The problem with playing football against the Chiefs right now is you just don’t know how they’re going to beat you. Could be Tyreek Hill sprinting down a sideline, could be Kareem Hunt running over your linebacker, could be Travis Kelce doing any number of things that end with him dancing.
Could be linebacker Justin Houston blowing up your offensive line, could be Chris Jones belly bumping your quarterback, could be Marcus Peters shutting down whoever lines up on your right side.
The Chiefs are the best team in football right now, and we did not need to see a 42-34 win over the Texans on the NFL’s biggest regular season stage to know that.
That is an objective fact, not opinion, as undebatable as it is irrelevant in early October.
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They’ve won through injuries to stars on both sides of the ball, and a wrecked interior offensive line. They’ve been able to do this because they don’t rely on any one thing to win.
The Chiefs have not had a team like this since the 1990s, and maybe longer. Their franchise history has always been disjointed. Lots of defense but no points. Dick Vermeil’s offense, but also Vermeil’s defense.
This is the franchise that’s lost playoff games while holding the opponent to 10 points, and while scoring 44, and most recently while not allowing a touchdown.
This team, here, at least this early in the season, looks like the antidote to all of that.
The Chiefs have trained their fans to expect the worst, to see the best moments only as the lead up to heartbreak, and maybe that’s where this is headed, too.
If so, the team that breaks your heart will look a lot different than the team that just won here in Houston, going to 5-0, still the league’s only undefeated team, with three road wins, beating teams that are a combined 12-7 in their other games.
This is a Super Bowl team. Worse teams have done it, and at the moment, there are no better teams in their way.
▪ As I type these words I haven’t even gone downstairs to talk to people, so I don’t want to say anything too definitive here, but Travis Kelce took an awful hit to head late in the second half. A Texans defender hit his head, which slung toward his shoulder and then slammed back into the turf. It looked terrible.
Kelce was evaluated for a concussion, but returned within just a few minutes in real time. He did not play in the second half, when the Chiefs said — wait for it — he was being evaluated for a concussion.
On the surface, this smells exactly like the mismanagement around Alex Smith’s non-concussive concussions in Indianapolis last year.
It was a terrible look then, and unless there’s a better explanation, the recidivism is a worse look now.
The NFL is a cutthroat business, and we are well past the point where everyone who plays is well aware of the risks. But teams still owe it to these players to protect them as much as possible.
Again, maybe there’s an explanation in here somewhere. But by the looks of it, the Chiefs and the NFL failed Kelce here.
▪ The Texans would not have won this game anyway, not with how much they struggled against the Chiefs defense, but losing J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus on the opening drive was a hit-the-reset-button-on-a-video-game moment.
You would have trouble overstating the impact, particularly with the lack of stability on the interior of the Chiefs’ offensive line.
▪ Alex Smith continues to be something close to perfect, and perhaps most encouraging is his continued willingness to keep his eyes downfield when breaking the pocket. He doesn’t do it all the time, but he used to do it none of the time. I wrote about this last week. If this is a real thing from Smith, and not just a blip, it changes everything the Chiefs do on offense.
This is just five games in, not quite one-third of the way through the regular season, but Smith is on an honest-to-goodness MVP track. His throws are crisp, and his decisions are perfectly riding the razor’s edge between aggression and protection.
The first touchdown throw to Charcandrick West was brilliant. Flushed out of the pocket, Smith sat in the flat giving his receivers every possible moment to get open. His throw to West was disguised, quick, and perfectly accurate. I don’t remember seeing Smith make a throw like that in his five seasons with the Chiefs.
▪ Frank Zombo played a pretty good game, you guys. Did last week, too. He’s not physically gifted by NFL standards, and the Chiefs aren’t asking him to do everything, but he’s reliable at everything they ask.
He sets the edge, sheds the occasional lineman, and makes a play. Wrecked a trick play the Texans tried to run to his side by diagnosing while engaged with the tackle. You could do much worse for a fill-in outside linebacker. Really nice block on Tyreek Hill’s punt return, too.