The Chiefs won their ninth game of the season here on Sunday, and there might not be a normal one in the bunch. This one came on a two-point conversion return by Eric Berry, who grew up down the road, returned two years ago to whip cancer at his parents' house, helping the Chiefs overcome 53 penalties for 834 yards*.
* These are estimates.
The column from the Chiefs' 29-28 win over the Falcons should be up in a few hours, and I'll get more into the details then, but for now it's worth a look at what this does in the bigger picture.
This was never set up to be an enormous game for the Chiefs. The game on what looks to be a frigid Thursday night against the Raiders is more important, for a lot of reasons, but one thing this does is stay one game back of both the Raiders and Patriots.
The Chiefs can take care of the Raiders themselves on Thursday, and win then would vault the Chiefs to the AFC's No. 2 seed — regardless of what the Raiders do against the Bills this afternoon.
But, if you're a dreamer, you probably noticed that Rob Gronkowski is injured and the Chiefs are only a game back of the Patriots. I'll go over the tiebreakers there later today, but for now, it's at least in play for the Chiefs to be the AFC's top overall seed.
▪ Alex Smith had the turnover, which was less than ideal, but he may have played his best game of the season.
If you want to include the disclaimer about the Falcons pass defense being bad, fine, but his passes were on time and in place. He gave his guys good yards-after-catch opportunities, went downfield when the chances were there, and generally had things moving on time.
One of his incompletions was one of the best throws all day, a beautiful ball on an out route that Chris Conley just dropped.
He had one terrible miss, the broken play where Spencer Ware was three steps behind the defense, and Smith missed the target by a few yards. That's no small thing. A decent pass would've been a touchdown there.
Without much of a pass rush against him, Smith could be more comfortable than he's been the last month or so, but still. Give the man credit.
▪ Travis Kelce was so good. You already knew that, based on his eight catches for 140 yards, including a ton of distance covered on his own — either with traditional yards-after-catch, or breaking tackles and doing it himself.
Kelce's production and inclusion have always been barometers for the offense's success. That might be even truer now, with Jeremy Maclin injured and the benefit of getting more defenders worried about short and intermediate routes, which creates more space for Tyreek Hill to do his jet-pack thing deep.
But he was also effective blocking. On the Chiefs' second drive, De'Anthony Thomas had a nice run around the left side that was opened up when Kelce took out two guys. Someone on Twitter noted it was like his approach in the reality show, which I never watched, but I assume this is a good joke.
▪ Eric Berry had a Marcus Peters-y first half. Beat by a few steps on a deep ball to Julio Jones, he dragged the receiver down for a 40-yard pass interference penalty. The Chiefs had a nightmare with penalties, eclipsing their season high in penalty yards (with 99) before halftime and Berry's was the worst.
He made up for it and then some with a 37-yard pick-six late in the second quarter. Berry now has three catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns this year.
He's having a monster season. That bet on himself to play this season under the franchise tag looks like a smart financial decision.
▪ Andy Reid, swashbuckler.
Chiefs went for two fourth downs, each very different scenarios, and I will always err on the side of supporting these decisions.
Every bit of research I've ever seen suggests NFL teams should go for 4th and short farrrrr more than they do, and the Chiefs, at least in theory, should be better at picking up fourth-and-short than most. Their offense is built on timing, and short gains, lots of horizontal stuff that stretches the field east and west more than north and south.
Loved the decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 in the first half, and I promise I'd feel the same way even if they didn't convert. They knew they needed points against the Falcons, and at that point, the worst case scenario is that the Falcons take over inside their own 5.
The second was fourth-and-short near midfield early in the second half, when the snap went directly to Albert Wilson, who ran right up the middle for a long touchdown. Dave Toub is one of the best in the business, and he must've seen some tendencies from the Falcons that he could exploit like this.
Bonus: Albert Wilson somersaulted into the end zone, and was not flagged. Remember the Chiefs got flagged for an end zone somersault in the preseason. I'd love it if this was a decision by the league that America's youth will not be irreparably harmed by seeing athletes celebrate in sports, but you and I both know the refs just missed it.