As the Chiefs appeared to fix one problem on offense, they hope another that emerged Sunday doesn’t become a troubling trend.
Two possessions into the 24-3 victory over the Jets, the Chiefs had reached the end zone. The score, a 12-yard strike from Alex Smith to tight end Travis Kelce, was the team’s first touchdown in the first half this season and first since the opening weekend.
But after that, no end zone visits for the Chiefs offense, giving it one touchdown in the last two games as it travels to Pittsburgh for a Sunday night matchup.
The Chiefs came close to a couple more offensive touchdowns Sunday, with possessions that reached the Jets’ 3 and 6. But the Chiefs produced a total of three points from those drives, keeping the game within reach until the final minutes for the Jets despite a Chiefs defense that was on its way to a six-interception, eight-takeaway day.
“You’ve got to take care of business down there,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Those are things we can work on.”
The potential touchdown possessions didn’t max out for different reasons.
On the first, the Chiefs used a mix of short passes and Spencer Ware’s strong legs to grind to the 3. That’s where the trouble started. The Jets blew up a screen to Kelce for a 1-yard loss. An option pitch to Ware lost 5 yards, and after an incomplete pass off play-action the Chiefs settled for a Cairo Santos field goal.
“You’re at the (3) and you go backwards, you can’t do that,” Reid said.
Fortunately for the Chiefs, that Jets’ defensive stop was undone by their kickoff-return team. Anthony Sherman and Dezman Moses forced a fumble by return man Jalin Marshall that Demetrius Harris pulled out of the air and returned for a touchdown.
The lead was 17-3 when the Chiefs looked to break it open in the third quarter. From the 6, Ware headed for the right side of the end zone. Safety Marcus Gilchrist didn’t appear to do enough to stop Ware from stretching the ball to the pylon.
Touchdown was the ruling. Ware celebrated with teammates, and the Chiefs’ extra-point team took the field. But after a review, Ware was ruled to have lost control of the ball before it hit the pylon. The ball rolled out of bounds, and that’s a touchback, Jets ball on the 20.
Had Ware fumbled out of bounds at the 1, it would have been the Chiefs’ ball there. Instead, it went down as Ware’s second fumble in two weeks after not previously losing a fumble in his NFL or college career.
Again, the defense rode to the rescue. Eric Berry came up with an end-zone interception, the first of five straight Jets’ possessions that ended with a Chiefs’ pick.
But that didn’t make blowing those touchdown chances easier to accept, and it meant the Chiefs ended nine of their 10 possessions without reaching the end zone. After the game, Smith put it on his shoulders.
“I definitely had some opportunities out there that I could have taken advantage of,” Smith said.
The one touchdown scored by the Chiefs offense was its first since the opening game, and Reid saw other indications of improved play.
Smith turned in his best passer rating (105.2) of the season based largely on 25 of 33 completions for 237 yards and no interceptions. The Chiefs won time of possession.
“You could argue that this was one of the better defensive lines that we’ll play,” Reid said. “I thought the guys handled themselves well … but we have to do a better job there.”