KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Look, we won’t beat around the bush. The Giants stink. The Eagles stink. The Titans and Texans are imploding. The Browns may hold another fire sale. The Cowboys are confused. After that beatdown in London, the Jaguars are now the worst professional football team in two hemispheres, instead of the usual one.
So what was true in late September is true in late October, too: At 8-0, the Chiefs haven’t beaten anybody great. In fact, through the season’s first seven weeks, the boys in red posted the lowest strength of schedule rating (-4.2) in the NFL, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, with only the Bears (-3.5), Jets (-3.3) and Panthers (-3.1) in the same ballpark.
But if substance is what you want, substance is what you’re about to get: Kansas City’s next four opponents — and yes, we’re counting Denver twice — had a combined record of 21-10 as of late Sunday night. Nobody’s comparing this Chiefs team to the ’72 Dolphins, but if somehow this party gets to 12-0, you won’t be able to say they didn’t earn it. Especially after another flawed but victorious effort in the books …
CHIEFS 23, BROWNS 17: THREE (PERHAPS A TEENSY-BIT) UNCOMFORTABLY PRESSING MONDAY QUESTIONS
:03 … Is it me, or does cornerback Sean Smith smell a bit like burnt toast this morning?
The big defensive back has had some good days in his first season with the Chiefs, but Sunday wasn’t — well, it wasn’t one of them. The Browns’ lightning-quick wideout Josh Gordon went nuts, catching five balls on 10 targets for 132 yards and a touchdown. While Smith could handle Gordon’s size (6-foot-3) and physicality, the separation was so great at times that coach Andy Reid felt compelled to move the quicker (and less experienced) Marcus Cooper outside to shadow Gordon. It didn’t help that the Browns’ short drops and quick throws minimalized the Chiefs’ pass rush.
“One-on-one, sometimes, we won the matchups,” linebacker Tamba Hali said later. “But I think their game plan worked out. Quick passes, get the ball out quick, don’t get the quarterback hit, run the ball, play (a) field-position type of game.”
It was a tough afternoon early on for Smith, but it’s been one of the few. According to the number crunchers at Pro Football Focus, after the first six games of the year, quarterbacks throwing Smith’s way had a passer rating of 41.3, which was the fifth-best number among starting NFL cornerbacks.
“This is the NFL; they are going to make plays,” safety Kendrick Lewis said. “They get paid like we get paid. We just have to limit the big plays.”
:02 … Six sacks allowed? Really? Was that a record?
Actually — and fortunately for Alex Smith — no, it wasn’t. Since 1963, according to the Chiefs’ media guide, the most sacks recorded by a Kansas City opponent was 10, by the then-Baltimore Colts, on November 2, 1980. (That game was played at Arrowhead, and the hosts wound up losing by a margin of just 31-24, even though quarterback Steve Fuller spent so much stinking time on his back.)
Now, as to Sunday. First, give credit where it’s due: The Browns have a legitimate, top 10 defense: Mingo and Kruger and Jackson are going to get theirs against a lot of teams in this league. That said, though, this is the wrong kind of trend line, especially with sack-happy Buffalo (fourth in the NFL in sacks after Week 7), Indianapolis (seventh) and San Diego (eighth) still left on the menu. The learning curve for rookie right tackle Eric Fisher continues.
“I probably need to move them a little bit more so that they move the pocket a little bit more,” Reid said after the contest.
:01 … Shouldn’t they take it easy on Jamaal Charles? I think I swallowed something when he left the game …
Look: When you’ve got a diesel, you ride the diesel. Over the previous four weeks, only Green Bay rookie Eddie Lacy (22.7 carries) and San Francisco’s Frank Gore (21.5) have averaged more rushing attempts per game than Charles’ 20.8. And in the last month, only Atlanta’s Jacquizz Rodgers (6.0 grabs), San Diego’s Danny Woodhead (5.8), New Orleans’ Darren Sproles (5.3) and Pierre Thomas (5.0) and Cincinnati’s Gio Bernard (4.8) have averaged more catches per week than Charles’ 4.5.
Charles missed a third-quarter series with what Reid described as a knee contusion. At 190 pounds, the Pro Bowl back gets questions about his durability every week. And every week, he gives us the same answer.
“Got banged up, but at the end of the day, I finished,” said Charles, who wound up with 18 carries for 74 rushing yards and five catches for another 46 through the air. Then he added this: “Can’t wait ‘til that bye week comes.”
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.