Grading the Chiefs: Big first half paces 27-20 Week 1 Win

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Alex Smith threw for 243 yards and 3 TD – two to tight end Travis Kelce (6-112), Jamaal Charles gained 103 total yards; while the Chiefs defense recorded 5 sacks and sets up offense in redzone twice with turnovers in 27-20 win at Houston. The Chiefs (1-0), after punting on their first possession, led 27-6 after scoring on five straight possessions, and led 27-9 at half.

The Chiefs scored 14 points off turnovers. The first got the Chiefs off to a relatively quick start as rookie corner Marcus Peters’, in his first snap of a NFL regular season game, picked off Brian Hoyer on Houston’s first offensive snap of the game, which led to a Alex Smith 17-yard touchdown pass to Kelce two plays later. The very next offensive possession for the Chiefs, Kelce hauled in another touchdown pass from Smith when he was WIDE OPEN for a 42-yard catch and run to take a 14-0 lead (with a great celebration).

Alex Smith’s third touchdown pass of the day went to Jamaal Charles for a 6-yards on the first play of the drive, set-up by a Justin Houston sack and strip of Hoyer. Cairo Santos knocked in two field goals extending the Chiefs’ lead to 27-9 entering halftime.

Houston got a 4-yard Hoyer to DeAndre Hopkins TD to make it 14-6 (Randy Bullock missed the 38-yard XP). Bullock knocked in a FG right before the half to cut it to 27-9.

Andy Reid called the rest of the game very conservatively to preserve the win for the Chiefs. The defense played well all game, but the Texans eventually found some rhythm after pulling Hoyer in the 4th quarter in favor or Ryan Mallet, who brought the game back to within a touchdown leading two touchdown drives.

The Chiefs could not get a solid running game going all day, which I believed they needed to do in order to win the game. The team over came the running game drought and found success in the passing game, with short passes and actually throwing the ball down the field. Alex Smith and the passing game looked pretty sharp for the first game and that should help balance the Chiefs’ offense to allow Charles and Knile Davis to get more yardage on the ground the rest of the year.

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Report Card

Offense: B

Overall, I thought the offense did a pretty good job protecting Alex Smith, spreading the ball around the field, and being aggressive all around. For the amount of injuries along the offensive line, the Chiefs did a great job protecting Smith. Without Eric Fisher (who was ruled out, but was in uniform and then played a few snaps late) and Jeff Allen, Jah Reid and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif got the start and were solid for the lack of playing time they both have. Reid did get beat quite a few times from JJ Watt in the second half, but did a good job throughout the game. Not bad for a guy who was picked up after NFL cutdown Day. The line needs to work on their run blocking, there is no way the Chiefs will be able to win many games having under 100 yards rushing. You could see the difference having a solid receiver and route runner in Jeremy Maclin (5-52) makes for this offense, he is so savvy in his routes and footwork, and the Chiefs haven’t had this gifted of a receiver in quite some time. Also, Travis Kelce just keeps impressing and showing us all that he can be an All Pro type of tight end and play maker every year. Expect even bigger things the rest of the season from this potentially explosive offense.

Defense: B+

In the Chiefs Final Roster Prediction, I said that guys like Marcus Peters and Phillip Gaines were going to have to step up and make major plays in order to help win games for this team because of the suspension of Sean Smith. Both did. Peters had an easy interception on his first snap of his professional career, and nearly had another later in the game. Gaines had a few plays where he batted the ball down, preventing the catch, and even preventing a touchdown. If both Peters and Gaines play like they did this week, or even better, this defense will thrive. Next, the front seven and pass rush of the Chiefs’ defense played fantastic. With a total of five sacks and plenty of pressure on the QB, this is what this defense has to do week in and week out in order to win games. Houston was brilliant as usual and Derrick Johnson did not miss a snap and reminded us all of what we dearly missed with him injured all of last season. Jaye Howard also had a sack, rotating with Dontari Poe, which is a huge contribution coming off the bench. Allen Bailey had two sacks and refreshed our memory of why he is such a beast, that guy is an enormous monster who is going to have a big year. The defense forced just 14 turnovers in all over 2014 and did not get an interception from the secondary in the final nine games of the season.

Special Teams: A

There was no punt or kick return for a touchdown, but De’Anthony Thomas did a great job of giving the offense good field position by having a handful of solid punt returns (returns of 20, 17, two 16’s and 15). Dustin Colquitt did his thing, being the best punter in the league, and would’ve pinned the Texans on their 1-yard line 3 different times if Chris Conley and Tyvon Branch didn’t step on the goal line before making terrific plays by saving the ball before it entered the end zone. This, plus the Chiefs forcing two turnovers deep in Houston’s own territory, led to a huge average start position difference, as the Texas average start was their own 17-yard line. Meanwhile, the Chiefs started in Texans territory four times. Chiefs Cairo Santos went 2-3 on field goal attempts, missing only a 51-yarder (Chiefs probably should have went for it, up 18 on 4th/1 in the fourth quarter), who Reid surprisingly called him out in the post game. He will get it figured out, remember he had a horrendous start to his career last year but only missed a couple after the first couple games.

Final Thoughts: Overall, it was a solid all around game by the Chiefs, resulting in a win. There is a lot of work to do still in preparation for Peyton Manning and the Broncos coming to Arrowhead this Thursday night. The offense has to work on getting their running game going and being more aggressive the entire game. The defense also has to do a better job in coverage and continue working on their run defense. Coach Andy Reid will get the boys into shape and get to work this week in preparing for Manning and the Denver Broncos, whom the Chiefs have not beaten since Jan. 1, 2012.

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