Chiefsâ€™ defense gets ripped, burned and gashed, but still wins the game
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Five things we learned from the Chiefs’ 23-13 win over Buffalo .
1990S DEFENSE REBORN
The more we look at this Chiefs defense, the more it reminds us of the great Chiefs defenses of the 1990s. Those defenses often could get exposed, but they also came up huge when needed, especially in terms of game-changing turnovers.
And Sunday was another perfect example. Statistically, the Chiefs got embarrassed. They gave up a season-worst 470 yards, with a gaudy 241 of those coming on the ground.
Time after time, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson of the Bills gashed a Chiefs defense that got manhandled up front. Time after time, Chiefs linebackers whiffed on initial hits on Spiller and Jackson, who then rumbled freely into the secondary.
Seriously, this was about as one-sided of a game as you can get when you consider the Chiefs’ offense mustered only 210 yards.
But the Chiefs’ defense came up with two monstrous plays, even if one was extremely lucky. On that play, which provided a 14-point swing and ultimately flipped the game, Chiefs defensive back Sean Smith likely blew an assignment and yet ended up being one of the game’s heroes.
With the Bills leading 10-3 in the third quarter and facing a third-and-goal at the Chiefs’ 1, Bills quarterback Jeff Tuel — an undrafted rookie — basically blew the game.
Smith was set to defend Bills slot receiver Stevie Johnson. Smith checked Johnson, then released him to … um … no one. Johnson was left wide open in the back of the end zone. But Tuel didn’t see Johnson and instead focused on T.J. Graham, who was running a slant.
But because Smith didn’t cover Johnson, he was then in perfect position to grab Tuel’s slant pass (which was a floater anyway) and race 100 yards for a touchdown. Instead of a 17-3 deficit or, at worst, a 13-3 deficit, the Chiefs suddenly found themselves tied.
Then the Chiefs’ defense decided it was tired of waiting for the offense to do anything and scored its second touchdown of the game. With the score tied 13-13 in the fourth quarter, Graham was stripped of the ball after a catch, and Tamba Hali alertly scooped up the ball and trotted 11 yards in for another touchdown.
Game, set and match.
UP AND DOWN
Like many of the Chiefs, defensive back Marcus Cooper had an up-and-down day. He got burned on a 59-yard touchdown toss to Marquise Goodwin in the first quarter. To be fair, though, it appeared that Cooper was hoping he would get help from deep safety Kendrick Lewis.
Lewis, though, bit slightly on an underneath route by the tight end and couldn’t recover in time to get into the same zip code in order to make a play on Goodwin.
Cooper, though, more than redeemed himself. He made a great breakup of a pass in the end zone intended for Robert Woods late in the first half.
Then, of course, Cooper made a brilliant play to strip Graham in the fourth quarter, setting up Hali’s touchdown that put the Chiefs ahead for good.
WORST CALL OF THE SEASON
Thankfully for the Chiefs, a horrible roughing-the-passer call on defensive back Brandon Flowers didn’t cost them the game.
After Smith’s game-changing interception return for a touchdown, the Chiefs appeared to have turned the momentum by forcing the Bills to punt on their next possession. But after a third-down pass by Tuel went incomplete, Flowers was called for roughing the passer, which gave the Bills a first down.
Just a horrible, horrible call.
Tuel was basically throwing the ball away and spun himself around slightly on his follow-through, slightly raising one of his legs in the process. Flowers, on a blitz, peeled off his route to Tuel to avoid any contact. Replays showed that Flowers might have just nicked part of Tuel’s extended leg ever so slightly.
If Tuel had been a punter, officials wouldn’t have even called that a running-into-the-kicker penalty.
Just a terrible call as officials continue to go to extremes to protect the quarterback.
No question that Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith didn’t have a great day (19 of 29 for 124 yards). But he didn’t get much help, either.
By my count, Dwayne Bowe dropped two passes, Donnie Avery dropped one and Dexter McCluster dropped a big one — what would have been a 57-yard touchdown.
McCluster got free when two Bills defenders collided and fell down, leaving him all alone. Smith put the ball right on the money but McCluster simply dropped the sure touchdown.
Again, the Chiefs were very fortunate such plays didn’t come back to haunt them.
Fullback Anthony Sherman has been needling coach Andy Reid all season about getting a carry on offense.
Sherman has had just one carry in the NFL, during his rookie season with Arizona. He gained three yards.
Well on Sunday, Sherman got carry No. 2, and he made it count. On a third-and-1 from the Buffalo 20, Sherman barreled into the line and got 2 yards for a first down.
Last week, Sherman got his first NFL touchdown.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.