By Cedric Williams
Even though they’d won five straight games to vault themselves into a first-place tie with the Oakland Raiders atop the AFC West, the Kansas City Chiefs hadn’t really played particularly well in all five of those games. In fact, some might say the Chiefs played poorly in several of them, but were lucky enough to somehow eek out wins.
Last week’s game against the Carolina Panthers was that way, with the Chiefs trailing most of the day, but then pulling off a series of sensational defensive plays late in the game that allowed the Kansas City to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat.
Sunday’s matchup at Arrowhead against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers appeared to be shaping up the same way.
The Chiefs fell behind early in the third quarter and Tampa increased its lead midway through the fourth, before Kansas City rallied to get close late in the game. Then with time running out, it appeared the Chiefs might have a chance to steal another win, if they could just get the ball back with enough time left to do something with it.
This time though, it just wasn’t meant to be, as Tampa ran out almost the entire clock before finally giving the ball back with eight seconds left. There were no miracles for Kansas City this time, as the Buccaneers held on for a 19-17 win.
And with the Chiefs being unable to steal another win, we didn’t find much reason to give out many high marks in our grading this week.
Sunday was just another lackluster performance for the Kansas City offense, which didn’t move the ball with any consistency at all against a Tampa Bay defense that came to town ranked 26th (or seventh-worst) in total yards allowed this season.
Quarterback Alex Smith did pass for 261 yards and scored a rushing touchdown on a nifty scramble when none of his receivers could get open. But against Tampa’s defense, the Chiefs should’ve been able to do even more and be much more consistent with how they moved the ball throughout the day.
The Chiefs defense had been pretty close to spectacular in recent weeks, but against Tampa QB Jameis Winston, Kansas City got carved up for most of the day.
Winston, the reigning NFL Rookie of the Year after Tampa made him the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, threw for 331 yards and a touchdown to lead the Buccaneers. His biggest completion though, may have come in the final minutes of the game, when Winston hit teammate Mike Evans on a key third down that became a Tampa first down, which allowed the Bucs to run down the clock to almost nothing before giving Kansas City the ball back at the very end of the game.
The Chiefs played without top cornerback Marcus Peters and Winston and the Bucs seemed to exploit that whenever they wanted.
Special Teams: B-
Kansas City’s special teams were actually pretty good on Sunday. Knile Davis, DeAnthony Thomas, and Tyreek Hill all did a fine job on kick and punt returns, while kicker Cairo Santos connected on all three kicks he attempted (two PATs and a 22-yard field goal on KC’s opening drive).
Unfortunately, Sunday turned out to be a day when the Chiefs could’ve really used something spectacular from its special teams, and though they were close, they just couldn’t get it done.
Tampa’s Winston is without question one of the best young quarterbacks in the game, but it still seemed like Kansas City’s previously excellent defense should’ve been able to give him more trouble than it did on Sunday.
Winston never seemed rattled by anything the Chiefs threw at him defensively. In fact, he seemed quite comfortable all day, especially since the Chiefs didn’t seem to pressure him much and only managed to sack him once.
And the struggles with the Chiefs offense has been a season long problem, which doesn’t seem to have any solutions in sight, especially with top playmakers like Jamaal Charles and Jeremy Maclin sitting out again.
Next Up: The Chiefs will play in next week’s Sunday Night Football Game of the Week, on the road against the Denver Broncos. Kickoff is set for 8:25 p.m. ET.