The key plays, stats and grades from the Kansas City Chiefs’ 19-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
Player of the game: Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston had one turnover (a first-quarter fumble), but was otherwise impressive in leading his team to victory. Winston completed 24 of 39 passes for 331 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He also rushed five times for 22 yards and did a nice job extending some plays — and some drives — with his arm and his legs.
Reason to hope: Going to be honest here; not a ton of positives to take away from this one. The Chiefs lost to a team they should have beaten. If it’s any comfort, they were missing four of their most impactful players in cornerback Marcus Peters, receiver Jeremy Maclin, outside linebacker Dee Ford and defensive tackle Jaye Howard.
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Reason to mope: The Bucs aren’t bad, per se, but they are in year one of coach Dirk Koetter’s rebuild, and the Chiefs, who have been talking about the Super Bowl since training camp, had no business losing to these guys at home. It’s true that anything can happen on any given Sunday, but this loss will only make it harder to win the division and earn a first-round bye, which will be necessary if the offense can’t figure it out.
Looking ahead: The Chiefs, 7-3, will face the Denver Broncos, 7-3, in a road test at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Mile High. The game was flexed to prime time, and will be shown on “Sunday Night Football.” The Chiefs are 0-3 against the Broncos in prime time in the last three seasons.
Rushing offense: The Chiefs finished with 82 yards in 21 carries, an average of 3.9 yards per attempt, which is OK. Running back Spencer Ware rushed 17 times for 69 yards, while quarterback Alex Smith scored his second rushing touchdown of the season, courtesy of a season-long 11-yard run. But Tampa’s defense is fast but smallish, and the Chiefs probably did not pound the ball at them enough. The Bucs yielded 36 fewer yards on the ground than their average entering the game (118). That’s either on the offensive line or the play calling.
Passing offense: Smith completed 24 of 31 passes for 261 yards, which is right around the Bucs’ average entering the game (267, the 10th-most in the league). And while the offensive line generally did a nice job protecting Smith (zero sacks, only three pressures), and Smith did connect on some long gains to tight end Travis Kelce (44 yards) and receiver Tyreek Hill (42 yards), the red-zone interception was an absolute killer. Smith’s stat line looks okay — don’t forget Kelce also had a killer red-zone drop — and he actually finished with a higher passer rating than Winston (99.0 to 97.3), but the bar is higher for Smith and the offense in year four of the same offensive system, and they should be better than this.
Rushing defense: The Chiefs generally did a nice job containing running back Doug Martin, who rushed 24 times for 63 yards (a miserable average of 2.6 yards per carry). But the Bucs finished with 34 carries for 116 yards as Winston and backup running backs Peyton Barber and Mike James combined to rush 10 times for 53 yards. Throw in the fact the Bucs ran the ball well enough to set up some manageable third downs, and that they rushed for 12 more yards than their per-game average Sunday, and this was not a passable performance for the Chiefs. Either defensive coordinator Bob Sutton needs to put more guys in the box or defenders in the front seven have to do a better job consistently defeating blocks. Period.
Passing defense: Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in 2015, is only in his second year, but he showed the Chiefs why he was held in high regard coming out of Florida State. He completed 24 of 39 passes for 331 yards and a touchdown, and while he did have one turnover (an awkward first-quarter fumble of his own volition) and occasionally struggled with the strike zone, he did a nice job managing the game and making some throws when he had to. He was pressured five times, but was only sacked once. He also topped his per-game average (260) by 71 yards Sunday. Not good enough, Chiefs. Not by a long shot.
Special teams: Cairo Santos made his sole field-goal attempt, and punter Dustin Colquitt dropped one of his three punts inside the 20. Tyreek Hill had a 20-yard punt return, while De’Anthony Thomas averaged 21 yards on two kick returns. Not a ton to go off of here but no glaring errors, either. I’m settling on a “B” because I’m not giving an “A” after a lackluster home loss like this unless it’s truly been earned.
Coaching: Chiefs coach Andy Reid is a very good coach who inspires loyalty in his players by accepting all the blame when things go bad, so I’ll give the coaching staff the brunt of the blame after an unacceptable loss. Again, the Bucs aren’t a bad NFL team; they have some real talent and could be building something nice with Winston, but if the Chiefs are going to talk about the Super Bowl as much as they have been, they should be judged by a Super Bowl standard. And what you saw Sunday was not good enough — not even close. Specifically, the red-zone performance is a big concern, and not just Smith’s fourth-quarter interception. It’s safe to say the Chiefs saw something on tape that led to the unorthodox jet sweep to tight end Kelce on first-and-goal from the 4 early in the fourth quarter, but the play call (which resulted in a 5-yard loss) ended up being a disaster. The Chiefs also failed to adequately pound a vulnerable Bucs defense with the run, though Tampa Bay’s scheme and effort may have had something to do with that. But even if it did, the passing game should have been better against a secondary that was missing its best corner, Brent Grimes, for most of the game. Defensively, all you need to know is that the Chiefs forced an offense that has one dangerous receiver (Mike Evans) and a Pro Bowl running back who is still returning to form (Martin) to punt one time in the first 59 minutes of the game. That’s absurd. All that, plus the fact the Bucs surpassed their season averages on both offense and defense Sunday, leads to this grade.