The key plays, stats and grades from the Chiefs’ 29-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
Player of the game: Safety Eric Berry, the heart and soul of the Chiefs, had a monster game in his return to his home state, recording two interceptions and returning them both for points (eight total). Berry also recorded two tackles and a pass defensed as he continues to make a bid for a new contract after the season.
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Reason to hope: The offense built on the signs of life it showed last week against Denver, carving up one of the league’s worst passing defenses to win a road test against one of the league’s best offenses. The Falcons may boast the league’s top scoring offense, but the Chiefs’ nearly matched them in yardage (418 to 389).
Reason to mope: The Chiefs racked up a season-high 13 penalties for 128 yards, and even if some of those flags were questionable, that’s still too many. But, honestly, that’s picking nits; this was a really good win.
Looking ahead: The Chiefs, 9-3, will play host to the AFC West-leading Oakland Raiders in a critical showdown on “Thursday Night Football.” The Raiders are 10-2 following their 38-24 win Sunday over Buffalo.
Rushing offense: The Chiefs finished with 123 rushing yards, but 55 of those came on Albert Wilson’s fake-punt touchdown. Without that, the Chiefs rushed 21 times for 68 yards (an average of 3.2 yards per carry) against the league’s 10th-ranked rushing defense, which had been surrendering an average of 98.8 yards per game. The Falcons did a nice job of bottling up Spencer Ware (14 carries for 29 yards and a touchdown), but let’s face it; the Chiefs were always going to have to win this game throwing the ball, not running it, given Atlanta’s single-high-heavy defensive scheme.
Passing offense: The Falcons ranked dead last in passing yards allowed per game (282.2), and the Chiefs opened things up against a vulnerable and young defense. Quarterback Alex Smith (21 of 25 for 270 yards and a touchdown) generally looked great as the Chiefs used a ton of shotgun and dialed up some good concepts against the Falcons’ abundance of single-high coverages. Tight end Travis Kelce (eight catches, career-high 140 yards) also had a big day, recording 100-plus receiving yards for the third straight game. Smith was efficient and he took some chances downfield against a team that basically dared him to do so. His 10-yard throw to Wilson to ice the game was also clutch.
Rushing defense: The Falcons fared well on the ground Sunday, churning out 128 yard in 30 carries, an average of 4.3 yards per run. They rushed for more yards than their per-game average (108.4) entering the contest, but the Chiefs’ defense stiffened in the red zone, which was a crucial element in this big-time victory. Inside the Chiefs’ 20, the Falcons rushed seven times for a meager 12 yards but scored two touchdowns.
Passing defense: The Falcons ranked third in the league in passing offense (303.1 yards) per game, and they certainly slung it around in this one. Quarterback Matt Ryan completed 22 of 34 passes for 297 yards and a touchdown. But he was also sacked twice and pressured nine times. Safety Eric Berry intercepted him twice: once for a pick-six and another for a safety. Strong overall outing for this defense.
Special teams: Kicker Cairo Santos had his first extra point blocked, which is generally unacceptable. However, the special-teams guys made up for it early in the third quarter with Wilson’s 55-yard touchdown run on a fake punt. Neither team’s return game was much of a factor.
Coaching: Really good, really smart game plans on both sides of the ball. Kudos to the Chiefs’ coaches, who had their players well-prepared for a road test against a good team and consistently put them in position to make make plays. On offense, the Chiefs dialed up all sorts of stuff against the league’s worst pass defense, while defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s defense continued its bend-but-don’t-break style by forcing crucial takeaways and firming up when it mattered (in the red zone). The KC coaching staff, including special-teams coordinator Dave Toub, also had a really nice moment early in the third quarter when the Chiefs lined up like they were going to go for it on fourth and 2 at their own 45, forced Atlanta to take a timeout, and then dialed up a fake punt that led to a touchdown.