Cowboys vs. Chiefs: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Kansas City
The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Dallas Cowboys 17-16 Sunday afternoon. The game was mostly sloppy and uneven on the offensive end, but it did provide some fireworks at times. Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant was virtually impossible to cover in the first half, racking up over 100 yards and a touchdown in the first two quarters.
Kansas City's defense continued playing up the high standard it's shown thus far, allowing the offense to chip away and get the win.
Now, I present the Week 2 report card.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith continued his steady, if unspectacular play on Sunday. Smith threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns, and he chipped in another 57 yards on the ground on eight carries. Smith had a relatively low 58.3 percent completion percentage on the day, though that number was deflated by the number of drops from receivers on the day.
Smith has shown through two games that he has ably stepped into the leadership role of this team. When the team couldn't run the ball early, Smith took off on designed runs, stretching out for yardage instead of sliding and protecting himself.
What he lacks in ability, he compensates for with athleticism and heart.
While this grade may seem a bit harsh at first, it holds up when you look at the tape. Part of the overall lack of production from the run game can be blamed on the play-calling, but most of it falls back on the running backs or, in the case of Sunday's game, the running back—Jamaal Charles.
Charles started the week on the injury report with a lingering foot injury suffered in Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Whether or not this contributed to his receiving a mere eight carries, which he turned into a paltry eight yards prior to the final Chiefs drive, is unknown.
Charles finished the day with 55 yards on 16 carries, doing an excellent job of salting the game away late, but wasn't even Kansas City's leading rusher on the day. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith led all Kansas City rushers with 57 yards on eight carries.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
The Chiefs wide receiving corps did a better job Sunday of creating separation than they did in Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. There was certainly a more concerted effort to get the ball to receivers vertically, as well.
The problem, however, was that the receivers were plagued by drops at critically inopportune moments. The Chiefs struggled mightily on third down, and no less than four of the nine missed third-down opportunities can be directly attributed to drops from the receiving corps.
The Chiefs' new-look offense is still a work in progress, but there are definite concerns that are becoming a pattern. Outside of Dwayne Bowe, the Chiefs are having trouble beating press coverage and haven't been able to develop a vertical threat that defenses will have to roll coverage on.
For most of the afternoon, the Chiefs offensive line was adept in giving Smith time to throw the football. They did, however, surrender four sacks and struggled early creating running lanes for running back Jamaal Charles. They also allowed a blocked field goal.
Especially concerning was the interior of the line, which allowed Dallas linebackers to come through virtually untouched, twice.
Kansas City is going to need a much-improved performance out of its offensive line going forward. The Chiefs can't afford to put Alex Smith at risk as their primary rusher when they're unable to generate yardage from the running backs.
The special teams lapses are incredibly disconcerting as well. It was a low-percentage blocked field goal in Week 2 and a punt that gave the Jaguars a safety in Week 1.
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Kansas City has an emerging young star in nose tackle Dontari Poe. Poe chipped in another two quarterback sacks Sunday and remained a disruptive force for the Chiefs throughout the game. The defensive line did an excellent job filling the gaps in the run game and kept the quarterback contained, a problem that plagued them prior to the season beginning.
Outside of the linebacking corps, it's tough to find a unit that is more integral to the Chiefs success this season. The defensive line has shown a much-improved attitude and aggressiveness over last season, and the results are showing on the field.
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While the Chiefs linebacking corps didn't record any sacks against the Cowboys, it did generate pressure and keep Tony Romo on his toes. They did well in quarterback contain, and outside of one run from Dallas running back Lance Dunbar, a run which showcased incredibly poor tackling, the Chiefs kept the Cowboys' run game bottled up as well.
While Tony Romo is an athletic quarterback, he's one who uses his legs to buy time for pass completion. The Chiefs face a different type of athletic quarterback, who is more dangerous to gain yardage with his legs, in Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. This performance should help build confidence in the Chiefs ability to keep Vick bottled up in their Week 3 matchup.
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On the surface, giving up over 100 yards in the first half to a single receiver would seem like a monumental defensive failure, but in looking over the tape, the Chiefs did an excellent job keeping everyone else on the field locked down. Romo had only one option, Dez Bryant, and he was ostensibly hobbled for the game on the injury report.
In the second half, Kansas City switched to bracket coverage on Bryant, and it slowed his production to a near standstill. Brandon Flowers struggled with man coverage but excelled in open-field tackling on the day.
The defensive backs unit also recorded a sack and a forced fumble on the day.
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The only thing that kept this grade from getting into the "A" range was the field-goal unit allowing the block on the 57-yard attempt. Punter Dustin Colquitt showed why he's the highest-paid punter in the league, routinely pinning Dallas deep in its own territory and changing the field position in a game that hinged on it.
The Chiefs have lacked, thus far, the explosive return ability they showed in the preseason on punts and kick returns. Given the offense's struggles in converting opportunities to points, the special teams unit is going to have to continue winning the field position battle and probably need to chip in some points on returns, as well.