From Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, New York
It was another weekend where the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs left the NFL shaking their head and wondering how this team has ever gotten to 9-0.
Andy Reid’s boys added another victory Sunday afternoon here in Western New York, beating the Buffalo Bills 23-13, and matching the best start to a season by any team in Chiefs history. They duplicated what the 2003 team achieved a decade ago.
That Dick Vermeil-coached team relied on its offense. Reid’s current edition relies on defense.
“Everybody was going to have to contribute, both sides of the ball and special teams,” said Reid. “Everybody did that.”
Scan the post-game numbers and it would appear the Chiefs defense was unable to get anything done. They allowed a Bills offense directed by Jeff Tuel, a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start, to rack up 470 yards. Running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson pounded the Chiefs for 241 yards on the ground. Buffalo did not give up a sack to the most productive pass rush in the NFL.
But what the Chiefs defense did was score, adding their fourth and fifth touchdowns of the season.Â Among K.C.’s Â 23 points, 14 came directly from the defense with CB Sean Smith returning an interception 100 yards for a touchdown and then OLB Tamba Hali, celebrating his 30th birthday by picking up a fumble and rolling 11 yards for another six points. An interception by FS Kendrick Lewis led to a Chiefs field goal.
“We got out-gained by a ton, but the turnovers and the score are kind of the important things,” said Reid. “Turnovers either created or lost, that’s what the game came down to.”
That’s because the Chiefs offense was bad, dangerously bad for a team with thoughts of making something happen in the post-season. They managed just 210 offensive yards, couldn’t break 100 yards rushing and did not score a touchdown. But QB Alex Smith and his group did not turn the ball over and that was a major difference in the game as the Chiefs finished plus-3 in the turnover ratio.
The outcome left the Bills 3-6 on the season, losing a game where they played the unbeaten Chiefs on nearly even terms.
“They’re an 8-0 football team, 9-0 now and we’re 3-6,” said Bills head coach Doug Marrone. “When it’s time to make the plays you have to make the plays and we didn’t do that. This one hurts.”
At the start of the game the Chiefs could not match the emotional level displayed byÂ the BillsÂ as they rallied around Tuel, who replaced the injured Thad Lewis, who replaced the injured starter E.J. Manuel. Reid’s offense knew it was going to be a long day when on the third offensive play of the opening series, Buffalo DT Kyle Williams simply blew past and through LG Jeff Allen and had his mitts on Smith almost before he could take the snap. The quarterback got the pass off to RB Jamaal Charles, but the playÂ was stopped for no gain.
The Chiefs punted and as the bodies flew around the field, Buffalo returner Leodis McKelvin zigged-and-zagged his way to what appeared to be a touchdown, something he’s done before against K.C.’s special teams (in 2012). But referee Ron Winter’s officiating crew threw the yellow hanky for an illegal block and the Bills offense took over at its 9-yard line.
It was not a great situation for Tuel to start the game, but he hit his first three passes and moved Buffalo into Kansas City territory. He should have been 4-for-4, but TE Scott Chandler dropped a third-down throw and the Bills gave up the ball.
OnÂ his next offensive possession, the new Buffalo quarterback took his team 88 yards on 6 plays, as Tuel threw his first NFL touchdown pass, connecting with rookie WR Marquise Goodwin on a 59-yard touchdown play. Goodwin beat Chiefs CB Marcus Cooper off the line of scrimmage and playing deep, Lewis took a bad angle from his safety position and was unable to get deep enough to break up the play. The PAT from K Dan Carpenter gave the Bills a 7-0 lead.
“Honestly, it was just good to get up on them,” Tuel said. “When I threw the ball, he (Goodwin)Â wasn’t looking yet and I was saying ‘just look, just look.’ I wanted to make sure he looked up and found it. That was my only concern because I felt like it was a good throw.”
At this point, the Chiefs defense was a bit wobbly and the offense could get nothing done. It took the first mistake of the game by Tuel to give them a shot; he overthrew Chandler down the middle of the field and the passÂ was picked off by Lewis, giving the Chiefs possession at the Bills 41-yard line with justÂ under 12 minutes to play in the half.
Smith directed the offense to the Buffalo 18-yard line and a 1st-and-10, but two passes to WR Dexter McCluster produced just 9 yards and WR Dwayne Bowe dropped one that was right in his hands. The Chiefs settled for a 27-yard field goal from Ryan Succop and they trailed 7-3.
Once again Tuel got his offense on the move and before the half ended the Bills were able to add a field goal, as Carpenter hit from 26 yards and they went to the half-time locker room holding a 10-3 lead.
It was only the second time in nine gamesÂ where the Chiefs trailed at intermission; the previous time was against Dallas in the second week of the season when the Cowboys led 10-7.
Reid’s defense was first up in the second half and they immediately gave up a 61-yard run to Spiller and a pass interference call in the end zone against ILB Akeem Jordan gave Buffalo the ball at the K.C. 1-yard line. On first down, Jackson was stopped for no gain. On second down, Jackson was stopped again for no gain.
On third down, the game changed.Â Still with the chance to score a touchdown and lead 17-3, or at worst hit another field goal and lead 13-3, Tuel tried to squeeze a pass into the end zone for WR T.J. Graham and didn’t seeÂ WR Stevie Johnson all alone in the back of the end zone.
Tuel’s pass landed inÂ Sean Smith’s handsÂ and he tookÂ off on a 100-yard return for a touchdown. Succop’s PAT tied the score at 10-10.
“As soon as the ball hit my hands, it was a touchdown,” Smith said. “No one on that field was going to catch me. I saw daylight, end zone and about four defensive linemen in front of me. When you see something like that, you’re not worried about nothing.”
Buffalo’s offense again drove into Chiefs territory, but stalled at the 36-yard line and Bills coach Doug Marrone decided to use fourth down for an offensive play. But instead of using either one of his two running backs that were chopping up the K.C. defense, the play call was a pass that was overthrown by Tuel because he was under great pressure from an all-out Chiefs blitz.
The Chiefs offense then hit its biggest play of the game, as Smith connected with TE Anthony Fasano for 20 yards to the Buffalo 39-yard line. Charles ran for 12 yards and then added 5 more, but Smith missed onÂ his next two passes and Succop came on and made a 41-yard field goal, givingÂ the Chiefs their first lead of the game 13-10.
Before the third quarter was over, the Bills tied it up again as Carpenter made a 30-yard field goal and the teams went to the final period knotted at 13.
That’s when the Chiefs defense struck again â on a 3rd-and-10 play from their 13-yard line, Tuel completed a pass to Graham for 3 yards. As he caught the ball and took several steps upfield, Cooper reached in and knocked the ball out of Graham’s arms.Â Hali picked it up and ran into the end zone for another defensive score.
Defense was the name of the game over the rest of the period, as the Chiefs were able to add a 39-yard field goal from Succop to set the final score at 23-13.
The Chiefs are now at their bye week on the schedule and the players will visit the facility on Monday and then be done until the next Monday, when they start preparation for their visit to Denver.
“The guys have been going for quite a bit of time with training camp and the nine games here,” said Reid. “I don’t think it’s a bad time. We’ve got a mature bunch and I think they’ll handle it the right way.”