The Lone Undefeated Team
By Eric Paolini
The Kansas City Chiefs have been very fortunate with the ease of their schedule. Week after week they have been able to win games over far inferior opponents. Through the first seven games, Kansas City's opponents have a combined record of 14-33.
There are a couple of teams on the schedule that are at least decent. The Cowboys were the first team to go toe-to-toe with the Broncos, the Eagles offensive ingenuity can cause problems, and the Titans have a pretty good defense. But all of those teams feature glaring problems (less so with Dallas). The Eagles defense can't stop anybody and the Titans had to start Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback.
With all that being said, the Chiefs were probably the luckiest in when they got to face the Texans when they did. 2013 has been a major disappointment for the Texans. Houston had to go on the road with their third-string quarterback under center, Case Keenum. On top of that, Keenum had to play one of the toughest defenses in the league that also features the best pass rush. Houston then lost Arian Foster and Brian Cushing to injuries during the game.
And yet, somehow, Houston made this game a battle. Houston's offensive line gave Keenum enough time to make plays that Texans quarterbacks just haven't made this season. Kansas City's pass rush wasn't as dominant as you would have expected going against a quarterback as inexperienced as Keenum.
Keenum averaged 10.8 yards per his 25 passing attempts. He had success while not dumping it off to avoid pressure. Two 42-yard completions will really boost that number.
But the Chiefs are 7-0 for a reason, cupcake schedule aside. When the game is winding down, they play lights-out football. The pass rush eventually got to Keenum bringing him down a total of five times. But none were as important as the final one. Tamba Hali strip-sacked Keenum inside Houston's 10-yard line with just over 90 seconds remaining. The turnover stopped the Texans comeback attempt before it ever had a chance to get going. With Houston lacking any more timeouts, Alex Smith was able to kneel three times to pick up the win.
The Chiefs defense had no choice but to play near-perfect defense down the stretch. The offense picked up their lone points on a Ryan Succop 22-yard field goal a handful of minutes into the third quarter.
Once again Jamaal Charles was the most important part of the offense. In every single game Charles has recorded at least 100 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. It's a feat that hasn't been done since O.J. Simpson did it. Kansas City also benefited from a wonderful Dexter McCluster performance. McCluster picked up 70 yards receiving on only 4 catches.
When it comes to the offense, this week was like every other. The offense was able to do just enough to win. Offensively, the Chiefs never struggle enough where it is all up to the defense. That is a talent that the offense should be commended on.
I now want to take a moment and talk about Andy Reid's two decisions that may or may not be controversial. They are the challenge and fourth down attempt early in the fourth quarter. To set the scene, the Chiefs have a one point lead and the fourth quarter just started. I mean, the fourth quarter literally just started. The Chiefs face second-and-goal from the 7 yard line. A completion to Anthony Fasano moves the ball to the goal line. Fasano is ruled down millimeters short of the goal line forcing third down. This is when Reid makes his first iffy call, he challenges the spot of the ball saying Fasano was over the plane. On one hand, I get the challenge. The upside is a touchdown, something you always want (an argument I will make again very soon). But you give up a timeout in a close game when you have two more opportunities to score a touchdown. All you need to is pick up less than a yard. Reid loses the challenge and the timeout.
Charles gets the carry on third down and gets stuffed at the line forcing fourth-and-goal from the one yard line. This is Reid's second decision that some may seem as controversial. A field goal here makes it a four point game forcing Houston to score a touchdown since a field goal would still make them a point short. However, a Kansas City touchdown forces it to 8 with the extra point which puts much more pressure on Keenum. At this point in the game, Keenum had only been sacked once. But you trust in your pass rush and defense, that even if you don't convert you're still in a powerful position. You get a quarterback making his first NFL start with a 99 yard field or an 8 point deficit against a top defense.
I think Reid went one for two on those decisions. I would have saved the timeout. It may have been Reid's worst decision on the season. He sacrificed a timeout when he could have just as easily scored on the next play with a quarterback sneak. Now, that didn't happen, but that shouldn't influence the decision before that information was known. But the fact that a challenge is one of the low points for Reid this season should tell you all you need to know about the 2013 Chiefs.
Maybe they've had a bunch of luck in the way the schedule worked out, but when it comes down to it, they are winning games.