Chiefs vs. Titans: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Kansas City
The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Tennessee Titans 26-17 on Sunday. With the victory the Chiefs move to 5-0 on the season, and remain tied for first place in the AFC West with the Denver Broncos—also 5-0 after defeating the Dallas Cowboys in a thrilling 51-48 shootout.
Kansas City was led by their defensive and special teams units, which scored 19 of their 26 points. The game was sloppy early, with penalty flags being thrown at an alarming rate. The Chiefs dominated the first half but came away with only two field goals and a touchdown off of a Titans specials teams miscue.
Kansas City now begins preparations for their game against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium on October 13. Without further ado, here are the roster report card grades for the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 5.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith is nothing if not consistent; steady efficient, and takes what is given to him. Which is why today's performance was surprising. Smith seemed to want to look deeper down the field, and take chances. His completion percentage was absurdly low at 51.3 percent, and he was picked off locking on to a receiver when the check down was open.
Smith took two major shots down the field, both 40-plus yard passes to Donnie Avery, and both despite being caught, overwhelmingly under-thrown. The vertical passing game isn't Alex Smith's strong suit, as anyone who has watched his game since he was drafted with the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft can tell you.
Smith is at his best being the consummate game manager, taking what defenses give him, and allowing his team to play the percentages with a ball control offense. I get what Andy Reid was trying to do, keep future opponents on their heels and give them something to think about in the vertical game from the Chiefs. However, given how poorly (albeit lucky) Kansas City's down-the-field shots were executed, they may have a reverse effect.
Opponents may look at Smith's inability to drive the ball down the field, and decide to stack the box on defense, playing only one high safety, and daring the Chiefs to beat them deep.
Overall Smith was effective, if far from superb.
Jamaal Charles continues to shoulder the burden of carrying the Kansas City offense with aplomb. Charles ran the ball for 108 yards on 22 carries, with only one big gain, a 19-yard run. While most might consider only one big gain run a negative, in this case it means that Charles was getting steady smaller chunks of yardage consistently.
Hypothetically, would you rather have your running back have a single 60-yard run and 20 single-yard runs, or 21 carries of four yards apiece? Obviously the smart football player would take the latter.
Charles also chipped in five receptions for 37 yards on nine targets.
Charles continues to be the lone steady reliable weapon on the Chiefs offense not named Sean McGrath, though he did lose a fumble in the game. Kansas City will continue to lean heavily on Charles and his production as they continue their quest for the playoffs.
The Chiefs did take a pair of downfield shots in the game, and while both were caught on beautiful adjustments from Donnie Avery, the underwhelming velocity on the throws highlighted the Chiefs lack of a vertical passing game.
Avery, who finished the game with three receptions for 91 yards on four targets, has been the Chiefs most explosive weapon. Kansas City continues to try to find ways to get him in space and create with his speed.
Avery's emergence as a threat in the passing game has helped to mask the disappearing act Dwayne Bowe has pulled ever since he signed his new contract this offseason. Bowe, a former Pro Bowl player, is averaging only 37 yards receiving per game, and what little he has done has been mostly garbage time contributions.
The Chiefs' other wide receivers have combined for a meager 16 receptions for 140 yards total on the year. Eleven receptions and 106 yards of which have come from Dexter McCluster alone. McCluster was held without a catch on the day.
The Kansas City receivers did make a few plays on the game, but there are far too many drops. They're having too many issues creating separation in the mid-passing game.
Before he went down with a knee injury, tight end Anthony Fasano seemed to be developing a solid rapport with quarterback Alex Smith. Enter Sean McGrath, the undrafted second-year man out of Henderson State University, a small school in Arkansas where enrollment is around 3,800 total students.
McGrath has been a revelation for the Chiefs this season. His blue collar work ethic on the field shows up every play, whether he's hustling for the extra block or fighting for extra yardage after the catch.
Despite having started only three games, McGrath is fourth on the team in yards and receptions this season.
With starting right tackle and rookie Eric Fisher out for the game due to a concussion, the Chiefs started Donald Stephenson in his stead. The rust from not having played extensively was evident as Stephenson was called for a pair of false starts and a holding penalty after being beat off the edge.
Kansas City's offensive line play has been shaky all season, and they surrendered another two sacks against the Titans. The line has improved in run blocking as the season has progressed, with possibly their best outing to date in Week 5.
Given the Chiefs' desire to maintain a ball control and field position-based offense, improved offensive line play will be critical going forward.
Kansas City defensive tackle Dontari Poe continues to make his case as the most dominant young nose tackle in the game. Poe chipped in another quarterback sack against the Titans, but his real worth can't be found in the box score.
Poe continues to eat up blockers, commanding double teams and getting gap penetration that is essential to the Chiefs attacking style of defense. Opposing offenses are having a difficult time scheming to stop the interior pressure Poe brings, while simultaneously keeping outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali from getting to the quarterback off the edge.
Poe's elevation of his game in his second season has been a critical factor on Kansas City's defensive dominance this season. Others may have better numbers on the stat sheet, but Poe is the defense's unquestioned MVP thus far.
Derrick Johnson continued his knack for being always near the ball, notching another five solo tackles against the Titans. Pass-rushing duo of outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali each got to Tennessee quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for sacks, and Akeem Jordan seemed to find him self assisting on most plays.
The Chiefs did have several wasted opportunities, one of which was getting into the backfield and getting hands on Fitzpatrick only to have him slip through their fingers. They also lost outside contain on the quarterback twice.
This Kansas City linebacker corps may be the best the team has ever seen, and each player complements the others' skill sets perfectly. We're a long way from the playoffs, but if this unit can remain healthy, I certainly wouldn't bet against their chances.
Rookie Marcus Cooper has been a welcome, if unexpected, surprise for the Chiefs. From recovering the Titans' punt return snafu for a touchdown, to intercepting a pass this week and playing beyond his years, Cooper has been phenomenal since he burst onto the scene in relief of the woefully ineffective Dunta Robinson in Week 4.
Cooper provides much needed depth as a nickel corner for the Chiefs, who seem to have solidified the outside corner spots with Brandon Flowers and Sean Smith. Smith, a Miami Dolphins castoff, has played well this season in Kansas City, and we've seen far less of the gambler's reputation he had previously acquired.
Safety Eric Berry continues to provide solid run support and defended two passes as well. Berry is another young player really coming into his own this season for the Chiefs. He struggles at times in man coverage, but has been much improved in that aspect of late.
Any team that relies on ball control and field position is going to place a heavy emphasis on quality special teams play. Kansas City Kicker Ryan Succop continues to be automatic inside of 50 yards, going 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts against the Titans, with a long of 48 yards. Succop is now 10-of-12 on the season.
Punter Dustin Colquitt had been nearly perfect on the season with his punting, but found himself shaking his head after he shanked a 6-yard punt out of bounds on Sunday. Colquitt didn't place a single punt inside the 20-yard line in six attempts for the first time all season. Colquitt had previously placed 58 percent of his punts inside opponents' 20-yard line.