The Kansas City Chiefs used an opportunistic defense, some hard-hitting late-game running from Jamaal Charles, and another solid and tough performance from quarterback Alex Smith, to beat the Dallas Cowboys 17-16 Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City raised their 2013 record to 2-0, which ties their win total from all of 2012.
Smith threw for 223 yards and for the second straight week, two touchdowns with no turnovers. More impressive, he rushed for a career-best 57 yards, most of which came on the first scoring drive. Smith opened the game as a virtual one-man team, accounting for all 77 yards with his arm or his legs.
With the game on the line in the 4th quarter, Charles dominated the line of scrimmage. The speedy back totaled 103 yards rushing (55 yds) and receiving (48 yds) with a first quarter touchdown catch. But he looked more like former Chief, Christian Okoye, in the fourth quarter when the team needed to grind out the game clock. His hit on Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne, where he leveled him with a well-placed shoulder, will be watched by Chiefs fans for a long time.
Unfortunately for the two quarters in between Smith and Charles’ heroics, the Chiefs offense got a first-hand look at the new and vastly improved Cowboys defense, which harassed Smith every time he dropped back to pass, and clogged up all the rushing lanes for Charles. The Chiefs MVP during the second and third quarters was punter Dustin Colquitt, who pinned the Cowboys deep in their own territory with several outstanding kicks.
Most importantly, the defense once again played like a championship unit, holding the high-powered Cowboy offense to just one touchdown on the day and three field goals. The defense played well despite Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers being absolutely owned by Cowboys WR Dez Bryant. The talented wideout torched Flowers early and often in the first half and went into the locker room at halftime with 5 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown.
While Flowers struggled, Dontari Poe was a force for the Chiefs defense early. After playing a great game last week, Poe added two more sacks to his total and brutalized Dallas’ rookie center, Travis Frederick, early in the game. Poe helped shut down the Cowboys running game to the tune of 37 yards on 16 carries, and average of 2.3 yards per carry.
The Chiefs coaching staff made some adjustments in the second half for covering the Dallas receivers and, combined with the Dallas coaching staff suddenly ignoring Bryant at critical times during the game, the Chiefs held one of the NFL’s most potent offenses to 16 points. The Chiefs also forced Dallas into two costly turnovers in the second half and made the fourth quarter as exciting a 15 minutes of football that Arrowhead has seen for a while.
After beating the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road last week, Head Coach Andy Reid and his players were still being questioned as to how good they might be this season. After all, the Jaguars were the second-worst team in the NFL in 2012 – of course, the Chiefs were the WORST team, but their critics last week seemed to ignore that fact. The Cowboys forced the Giants into 6 turnovers in their win, but were roundly criticized for not turning the game into a blowout.
Both teams took the field Sunday with something to prove, but it was the hometown Chiefs who made the first impression even before the opening kickoff. Reid decided to play up the “Sea of Red” theme that he thought made Arrowhead a tough place to play and he wanted to signify a new era of Chiefs football. So he asked owner Clark Hunt for permission to let the team wear all-red uniforms instead of the red jerseys and white pants the team has been wearing since being in Kansas City. Whether the color scheme helped the players on the field is debatable, but it got the hometown crowd amped up and the players obviously benefitted from the extra energy against a quality opponent.
The Chiefs can enjoy their victory tonight, but then they have to get ready for a short work week and an emotional time for their head coach as they head out to Philadelphia to play Reid’s former Eagles squad on Thursday night.
Philadelphia lost at home 33-30 to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday and have a 1-1 record. Eagles head coach, Chip Kelly’s new spread offense has put 63 points on the scoreboard in the first two games, but the Eagle defense has been just as spectacularly bad, giving up 60. In contrast, the Chiefs have scored 45 points in their two game, but the defense has only given up 18.
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