Against the Buccaneers on Sunday night, the Chiefs looked much more Chiefish.
The special teams unit made up for its miscues against the Colts by forcing a Tampa Bay fumble on the opening kickoff, immediately putting the offense in position to score. Kansas City quickly jumped way out in front and withstood a Tom Brady-led Buccaneers comeback long enough to close out the game — and move to 3-1 on the season.
Offense (Talon Graff)
The offense was clicking a lot better in Week 4. After the recovered fumble on the opening kickoff, the offense had put six points on the board on a Patrick Mahomes-to-Travis Kelce connection on just the second play from scrimmage. The offense kept up that momentum, also scoring touchdowns on their next two drives.
The offensive line was much better on the ground, opening lanes for the team’s running back committee; left guard Joe Thuney and center Creed Humphrey looked like they were back to their old selves. The line did, however, give up three sacks to an impressive Tampa Bay pass rush — so there are clearly some lingering issues that need to be addressed; a player of Mahomes’ caliber cannot have his future be put into jeopardy because of poor pass protection. The questions surrounding Orlando Brown’s long-term fit with the team will get louder this week — but as a group, the offensive line deserved a ton of credit in this victory.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire had a nice bounce-back week, totaling 92 yards on the ground and scoring his second rushing touchdown of the season. He also caught a touchdown on an MVP play from Mahomes. Rookie Isiah Pacheco was much more involved in the game plan. He was able to pound out 63 yards on his 11 carries. Jerick McKinnon was given two carries, each of which came in short-yardage situations. Given his skillset in open space, it’s hard not to question those decisions.
Mahomes targeted 10 different receivers, completing passes to eight of them. JuJu Smith-Schuster put in another nice game with five catches for 46 yards; his camaraderie and chemistry with Mahomes seems to grow in each game. Marquez Valdes-Scantling was opportunistic with his touches — and his usage was well-timed. Backup tight end Jody Fortson proved he is the red zone target we have hoped the Chiefs would find.
Offensive Player of the Game: tight end Travis Kelce
After such an uncharacteristic performance in Week 3, Kelce was spectacular. The star tight end backed up his statements about getting better, hauling in nine receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown. Kelce also moved into fifth on the NFL’s all-time list for receiving yards by a tight end.
Defense (Bryan Stewart)
In a flashback to what has been more normal in recent years, the Kansas City defense mostly rode the wave of the offense’s success. They were there on the field, but very little stood out. The players certainly would have liked to give up fewer points — and entering the game, probably expected to do so.
Surprisingly, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo rolled out a fairly tame game plan, which didn’t blitz Brady very often. So Brady was usually able to find soft spots in zone coverage, delivering quick, accurate passes in a very short time.
Where the defense did shine was in run defense: the Buccaneers ran for just three (!) total yards on six carries. While some of this was due to Tampa Bay seeing great opportunities to attack with passing, the fact remains that through the first month of the season, the Chiefs’ defense has been one of the league’s best against the run. When was the last time that happened?
The Buccaneers went 6-for-10 on third down and 4-for-4 in the red zone. Both rates were far higher than Kansas City has allowed in previous games this season. Suspended linebacker Willie Gay Jr.’s absence was truly felt over the middle of the field in pass coverage. Rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie likely would’ve given Spagnuolo more confidence to challenge Tampa’s wide receivers more aggressively. Thankfully, both of these defenders should be back very soon.
Defensive Player of the Game: Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed
There’s no clear-cut favorite here — but Sneed came through with the play that ultimately snuffed out the momentum that Tampa Bay was beginning to build in the first half. After yet another well-timed blitz, Sneed took the football away from Tampa Bay in their own territory to set up the fourth Chiefs touchdown.
Have to go back to beginning of play to appreciate L'Jarius Sneed's craftiness here. Goes from "what's up with my helmet" and "just messing with my gloves and backpedaling" to stealth rusher to Brady's lap ... all in about 4 seconds. pic.twitter.com/i87M5IbBCA— Jesse Newell (@jessenewell) October 3, 2022
Beyond that, it was a lot of the plays Sneed didn’t surrender that sealed the nod for him. For much of the night, he was in good coverage positions.