"You play to win the game."
It is a quote made famous during a post-game rant by former New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards. That was exactly what the Chiefs did from the opening kickoff forward on Sunday night.
Throughout the week, many players and coaches spoke about how focused and intense the week of practice was after a tough Week 3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. That focus and intensity translating to the field was a great sight.
On the opening kickoff, Tampa Bay's rookie running back Rachaad White brought the ball out from two yards deep in the end zone. He was met at the 23-yard line by Chiefs rookie linebacker Jack Cochrane and cornerback Chris Lammons. Lammons knocked the ball loose, and it was recovered at the 21-yard line by linebacker Elijah Lee, who had himself quite a week — having been released by the Chiefs, signed back to the practice squad then elevated for the game.
Crazy huh https://t.co/OhtC0XgTUW— Elijah Lee (@elee_doubleace) October 3, 2022
Watching the start of this game — a Clyde Edwards-Helaire 5-yard game followed by a Travis Kelce 16-yard touchdown — and you knew the Chiefs would be more in control than last week. That said, the other side still featured Tom Brady.
Brady quickly led the Buccaneers down the field to the Chiefs' 27-yard line. A great open-field stop by cornerback Rashad Fenton and defensive tackle Turk Wharton on Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette stalled the drive, and the Bucs settled for a 45-yard field goal.
Mahomes drove down the field, and at the 3-yard line, Edwards-Helaire took a handoff from fellow running back Jerick Mckinnon and ran it in for a 3-yard touchdown. 14-3 Chiefs. Following a Bucs' three-and-out, it was the return of "Mahomes Magic" on the 2-yard touchdown pass to Edwards-Helaire.
Nobody expected the Chiefs to be up 18 in the second quarter. In true greatest-of-all-time fashion, Brady came right back, delivering a six-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Evans. 21-10 Chiefs.
The turning point
And that is where the game turned.
Facing fourth-and-1 at the Bucs 34-yard line, Reid decides to go for it, calling up what seemed like the perfect play call that left Edwards-Helaire wide open for the first down. But the running back dropped the pass.
Instead of a first down for Kansas City, it was a turnover on downs. This play felt like it would swing all the momentum to Brady and the Buccaneers. It felt as though Brady would come on the field and drive his team down and bring the game within four points.
Did the Chiefs just give the Bucs life instead of ending them?
On the first play of the drive, from the shotgun formation, Brady scans the field for all his pre-snaps reads. He drops back, and a well-disguised blitz by the Chiefs defense is not picked up.
Chiefs cornerback L'Jarius Sneed flew around the corner showing every bit of that 4.3 speed. Brady never saw or felt him coming. Sneed popped Brady, and the ball came flying out. All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones jumped on it. Instead of the Bucs going down and turning this into a one-score game, the Chiefs go down and score six plays later on 1-yard tight end sneak from Noah Gray — and the Chiefs take a commanding 28-10 lead.
Sneed finished the night leading the team in tackles with nine (eight solo) to go along with his sack and forced fumble. This marked his second consecutive week with a strip sack. He currently leads the team in sacks with 3.0 and in forced fumbles on two of them. He leads all cornerbacks in the NFL in sacks since entering the league in 2020 with six.
The bottom line
Brady and the Buccaneers continued to battle and fight hard the rest of the game, and the final score of 41-31 made it look closer than the game actually was. The Chiefs remained in control throughout most of the game. When it seemed like that dropped pass that led to turnover on downs would shift the momentum to the Bucs, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Sneed and the rest of the Chiefs' defense had other things in mind.
The defense has been a surprising bright spot thus far this season.
If the Chiefs offense continues to click like it did Sunday and they avoid special teams' mistakes, it will be a hard team to beat.
Perhaps the only team capable of beating the Chiefs is the Chiefs.