The key plays, stats and grades from the KC Chiefs’ 29-13 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
Player of the game: Quarterback Alex Smith led the Chiefs to victory, completing 25 of 39 passes for 304 yards, one touchdown and a 96.5 passer rating. He also rushed four times for 13 yards and did a good job managing the game, making plays and avoiding mistakes.
Reason to hope: With the win, the Chiefs clinched the AFC West crown for the second straight season, something they’d never accomplished in their 58-year history. What’s more, the offense and defense continued to show signs of ditching the miserable form that plagued them for part of October and all of November.
Reason to mope: The Chiefs’ offensive line still needs to prove it can hold up physically against stouter defensive fronts in January. If it can’t, the offense will not only continue to struggle in the red zone, but also will lose its overall potency. The defense must also prove it can rush the passer enough to win against the NFL’s best teams.
Looking ahead: The Chiefs, 9-6, wrap up the regular season next Sunday in Denver, where they will face the Broncos at Sports Authority Field. The Broncos lost to Washington 27-11 on Sunday to fall to 5-10 this year. They’ve gone 5-4 in their last nine games against Chiefs coach Andy Reid, dating back to 2013, but have lost four straight to the Chiefs.
Rushing offense: Entering the game, the Dolphins’ run defense ranked 14th in the NFL, allowing 109.9 yards per contest. The Chiefs were right around that mark, finishing with 103 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries, an average of 3 yards per rush. Running back Kareem Hunt rushed for 91 yards on 29 carries, an average of 3.1 yards per run. That’s not ideal, but the Chiefs had their hands full with the Dolphins’ defensive line — particularly ferocious tackle Ndamukong Suh. If the Dolphins had faced the Chiefs in November, when the line wasn’t playing well, the Chiefs would have been lucky to rush for half of the yards they did Sunday.
Passing offense: Entering the game, the Dolphins’ pass defense ranked 15th in the NFL, allowing 222.6 yards per contest. Quarterback Alex Smith outdid that, completing 25 of 39 passes for 304 yards, one touchdown, zero interceptions and a passer rating of 96.5. He was also sacked once and hit five times against a pass rush that ranked 28th in the league (25 sacks) entering the contest. That’s a bit too much, considering the struggles Miami has had getting to the quarterback. One of those sacks, however, was made by Lincoln Prep grad and Kansas City native/former Mizzou star Charles Harris. Receiver Tyreek Hill led the Chiefs in receiving with 109 yards on six catches, and a handful of them were of the circus variety. He was outstanding. The Chiefs took care of the ball and generally made the Dolphins pay when they devoted resources to stopping the run. But their inability to score touchdowns in the red zone could eventually come back to bite them.
Rushing defense: Entering the game, the Dolphins’ run offense ranked 29th in the NFL, allowing 88.3 yards per contest. The Dolphins did worse than that Sunday, rushing 16 times for 59 yards and zero touchdowns, an average of 3.7 yards per carry. Running back Kenyan Drake, a breakout star during the last month, finished with 57 yards on 13 carries, an average of 4.4 yards per run. The Dolphins should have run the ball more — they really got some surge up front when they did — but statistically, the Chiefs got the job done. Kudos to linemen Chris Jones and Bennie Logan, who each had a tackle for loss.
Passing defense: Entering the game, the Dolphins’ pass offense ranked 20th in the NFL, with an average of 213.3 yards per contest. They did a little better than that Sunday, as quarterback Jay Cutler completed of 19 of 38 passes for 286 yards, one touchdown, zero interceptions and a passer rating of 83.9. The Chiefs did not sack him and failed to hit him, which is unacceptable despite the results. DeVante Parker led the Dolphins with five catches for 51 yards. Star wideout Jarvis Landry caught five passes for 51 yards. Jakeem Grant caught four passes for 107 yards, including a 65-yard catch and run in which the Chiefs did a poor job of tackling (that was a trend on Sunday). The Chiefs get a plus grade, considering the fact that the defensive game plan worked, but they definitely have some things to work on.
Special teams: Another nice day for rookie kicker Harrison Butker, who converted five of six field-goal attempts and passed Nick Lowery for the most in a single season by a Chiefs kicker (36). Dustin Colquitt punted only once, booting an impressive 49-yarder. Akeem Hunt averaged 25.3 yards on three kick returns against one of the league’s best kick coverage units. The Chiefs’ coverage units also did a nice job, as the Dolphins were held to 40 yards on three kick returns, an average of 13.3 yards per return, plus five touchbacks by Butker. The Dolphins did not return a punt. Nice job overall by special teams coach Dave Toub’s group.
Coaching: This grade will likely end up matching the season-ending grade I’ll give coach Andy Reid at the end of the year. He gets credit for winning the division for the second straight year, something this franchise has never done, and keeping this team together through a miserable stretch in which they lost six of seven games. And while you must account for the fact that stretch happened in the first place — the Chiefs could be looking at a first-round bye if they hadn’t stunk in November — there’s something to be said for the job he’s done in Kansas City overall. And on Sunday, there was more good than bad. The offensive and defensive game plans were solid, though you wish they could finish in the red zone and get after the passer better on defense. There were also some game-management decisions that didn’t work out, as Reid attempted to overturn an incompletion on a Tyreek Hill catch in the end zone and go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Dolphins’ 20 on the next drive. Neither worked, but neither really came back to bite the Chiefs, either. All in all, it was a good win that keeps their year-long goals alive.