Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs survived a Monday night clash in a 29-20 win over the Washington Redskins. Here's what we learned:
- It's time we give Alex Smith his due credit and not saddle it with a "well, he can't go deep" knock on the way out the door. Smith engineered an excellent drive with less than a minute left, completing passes of 4, 37 and 10 yards to set up rookie kicker Harrison Butker for the winning field goal. Smith was sharp for a majority of the night, completing 27 of 37 passes for 293 yards and one touchdown, and rushing seven times for 56 yards and another score. The quarterback overcame early pressure that clearly frazzled Kansas City's usually well-paced offense, and the Chiefs went back to what worked for them last season, shortening attempts to establish a rhythm that got the offense back on track. The result was a close victory that kept the Chiefs reigning atop the league as its only undefeated team at 4-0.
- Washington spent the majority of the second half doing everything it could to lose the time of possession battle by a wide margin, but thanks to its defense, had a chance to either tie or win the game in the final minutes. Dustin Hopkins drilled the game-tying field goal, but a drive that could have been the game's last possession left too much time on the clock for Smith and Co., which took advantage of a Washington secondary that was missing Josh Norman because of a fractured rib. The Redskins have shown through four games that they have enough to compete, but need to limit the quick possessions.
- Washington's defense is an excellent group when healthy. The unit plays with a rage usually reserved for the massive underdogs and embodied by corner Bashaud Breeland, flying around the field and dishing out big hits on opponents. A week after harassing Oakland's offense and limiting the Raiders to startlingly low numbers, the group had a clear effect on Kansas City's offense in the first half, pressuring Smith into quick throws and incompletions that resulted in more punts than points. Ryan Kerrigan gets most of the attention on the defensive line (and Junior Galette in the linebacking corps), but a player who is quietly making an impact is second-year defensive tackle Matthew Ioannidis. He recorded his second sack of the season on Monday night and causes plenty of issues for guards lining up against him, especially in the last two games.
The bye is coming at the right time for the Redskins to get healthy, and thanks to the defense, things are looking bright after a 2-2 start.
- Despite having showered the Redskins with praise in the point above, a major and reoccuring turning point on Monday night came with yellow laundry on the field. The Chiefs were repeatedly bailed out by penalties on Redskins defenders. Three penalties gave the Chiefs fresh sets of downs, and another gave Kansas City another shot on third down from Washington's 1-yard line, which resulted in a Smith touchdown. Thanks to these instances, Washington's seven penalties felt more like 17. Coach Jay Gruden pointed out as much in the postgame presser, plainly admitting the team committed too many of them.
- How about we forgive Josh Doctson for not making the third-down grab in the end zone, which would have been spectacular but was also quite difficult. The would-be catch would have capped a fantastic drive led by Cousins, who became the poster boy for pump faking while scrambling for extra yards. In fact, Cousins ended up leading the team in rushing with 38 yards on seven attempts. That points more to a problem than success, but in this instance, we'll highlight it in favor of Cousins, consider what could have been if Doctson had pulled off the spectacular play, and leave the criticsm for dropping the ball as a result of physics at home.
- Some shine for Chiefs standouts: Kareem Hunt broke 100 yards again, finishing with 101 on 21 carries and also catching four passes for 20 yards. He looks like the real deal a quarter point of the season. Travis Kelce caught seven passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. Albert Wilson recorded four grabs for 63 yards, including a huge one for 37 yards after he adjusted his route vertically when Smith scrambled to his right in the final minute of action. And finally, Butker, a new addition via Carolina's practice squad, who was brought in this week after Cairo Santos was waived/injured. Butker converted 3 of 4 field-goal attempts, including the winner from 43 yards out during the final seconds.