Call the Chiefs lucky or call them opportunistic. Certainly they were both on Sunday and their charmed season continued with a 23-13 victory over the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Chiefs didn’t score an offensive touchdown but their defense produced two touchdowns -- a 100-yard interception return by cornerback Sean Smith that tied the game in the third quarter and an 11-yard fumble recovery by Tamba Hali that gave Kansas City the lead for good.
The victory kept the Chiefs, 9-0, undefeated going into their bye week and leading up to their showdown on Nov. 17 at Denver, 7-1, which was idle this weekend.
The Chiefs’ last three wins have come by one point, six points and 10 points.
Buffalo, which started rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel, who began the season on the practice squad, fell to 3-6 in losing to the Chiefs for the first time since 1986.
The Chiefs defense scored for the second time early in the fourth quarter when cornerback Marcus Cooper jarred the ball from Bills receiver T.J. Graham, who had taken three steps after a reception, and outside linebacker Hali scooped it up and returned it 11 yards for a 20-13 lead.
Buffalo’s Dan Carpenter made a 30-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in the third quarter, tying the game at 13.
Just when it appeared Buffalo was going to seize control of the game, Tuel made a fateful mistake on the first possession of the second half.
Buffalo, leading 10-3, reached the Chiefs’ 1 after a 69-yard run by C.J. Spiller and a pass interference penalty in the end zone on linebacker Derrick Johnson.
After two runs by Fred Jackson lost a yard to the 2, Tuel tried threading a pass to tight end Scott Chandler, but threw it right into the hands of Chiefs cornerback Smith, who intercepted the pass at the goal line.
Smith sailed down the sidelines, escorted by Johnson, for a 100-yard return. Instead of trailing 17-3 or even 13-3, the game was tied 10-10 with 10:58 left in the quarter.
Smith’s 100-yard return tied for the second-longest interception in club history. Gary Barbaro, inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame this year, had a 102-yard return on Dec. 11, 1977 against Seattle. Tim Collier had a 100-yard return a week later at Oakland.
The return was also the fourth interception for a touchdown this season by the Chiefs. Hali, Eric Berry and Husain Abdullah have pick sixes.
The Chiefs only had the ball for one full possession in the third quarter, and it ended with a 41-yard field goal by Ryan Succop with 3:57 to play. The key play was a 20-yard pass from Alex Smith to tight end Anthony Fasano.
The Bills led 10-3 at halftime, though the Chiefs came close to tying the game, only to see wide receiver Dexter McCluster drop a pass while in the open at the Buffalo 30 with 1 minute left in the second quarter.
Tuel, making his first career start, looked like a veteran in the early going, completing five of his first seven passes for 112 yards.
The Bills took a 7-0 lead when Tuel lofted a pass to wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, who got behind Chiefs cornerback Marcus Cooper and safety Kendrick Lewis at the Kansas City 25, hauled it in and scored with 1:52 left in the first quarter.
The Chiefs’ offense had trouble moving the ball against Buffalo’s defensive front, which caused four first half penalties -- a hold by left guard Jeff Allen, two holds by center Rodney Hudson and a false start by left tackle Branden Albert.
Tuel finally made a mistake early in the second quarter when his pass intended for tight end Scott Chandler sailed high and was intercepted by Lewis.
Alex Smith converted a third-and-four by eluding the blitz and finding Dwayne Bowe for six yards to the Buffalo 29; and fullback Anthony Sherman burrowed for two yards on third-and-one to the 18 in his first carry for the Chiefs.
But the drive bogged down when McCluster was lit up on the sidelines by a hit from by defensive back Nickell Robey on third-and-three from the 11. The play picked up two yards, but coach Andy Reid went for the field goal, and Succop’s 27-yarder with 7:30 to play in the half made it 7-3.
Buffalo answered with a 14-play drive that ended with a 26-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter with 1:47 left in the half. The Bills appeared to have their second touchdown of the game, but Cooper knocked the ball out of the hands of Robert Woods in the end zone, forcing the field goal.