Red Zone

Chiefs report card: Plenty of Bs to go around in Chiefs’ win over Saints

Chiefs running back Spencer Ware picked up a first down before he was knocked out of bounds by Saints safety Vonn Bell in the second quarter of Sunday’s game at Arrowhead Stadium. Ware ran for 77 yards and also caught a touchdown pass.
Chiefs running back Spencer Ware picked up a first down before he was knocked out of bounds by Saints safety Vonn Bell in the second quarter of Sunday’s game at Arrowhead Stadium. Ware ran for 77 yards and also caught a touchdown pass. jsleezer@kcstar.com

The key plays, stats and grades from the Chiefs’ 27-21 win over the New Orleans on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

The recap

Player of the game: Safety Daniel Sorensen had a great day, recording six tackles, a sack, an interception and a pass deflection.

Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen scored the first pick six of his career against the Saints on Sunday, but his son slept through the play.

Reason to hope: The defense continues to make enough stops to win, and it doesn’t even have its best defensive player in Justin Houston. Also, the immediate schedule (Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Carolina) for the next few weeks is not exactly daunting.

Reason to mope: The offense still isn’t purring, per se, as it appears the Chiefs are still trying to settle on their offensive identity for 2016. Receiver Jeremy Maclin (four catches for 40 yards) and tight end Travis Kelce (two catches for 24 yards) need to get more involved.

Looking ahead: The Chiefs, 4-2, have a road test Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, 3-4. Lucas Oil Stadium, of course, is the site of their wild-card collapse nearly three years ago.

Report card

Rushing offense: B

Spencer Ware ran hard and efficiently, totaling 77 yards in 17 carries for a 4.5-yard average. As a team, the Chiefs rushed 28 times for 112 yards, a decent average of 4.0 yards per carry. You can argue it should have been higher against the league’s 26th-ranked run defense, but the Saints might have been stacking the box at time to force the Chiefs to pass.

Running back Spencer Ware discusses how he makes up for less-than-elite speed on the field.

Passing offense: B

Alex Smith completed 17 of 24 passes for 214 yards. He threw touchdown passes to Ware — a 46-yard catch-and-run off a tunnel screen — and Tyreek Hill, on an impressive one-handed catch on a go ball. Smith completed passes to at least 10 different receivers, which shows remarkable balance, did not throw an interception and was not sacked. But explosiveness is still missing from the passing attack, and the group has not reached its ceiling.

Rushing defense: C

The Saints rushed 22 times for 104 yards, an average of 4.7 yards per carry. That’s too high. Mark Ingram rushed 16 times for 62 yards — a 3.9 average — but Tim Hightower was more efficient, rushing five times for 39 yards. The Saints were 29th in rushing entering the game, so this would have been a subpar defensive performance if it wasn’t for the crucial forced fumble in the second half.

Passing defense: B

Drew Brees had a nice statistical game, completing 37 of 48 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns. However, he also threw a pick-six to Sorensen that gave the Chiefs the lead in the first half. Sorensen also recorded the Chiefs’ sole sack of Brees. Receiver Michael Thomas had a big day, catching 10 passes for 130 yards, while Brandin Cooks (seven for 58) and Ingram (four for 20) caught touchdown passes. But at the end of the day, the Chiefs’ defense got enough stops when it mattered.

Special teams: A

The Saints successfully took the Chiefs’ dangerous returner, Tyreek Hill, out of the game with touchbacks and letting punter Thomas Morstead boom sky-high punts that weren’t returnable. Hill registered a single punt return for 0 yards. Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt was also solid, while gunner Demarcus Robinson made a nice shoestring tackle on a punt to down the Saints inside the 5-yard line. Kicker Cairo Santos boomed five touchbacks and also kicked crucial field goals of 39 yards and 41 yards in the second half. A solid overall day for special-teams coach Dave Toub’s units.

Coaching: B

Coach Andy Reid’s late-game play calling can be picked apart some; his end-around to Hill — who went out of bounds with 2:26 left and could have helped give the Saints’ dangerous offense the ball with plenty of time to take the lead — would have been disastrous if Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley didn’t bail them out with a bad penalty. However, Reid’s offense generally took advantage of a weak defense, though it was outgained 463 to 326, and was effective enough to get the win. The Saints were also less disciplined — committing 10 penalties to the Chiefs’ four — and it’s worth noting the Chiefs also won the turnover battle 2-0. Both reflect coaching, at least a bit.

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