Chiefs vs. Bills: Full Roster Report Card for Kansas City
The Chiefs were on the ropes, about to go down 17-3, when Chiefs defensive back Sean Smith intercepted Bills rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel and returned it 100 yards for the score. The interception provided a spark for a Chiefs team that came out flat to start the game.
Kansas City capitalized on the Bills' turnovers and inability to convert on third and fourth down and built a 10-point lead that Buffalo was simply unable to overcome.
Here is your roster report card for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith had yet another game where he guided the offense efficiently and effectively, and he didn't turn the ball over. While the box score may not portray Smith's game favorably, it doesn't tell the whole story.
Smith threw four deep balls to open receivers that were misplayed, sloppily played or outright dropped. Dexter McCluster dropped a wide-open pass that would have set the Chiefs up for a field goal at the end of the first half—instead they were forced to punt.
Kansas City needs Smith to be able to stretch the field vertically down the stretch so it doesn't become one-dimensional to opposing defenses. Smith showed he could do that Sunday, if his receivers can hang on to the football.
The Bills defensive plan seemed centered around taking Jamaal Charles away. It certainly worked in the passing game. Charles finished the game with six receptions for six yards, on seven targets.
In the run game Charles was mostly a non-factor, though that was less the Bills defense's doing and more head coach Andy Reid barely using him. The Chiefs had attempted 24 passing plays at the half and seven rushing plays. One of which was a short-yardage conversion by fullback Anthony Sherman.
Charles really was only used to salt the game away in the late fourth quarter, where he picked up the bulk of his attempts and yardage.
Dwayne Bowe has come under fire for his lack of production since signing a big contract this past March. For the first time the season, Bowe looked like an actual part of the game plan, and not an afterthought.
Kansas City came out targeting Bowe early and often, and he ended up with 67 yards on seven receptions and 12 targets. Bowe is going to have to step up his play for the Chiefs stretch run, if they hope to make a dent in the playoffs.
Dexter McCluster caught only two of the four balls thrown his way, including the massive drop near the end of the first half. McCluster has been the primary slot weapon this season, and the Chiefs simply cannot afford critical drops in the vertical passing game.
Donnie Avery finished with three receptions for 22 yards and was targeted five times. Avery needs to be a bigger factor opposite Bowe and help draw defenses deep so the Chiefs can more effectively use tight end Anthony Fasano underneath.
The Chiefs tight ends barely factored into the game against the Bills. They were used extensively to block in pass protection, catching only one ball in the entirety of the game. Anthony Fasano took the ball 20 yards in the open field on the lone reception, but other than that, the tight end group was nearly silent the remainder of the game.
The Chiefs offense line played much more cohesively as a unit against the Bills. The line allowed Alex Smith to be sacked only twice and generated a good push up front in the run game.
There were several penalties called against the line, including a pair of false starts. False starts are to be expected when you're coming off a three-game homestand and need to re-acclimate to hostile crowd noise, however.
There were definite signs of progress this week.
For the second week in a row, the Chiefs struggled to generate much push out of the defensive line. Whether the few bumps and bruises are slowing the unit down, or they've hit a wall or they're simply playing better offensive lines, the unit as a whole has experienced a noticeable drop-off.
Dontari Poe and Mike DeVito did an excellent job disengaging and getting after the Bills running backs, which rolled Kansas City up for 241 yards.
Week 9 marked the first week of the season that the Kansas City Chiefs failed to register a sack. Justin Houston and Tamba Hali were effectively neutralized off the edge by Buffalo's quick passing game and commitment to the run.
Derrick Johnson was his usual sideline-to-sideline tackling machine. Overall, though, the unit as a whole was solid but not great. Hali did score a touchdown after defensive back Marcus Cooper stripped a Bills receiver of the football.
Despite being burned early for a touchdown by Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, Chiefs defensive back Marcus Cooper stayed at it. He ended the game leading the chiefs with three passes defended, including a critical touchdown-saving pass in the end zone.
Cooper also contributed a forced fumble when the Bills were backed up deep in their own territory, stripping Bills wide receiver T.J. Graham of the football. Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali then picked up the ball and scored a touchdown.
Kansas City cornerback Sean Smith also had a big game. The Chiefs defense, faced with a 3rd-and-goal from the 1-yard line situation, dropped Smith back into a disguised zone where he picked off Bills quarterback Jeff Tuel and returned the ball 100 yards for a game-tying touchdown.
Brandon Flowers and Kendrick Lewis led all Chiefs defenders with six solo tackles apiece, while Eric Berry chipped in three solo and three assisted tackles of his own.
If you want to play a ball-control offense and rely on your defense to generate turnovers, then you need solid special teams players to flip field position and make the long field goals. Kansas City wants to do this, and has both.
Kicker Ryan Succop was perfect on the day, hitting on all three field goals tries with a long of 41 yards. Succop has only three misses on the year; all three were attempts of over 50 yards.
Punter Dustin Colquitt continues to flip the field position on the Chiefs' opponents. Colquitt averaged 52.8 yards per punt over six punts, which was 17 yards more than his Buffalo counterpart.