Red Zone

Game report: Chiefs 23, Steelers 13

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Landry Jones tried to avoid Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston during the second quarter of Sunday’s game at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won the game 23-13.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Landry Jones tried to avoid Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston during the second quarter of Sunday’s game at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won the game 23-13. jledford@kcstar.com

First quarter

Key play: Pittsburgh running back DeAngelo Williams dropped a pass in a third-and-2 situation at the Chiefs’ 6-yard line. He was open and likely would have converted the first down had he caught the ball. The Steelers instead had to settle for a field goal.

Key stat: The first quarter was pretty even, as each team converted four first downs.

Second quarter

Key play: With the ball on the Chiefs’ 32-yard line midway through the second quarter, the Steelers elected to go for it on fourth-and-1. Outside linebacker Dee Ford made, perhaps, the biggest play of his young career by stuffing DeAngelo Williams behind the line of scrimmage.

Key stat: The Chiefs went 0-for-3 in the red zone in the first half.

Third quarter

Key play: The Chiefs’ defense again provided a spark when inside linebacker Derrick Johnson tipped a pass by Pittsburgh quarterback Landry Jones that was intended for receiver Antonio Brown. Safety Ron Parker ripped it out of Brown’s grasp, and Berry caught the deflection for the interception. This led to the Chiefs’ first touchdown.

Key stat: Berry’s interception was his first of the season, and the first he’s made since he beat Hodgkin Lymphoma.

Fourth quarter

Key play: Quarterback Alex Smith led his team on a crucial 8-play, 84-yard scoring march that culminated in a 6-yard touchdown pass to rookie Chris Conley that put the Chiefs ahead by 10 with 5:13 left.

Key stat: The Steelers converted 2 of 10 third downs (20 percent) on Sunday, while the Chiefs converted 9 of 16 (56 percent).

The grades

Rushing Offense

A

The Chiefs averaged a very-solid 4.8 yards per carry. Second-year back Charcandrick West rushed 22 times for 110 yards, cracking the 100-yard barrier for the first time in his career. His 1-yard plunge in the third quarter was also the first touchdown of his career. Also, after getting stuffed near the goal line in the first half, West helped ice the game on three straight runs to close it out in the fourth quarter. He did this, by the way, against a Steelers run defense that ranked sixth in the league entering the contest. Kudos to West and a much-maligned offensive line for getting the job done in crunch time.

Passing Offense

B

Alex Smith completed 21 of 32 passes for 251 yards. His 6-yard touchdown throw to Chris Conley helped clinch the game. He did not turn the ball over, but was sacked twice and hit seven times. You never want to see your quarterback get hit that much, but the revamped offensive line’s performance was still better than in weeks past. The Chiefs’ ongoing red-zone struggles fall primarily on the passing game, but Smith and his young receivers — who stepped up for him without Jeremy Maclin — still did enough to win the game, especially in the second half.

Rushing Defense

C

The Steelers averaged a robust 6.1 yards per carry, as Le’Veon Bell broke a 42-yard run and finished with 121 yards in 17 carries. But Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford did make an outstanding stop on a fourth-and-1 in Chiefs territory during the second quarter, so this grade gets a slight boost for that.

Passing Defense

A

The pass defense surrendered a 19-yard touchdown pass to Martavis Bryant that cut the Steelers’ deficit to 13-10 in the third quarter, but the Chiefs had a good day, overall, in this area. Former Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Landry Jones completed 16 of 29 passes for 209 yards and was intercepted twice, with one of them leading to the Chiefs’ first touchdown of the day. Jones was also sacked twice, with one leading to a crucial fourth-quarter fumble that helped Kansas City close it out.

Special teams

B

Cairo Santos made 3 of 4 field goals, with his lone miss coming on a 54-yard attempt. Two of his six kickoffs went for touchbacks, and Pittsburgh kick returner Dri Archer boasted a solid 29-yard average with a long of 38. Two of Dustin Colquitt’s three punts went for touchbacks, while the one that didn’t only went for 2 yards. De’Anthony Thomas has a 25-yard punt return while the Chiefs averaged 25.3 yards on three kickoff returns. Good day, overall, for Dave Toub’s group.

Coaching

A

Give Andy Reid credit for keeping his team motivated through a 1-5 start. They played hard Sunday and finally had a few breaks go their way. Offensively, the Chiefs’ red-zone struggles (and occasionally, the play-calling) can be maddening, but they finally broke through for touchdowns on two scoring drives in the second half. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton dialed up some effective blitzes and did a solid job.

Takeaways

Player of the game: Outside linebacker Tamba Hali, who entered the contest with one sack in six games, proved he still has something left in the tank, as his two sacks helped secure the win. Hali’s last sack resulted in a fumble, which was recovered by the Chiefs and allowed them to run out the clock. Hali also finished with five combined tackles.

Reason to hope: A five-game losing streak is a big burden for any professional football team, especially one with the expectations this one had prior to the season. The Steelers didn’t have Ben Roethlisberger, but this win provides some good vibes that were sorely, sorely needed.

Reason to mope: The Chiefs’ record, 2-5, will still make it difficult to reach the playoffs, barring a four- or five-game winning streak. But perhaps Sunday’s win proves these guys have more fight than they were given credit for.

Looking ahead: The Chiefs head to London to host the struggling Detroit Lions, 1-6. This is a winnable game, and the Chiefs should have some confidence going forward.

| Terez A. Paylor

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