Let’s get into the instant reaction from this one.
One of the greatest defensive performances (and plays) you will ever see
The Dolphins entered the game as the No. 1 offense in the league, scoring 33.9 points per game. But with a sound plan, sustained pressure on Tua Tagovailoa and outstanding play in the secondary, the Chiefs’ defense managed to shut out Miami in the first half.
We didn’t know it at the time, but the defense also recorded the game-winning touchdown.
There is so much to this play that deserves mention. Moments before, cornerback L’Jarius Sneed — who played a significant role in holding wide receiver Tyreek Hill to 62 yards — checked out of the game with a potential injury. So on the next play, Tagovailoa (of course) looked directly Hill’s way and dished him the ball.
Cornerback Trent McDuffie made a quick read like he knew it was coming and stripped the ball out of Hill’s grasp. Safety Mike Edwards picked it up — and then had the presence of mind to lateral the ball to safety Bryan Cook. The second-year safety — who runs a 4.59 40-yard dash — ran the ball for a touchdown faster than any Chiefs player this season. As the game played out, Kansas City might not have won without this key play.
It could be said that the Chiefs’ defense had one rough drive all day. It was the second drive after the half — in which it allowed a touchdown in eight plays. Defensive tackle Chris Jones knows that they should have been off the field allowing a field goal on the Dolphins’ second touchdown.
Linebacker Drue Tranquill had a key play on third-and-long early in continued relief of Nick Bolton — and Jaylen Watson, Leo Chenal and Turk Wharton all had important sacks of the quarterback. Linebacker Willie Gay Jr. likely fought through pain to play, finishing with four tackles (one for a loss) and a forced fumble. The Chiefs hit Tagovailoa five times, and he was held under 200 yards for the game.
Let’s say it: Kansas City may have the best defense in the league.
Travis Kelce, decoy.
The Dolphins did an excellent job of containing tight end Travis Kelce, giving him extra attention and holding him to 14 yards. If all you knew about the game was that Kelce had only 14 yards, would you have thought the Chiefs had won?
Head coach Andy Reid used Kelce as an extreme decoy, leading to some offensive success for the team in the first half. Wide receiver Skyy Moore took advantage on this 23-yard gain.
Three plays later, running back Jerick McKinnon benefitted — and that one was for six points. Watch the attention Kelce draws on the play.
There’s very clearly still work to be done, but that’s a lot easier to say at 7-2 at the bye.
Overall, Kansas City still has work to do on offense — especially in particular areas. The Chiefs were 2-for-2 in the red zone — which is a good thing — but were only 3-of-10 on third down. That’s bad.
That line included a key third-and-1 late in the fourth quarter in which the team could have iced the game — without scaring everybody by handing it back to Miami. Reid called a pass — and with Kelce double-teamed, Mahomes had nowhere to go.
The 2023 offense continues to look for its identity, with the quarterback still searching for his go-to target beyond Kelce. Rookie Rashee Rice, Moore and Kadarius Toney all flashed in Germany. Mahomes hit nine different targets, but it’s difficult to believe that tight end Noah Gray can lead your team in yardage (as he did on Sunday) as you win a championship.
It’s good that they handed the ball off to running back Isiah Pacheco 16 times, but he probably deserves it more. The Chiefs need to stop taking penalties and need to be sharper on special teams.
All this is true — but because of Kansas City’s defensive efforts, the team stands 7-2.
They have the bye week to figure it all out before the schedule gauntlet, which begins with a Super Bowl LVII rematch on “Monday Night Football.”