Key play: Alex Smith threw an 11-yard touchdown strike to Jeremy Maclin between three defenders to give the Chiefs a 7-0 lead.
Key stat: The Chiefs dominated time of possession 11:51 to 3:09.
Key play: Daniel Sorensen blocked a field-goal attempt just before halftime to preserve a 17-3 Chiefs left.
Key stat: The Browns went 1 for 5 on third downs in the first half.
Key play: Facing fourth and 8 on their own 22-yard line, the Browns converted a fake-punt run by defensive back Jordan Poyer that extended a 21-play, 62-yard scoring drive.
Key stat: The Chiefs possessed the ball for only 3 minutes, 48 seconds in the quarter.
Key play: Johnny Manziel’s final pass of the game was an 14-yard completion that got the Browns to the Chiefs’ 18-yard line, but time ran out before the Browns could run another play.
Key stat: The Chiefs gained only 58 yards in the second half.
Quarterback Alex Smith completed 15 of 22 passes for a season-low 125 yards. He was also intercepted once. Smith did have some nice moments, particularly on touchdown throws to Travis Kelce and Jeremy Maclin, but the passing offense wasn’t very dynamic and needs to improve in the playoffs.
The Chiefs rushed 27 times for 136 yards for a solid 5 yards per carry. Smith did his part, rushing six times for 54 yards. But the Chiefs couldn’t move the ball when they needed to in the second half against one of the league’s worst run defenses, which wore the defense out.
The Chiefs didn’t sack Johnny Manziel once, but that’s not as big a deal as it would normally be with a less-mobile quarterback. The Chiefs “mush rushed” Manziel in an effort to keep him in the pocket, and he only completed 13 of 32 passes for 136 yards. He was also intercepted once and finished with a quarterback rating of 40.6. That’s a pretty solid day for the pass defense.
This isn’t going to get the job done. The Chiefs’ run defense was gashed for 232 yards in 36 carries, an average of 6.4 yards per carry. When running back Isaiah Crowell wasn’t hurting them on outside zone plays, Manziel was making plays with his feet, finishing with 108 yards in 11 carries. Expect the Chiefs’ run defense to be shored up whenever Tamba Hali and Justin Houston return from their injuries.
The Chiefs’ Daniel Sorensen blocked a field goal, which was good — and crucial, it turns out. They also surrendered a fake punt and had a block-in-the-back penalty during a kick return that backed them up in the middle of the fourth quarter, which was bad. Punter Dustin Colquitt struggled some in the wind.
This game was closer than it should have been, and some of that is due to coaching. Offensively, the Chiefs ran only 14 plays in the second half. Coach Andy Reid attributed this to a desire to run the ball on a bad run defense, which is sound, but the play-calling, overall, was very cautious. For instance, everyone saw the third-down screen to Kelce late in the fourth quarter coming a mile away. Reid, however, does get credit for a second-quarter challenge that eliminated a first-down run by Duke Johnson and forced the Browns to settle for a field goal. Defensively, there was a lack of aggressiveness that was largely due to Manziel’s mobility. The Chiefs played too soft sometimes, but Manziel’s terrible passing numbers are a reflection of their desire to keep him in the pocket.
Player of the game: Not an overwhelming option, but Alex Smith made a pair of nice throws on his touchdown passes and did a good job managing the game.
Reason to hope: The Chiefs made the playoffs for the second time in three years, and they did so by rallying from a 1-5 record. That’s pretty unique, and special.
Reason to mope: The offense has been very conservative the last two weeks, and the defense got gashed on the ground for the first time in a while. Both areas need to be tightened up before the playoffs.
Looking ahead: The Chiefs will finish their regular season against the Raiders next Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. With a win, the Chiefs would set a single-season record for consecutive victories with 10.