Before last Sunday’s bout between the Dallas Cowboys and the Kansas City Chiefs, fans and analysts set expectations for both of these offenses.
The Cowboys’ offense, led by the fifth-year veteran Dak Prescott, was then surging against an uninspiring Atlanta Falcons’ defense. Prescott dissected his opponents, tossing the football for 24 completions out of 31 attempts, almost hitting the 300-yard mark and three total touchdowns (two going to rising star CeeDee Lamb and one scored with his legs). The running back duo of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard complemented the passing game. Together, they ran the ball 25 times for 83 yards, with Elliott scoring twice.
The Chiefs’ offense already faced criticism for underperforming this season. While being ranked 11th is not all that bad, it’s no better than the last three seasons (ranked 1st, 5th and 6th from 2018-2020). However, against the Las Vegas Raiders, the Chiefs returned to their former selves.
Against Yannick Ngakoue, Maxx Crosby and a compelling Raiders’ secondary, Chiefs superstar Patrick Mahomes slung the football for more than 400 yards on 35 completions. He also found many of his teammates in the endzone, adding five touchdowns to his impressive performance.
Backup running back Darrel Williams had a monstrous game, combining for more than 140 yards and one touchdown. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce were a force in the middle of the field, combining for more than 200 yards and two touchdowns.
These teams looked to carry their momentum from their previous matches and anticipated a battle of two rising offenses. Football aficionados expected a high-scoring game with mediocre defensive performances.
As each drive passed, these assumptions were hurled out of GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
Here are some key takeaways from the Chiefs’ 19-9 win against the Cowboys on Sunday evening.
The defense showed off
No one expected the Chiefs’ defense to be the star of the show.
The trenches of this defense dominated against the Cowboys’ makeshift offensive line. Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones was the mover and shaker, notching 3.5 sacks, two TFL’s (tackles for a loss) and one pass deflection. He had one of his best games in weeks.
Defensive end Frank Clark and defensive tackle Jarran Reed also contributed, with Clark adding a strip-sack and Reed notching half a sack. It was a great day for the defensive line, but the linebackers also had a solid outing.
Before Sunday’s match, the Cowboys ranked fifth in rushing yards per game (139.6 yards). The Chiefs held their opponents to 82 rushing yards, thanks in large part to the linebacking core.
Rookie linebacker Nick Bolton sniffed out any open gaps, leading the group with four tackles and one tackle for loss. Bolton continues to prove that he belongs with the starting lineup, and Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will continue to play him on running downs.
Willie Gay’s speed and athleticism perfectly counter-balances Bolton’s strength and intelligence. This duo has the chance to be some of the best in their respective positions. While the linebackers found success stopping Elliott and Pollard, the secondary smothered the Cowboys’ wide receivers and even Prescott.
Cornerbacks Chavarius Ward and L’Jarius Sneed were isolated and thrived, each deflecting the football three times. Sneed also tackled Michael Gallup on an attempted screen pass in a fantastic read.
As always, Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu orchestrated his respective teammates. His injury designation concerned fans, as he is the vocal leader of the defense. Nonetheless, he still played and was one of the many reasons the Chiefs won.
This performance adds to the latest streak of Chiefs defensive dominance.
It’s time to take the defense seriously.
Keep feeding CEH
Last week, I wrote about how running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire would thrive after returning from injured reserve.
KC’s offensive line has a physicality and toughness that helped Edwards-Helaire weave through the Cowboys’ front seven. On 12 carries, he rushed it for 63 yards and one touchdown. His 5.3 yards per carry are impressive, considering that the Cowboys rank in the top 20 in terms of average yards per carry (4.4) and are in the top 10 in yards per game (103.7).
While the offense excelled in the run game (126 yards on 26 carries), Edwards-Helaire was the catalyst of that facet of the game.
The offense needs to stay consistent
At the beginning of the highly-anticipated game, the Chiefs had no trouble finding their stride during the first drive.
It took them nine plays to go down the field for 86 yards. The drive included the usual end-around for 33 yards by Hill, patience and remarkable execution. Once the Chiefs’ crept up near the endzone, head coach Andy Reid called one of his signature confusing-yet-whimsical plays.
The Chiefs drove down the field until they reached the Cowboys’ four-yard line. Mahomes and Williams lined up in a pistol formation. Suddenly, Mahomes motioned Hill and Kelce to the middle, and they lined up into a wildcat pistol set.
With Kelce set to receive the snap, Mahomes playing the part of the running back, Hill on the left side and Williams on the right side, the Cowboys’ defense looked confused. They weren’t sure whether they should cover a speedster, the big-bodied quarterback-turned-tight end, the big-armed quarterback or the semi-shifty running back. In the end, Kelce would take the snap and rumble down the middle for a Chiefs touchdown.
Following this drive, the Chiefs added two field goals and a touchdown to make the game 16-3. The offense found its rhythm early on. For a moment, a blowout was inevitable. The Chiefs followed up with two punts, a fumble and an interception.
While the offense did its job against the Cowboys’ defense, the unit, in general, must improve on its consistency. Mahomes needs to continue his patience while making intelligent plays deep down the field. Running the ball has slowly but surely worked.
The offensive line has shown its toughness. Receivers also have to stop dropping the ball. Even though Mahomes will make shoddy throws now and then, some ball-catchers have not made his life any easier.
Following a week of rest and a bye, the Chiefs will look to face the Broncos this Sunday, Dec. 5, in primetime.