The Chiefs’ defense, for the first time in a season in which the biggest questions revolve around the defense, played championship-level defense.
We can cherry pick some stats to shoot holes here, particularly the run defense, but the Jets have one of the league’s best offenses. They scored 59 points in their first two games, and hadn’t scored fewer than 17 since Todd Bowles and Chan Gailey arrived last year.
They have a good enough line, a load of talented receivers, a savvy running back, and strong-armed quarterback who likes to throw deep. The Jets are not the Patriots, or the Panthers, or the Cardinals — or, ahem, next week’s opponent, the Steelers — but this is one of the league’s better offenses and just had it shoved down their throat.
The pass rush is still an issue — no sacks — but the defensive line and some blitzes helped enough, and the coverage did the rest. They intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick six times, including three times in the end zone, and did not allow a touchdown for the first time this season.
The test will be much more difficult next week, in a primetime game against Big Ben and Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh, but I honestly did not know if the Chiefs’ defense was capable of a game like this against a good opponent.
▪ The Chiefs did an OK job on Jets’ great defensive linemen on the first drive. Mitch Morse got called for a hold on Steve McLendon, but other than, did fine. Success running the ball.
▪ Quarterback Alex Smith cost the Chiefs three points on the first drive, taking a sack he just can’t take that pushed the Chiefs out of field goal range. He’s been doing too much of that this year. The decisions don’t seem as quick, or certain, as in the past. One of the biggest reasons the Chiefs won 11 games in a row last year was Smith’s ability to feel the pocket, and know exactly when he needed to get rid of the ball or scramble. He just hasn’t been doing that this year. It was a huge problem last week in Houston.
▪ Overall, however, I thought Smith was pretty good. Not very good, and maybe these are semantic differences that I’ll clarify with more time to think about it and another look at the game, but with a few exceptions his passes were accurate and his mistakes both few and small. It was kind of the ultimate Alex Smith game, actually — he won the game, and certainly didn’t do much to keep his team from winning, but critics with Aaron Rodgers in their eyes can pick out enough bad, too.
▪ Marcus Peters is everything. His first interception was instincts, strength, ball skills and confidence. He took advantage of a weak throw, Ryan Fitzpatrick going off the back foot — which is part of the scouting report on him — against a collapsing pocket. Peters will get the credit for the play, and he should, but the defensive line and a blitz call by Bob Sutton provided a nice assist.
▪ The second one was more of a right-place-right-time situation, but Peters sure has a knack for doing that. Including the playoffs, that’s now 15 interceptions in 21 games, which is kind of ridiculous.
▪ I thought the Chiefs went away from tight end Travis Kelce for too long last week in Houston. His touchdown in the first quarter is the kind of thing most offenses don’t have, and most defenses can’t stop. Jets linebacker Darron Lee had a step on Kelce when the reception was made, but Kelce just outran him to the corner. Loved the dance, too, whatever the hell that was.
▪ Kelce is the one player the Chiefs have who is a mismatch, virtually no matter what. As talented as Spencer Ware and Jamaal Charles are, there are running backs who can make plays in a lot of different ways. In a Gronk-less world, Kelce would have a case as the best tight end in football, and we saw more of that in the third quarter when he beat safety Calvin Pryor on a quick slant, sprinted across the field, and absolutely trucked safety Marcus Gilchrist for a 42-yard gain. More of that, Chiefs.
▪ Sure looked like Bilal Powell’s second-quarter fumble was going to get overturned on review, but this is 100 percent accurate: whenever the replay looks clear, and the officials take way longer than you think they should, they always make the opposite call of what you expect. That’s NFL logic, homes.
▪ If you wanted to know why Andy Reid is a good coach and also endlessly frustrating for fans of his teams, you could do worse than the second quarter drive that ended in a field goal. It was the full Reid creativity — they went from five-wide to the I-formation on consecutive plays, and later went with four tight ends. But when the Chiefs got to first and goal from the three, with Spencer Ware on the payroll, Reid called a tight end bubble screen and short-side option that predictably pushed them back to the 10. Then, since they were third and goal from the 10, a play-action rollout that took far too long to develop. Reid knows more about football than you and I put together multiplied by a hundred, but sometimes the stuff just isn’t this complicated.
▪ Eric Berry had a really nice game, from what I could see. A couple plays really stood out, the first two Brandon Marshall: a chase down and tackle on third down to force a punt on the Jets’ first possession, and terrific coverage in the end zone late in the second quarter, again on third down. The Jets got inside the 20 again late in the third quarter, and Berry made two more good plays — a near one-handed interception that broke up a pass to Eric Decker, and an actual two-handed interception off a deflection from Derrick Johnson.
▪ This is on repeat, I think, now three weeks in a row: every time Tyreek Hill takes a return, I feel like it’s 50-50 he’s going to score. On the Jets’ kickoff late in the second quarter, he was tackled at the 16, but you could see the opening that convinced him to bring it out and try. Half-step from breaking it, too. But the one after halftime, yeah, gotta do better than that.