Red Zone

Halftime observations: Chiefs 10, Bucs 9

Alex Smith ended the Chiefs’ lengthy dry spell without an offensive touchdown with an 11-yard keeper against Tampa Bay on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium
Alex Smith ended the Chiefs’ lengthy dry spell without an offensive touchdown with an 11-yard keeper against Tampa Bay on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium deulitt@kcstar.rcom

It’s halftime at Arrowhead Stadium, and the Chiefs lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10-9 in their Week 11 showdown. Here are some quick thoughts.

1. First thing I noticed today: Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin is running with way more juice than he did last week, when he managed a meager 33 yards on 16 carries and didn’t break a single tackle. If the “Muscle Hamster” is back to prime form, this is going to indeed be a dangerous game for the Chiefs. But it’s a good sign that the production hasn’t been there on the ground; he’s rushed 11 times for a mere 18 yards, though he did have an impressive 27-yard catch and run.

2. The Chiefs obviously miss Marcus Peters, who is sitting out with a hip injury. But things could be worse for their smallish group of corners, who are competing against Tampa’s supersized No. 1 receiver, Mike Evans (6-5, 231). Cornerback Steven Nelson got beat for a long ball by Evans, but he also broke up a jump ball fade that would have gone for a touchdown. Evans finished the half with two catches for 54 yards.

3. The Chiefs’ offensive playcalling continues to be curious near the goal line at times. On their first drive, the Chiefs dialed up a jet sweep to tight end Travis Kelce on a first-and-goal from the 4-yard line. It went for a loss, and on third down, quarterback Alex Smith threw a curl to Chris Conley 4 yards short of the goal line. The Chiefs ended up kicking a field goal. Andy Reid is a really good playcaller – and that’s the honest-to-God truth – but sequences like that must be frustrating to fans.

4. The offense redeemed itself a bit in the second quarter, though, when Smith scrambled from 11 yards out to give the Chiefs a 10-6 lead. It’s good to see Smith use his legs again; it gives him a playmaking element he’s been missing all season. He needs to use his legs if he wants to lead the Chiefs on a deep playoff run. Period.

5. Really interesting to see how the Chiefs used their edge rushers to start the game. Justin Houston, who is playing in his first game this season, retook his spot at left outside linebacker, opposite the right tackle, while Dee Ford moved over to the right side. Ford has accumulated most of his 10 sacks at Houston’s spot, so the move to the right side signifies a belief that Ford can duplicate that production on the other side. Just something to keep an eye on. By the way, the Chiefs need to get more pressure on Jameis Winston; they’re not hitting this guy enough.

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