The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Tennessee Titans Sunday in a sloppily played, heavily penalized game. The Chiefs move to 5-0 on the season, while the Titans drop to 3-2.
Both teams struggled to sustain drives, though Tennessee was playing with backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who started in place of the injured Jake Locker.
Despite the win, the Chiefs still have several areas of improvement going into their Week 6 game against the Oakland Raiders.
Here are the takeaways from Sunday's game against the Titans.
The Chiefs finished with one third-down conversion for the game, on 12 third-down attempts. Kansas City came into the game playing poorly on third down and must improve its efficiency on this issue going forward. The Chiefs have yet to play the San Diego Chargers or Denver Broncos, two division opponents who are first and second in the league in third-down efficiency.
The Chiefs are a ball-control and field-position team on offense and rely on their defense and special teams to create opportunities. It's difficult to be a ball-control offense, however, if you cannot control the ball because you can't convert on third down.
Scoring Points on Offense
To further belabor the problems with the Chiefs offense, the offense scored seven points in the game. The defense and special teams scored 19 points. On the season the offense has only outscored the defense and special teams 70-55. This means the defense and special teams are scoring 44 percent of Kansas City's total overall offensive output.
This number isn't sustainable for winning football. To put that scoring number in perspective, even the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' vaunted 2002 Super Bowl-winning defense and special teams only scored 38 percent of the Buccaneers' total points that year.
Having an excellent defense to rely on, like the Chiefs do, makes an offense's job much easier. However, the offense does actually have to do its job and put points on the board for the Chiefs to be a playoff team.
The Chiefs Defense Is Elite
Prior to the game, several pundits who likely haven't watched Kansas City very closely this season declared that the Chiefs defense wasn't as good as it looked in box scores because it hadn't played anyone. Kansas City made a statement against the Titans when it stopped Tennessee on four straight plays from the 1-yard-line.
Kansas City still has some defensive issues, namely in quarterback containment. Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, hardly the epitome of a mobile quarterback, picked up 50 yards on the ground against the Chiefs. This was largely a non-issue, as the Titans couldn't get any other running game going. Jackie Battle and Chris Johnson combined for 55 yards on 16 carries, the bulk of which came on one 37-yard carry from Battle.
The Chiefs also enjoyed another very solid performance out of rookie defensive back and San Francisco 49ers castoff Marcus Cooper. Cooper recovered the Titans' punt return mishap in the end zone for a Kansas City touchdown, and played quite well in coverage as well. Cooper, a converted wide receiver from Rutgers, has made cornerback Dunta Robinson nearly expendable for the Chiefs the last two games.
Part of the problem for Kansas City, with its aforementioned third-down issues, was the massive accumulation of penalties the Chiefs ran up. The Chiefs were flagged nine times for 61 yards. Seven of those penalties were on the offense.
The Chiefs have struggled at the right tackle position with rookie Eric Fisher having a rough transition to the pro game. Donald Stephenson has stepped in to replace him since Fisher’s injury in Week 4.
Stephenson, however, has struggled as well. He was responsible for two false starts and a holding penalty against the Titans, something the Chiefs must avoid given the conservative nature of the offense. Putting Kansas City behind the chains in down-and-distance situations is a recipe for disaster going forward.
For the season, what grade would you give the Chiefs offense?
Overall it was good to see the Chiefs take a few down-field shots against the Titans. However, though both passes to wide receiver Donnie Avery were completed, both were also badly under-thrown by quarterback Alex Smith. Defensive coordinators are going to look at the tape and know they can play one high safety and pack the box against Kansas City if it's unable to show it can move the ball vertically.
A win is always a good thing, but a win you can learn from is even better. Kansas City is a team that is obviously still learning.