Red Zone

Chiefs’ report card: Opportunistic defense, special teams earn high marks

Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson left Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick behind him as Johnson returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson left Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick behind him as Johnson returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. deulitt@kcstar.com

The key plays, stats and grades from the Chiefs’ 24-3 win over the New York Jets on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

The recap

Player of the game: Marcus Peters had two interceptions, but inside linebacker Derrick Johnson had a team-high 11 tackles and two pass deflections, not to mention a game-clinching interception return for a touchdown.

Reason to hope: The Chiefs forced an insane eight turnovers on Sunday, proving their defense can still be very good without outside linebacker Justin Houston.

Reason to mope: The offense fared better than it had the previous two weeks, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. When the defense forces eight turnovers, the offense should come away with more than 10 points.

Looking ahead: The Chiefs, 2-1, face the Pittsburgh Steelers, 2-1, at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Heinz Field. The Steelers are coming off a 34-3 loss to the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles.

Report card

Rushing offense: F

Spencer Ware rushed a team-high 20 times for 75 yards, an average of 3.8 yards per carry, but as a team, the Chiefs rushed 27 times for 72 yards (2.7 yards per carry) against a tough defensive front. They were also stuffed on fourth-and-1 in the Jets’ territory in the second half, and Ware’s third-quarter fumble on a diving touchdown attempt could have come back to bite them. The Chiefs were also stopped for a loss six times, compared to once for the Jets. Not good enough.

Passing offense: C

The numbers aren’t gaudy, but quarterback Alex Smith — who completed 25 of 33 passes for 237 yards and a touchdown — was efficient, posting a passer rating of 105.2. The passing game is not where it wants to be yet — again, the Chiefs should have scored more points — but he spread the ball around to nine different receivers as tight end Travis Kelce, with six catches for 89 yards, led the way. Smith was also sacked twice.

Rushing defense: C

The Jets finished with 117 yards in 22 carries (5.3 average) as running back Matt Forte churned for 65 yards in 15 carries (4.3 average). Those yards-per-carry numbers are a bit high, but the Jets never really broke a long run, and in the end, the Chiefs’ defense in this area was solid enough.

Passing defense: A

It’s been a long time since the Chiefs have earned a grade this high, this easily. The fact they forced six interceptions — including one that went for a score — easily saved a game that could have gotten away from them in the second half, since the offense spent plenty of time sputtering. Marcus Peters had two interceptions, and Derrick Johnson, Eric Berry, Daniel Sorensen and D.J. White each had one. The Chiefs failed to record a sack and only hit quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick four times, but that hardly matters in a game like this.

Special teams: A

Cairo Santos converted his only field-goal attempt while Dustin Colquitt dropped two punts inside the 20. The return units didn’t have a huge impact, other than Tyreek Hill’s 19-yard punt return, but Anthony Sherman’s forced fumble on the kickoff coverage unit led to a 27-yard fumble return by Demetrius Harris for a touchdown that staked the Chiefs to a 17-point second-quarter lead.

Coaching: B

The mark of a good coach is the ability to get things fixed. The offense got off to slow starts in the first two games, but the Chiefs jumped out to a 10-0 lead Sunday against the Jets, thanks to a strong defensive game plan by coordinator Bob Sutton and a balanced, multiple offense. The offense still has a ways to go — the red-zone and late-half play calling are sure to tweak glass-half-empty fans — but Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s team responded after a tough loss to Houston with gusto. Again, Sutton deserves credit for the Chiefs’ defensive success against a team that won 10 games last year.

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