Chiefs vs. Buccaneers: 10 Observations

Here are some things that stood out during Sunday’s game

The Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) dropped their first game at Arrowhead Stadium in more than 400 days and snapped a five-game winning streak, falling to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5) by a score of 19-17 Sunday afternoon.

Here are 10 observations from Sunday's game:

  1. Late comeback attempt comes up short on Sunday

Last week against the Carolina Panthers, the Chiefs were reliant on the defense coming up with two game-changing takeaways late to pull off the improbable 17-point fourth-quarter deficit on the way to their 20-17 victory.

They were hoping for the same thing on Sunday against the Buccaneers, but they fell short of that, as the defense was unable to stop the Bucs from converting a third-and-3 at midfield trailing 19-17 with just over two minutes remaining in the game.

On the play, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston went in the direction of the player who has been targeted more than any other in the NFL this season—receiver Mike Evans, who leads the NFL in third-down receptions, touchdown receptions (8), targets (108) and is fifth in yards receiving with 811.

Evans, who finished Sunday's game with six receptions on 13 targets for 105 yards, was able to make the diving catch in front of the Buccaneers sideline for 14 yards. It came with cornerback Kenneth Acker in coverage.

Acker was starting in place of Marcus Peters, who didn't play because of a hip pointer.

  1. Justin Houston makes his season debut

It was the long-awaited return of All-Pro outside linebacker Justin Houston, who was on the field for the Chiefs for the first time this season. He actually started the game and played considerable snaps for the defense.

Houston finished the game with two tackles, including one for a loss and a quarterback hit.

It's worth monitoring this week that his fellow outside linebacker and the NFL's co-leader in sacks, Dee Ford, left Sunday's game in the first half with a hamstring injury and did not return.

The only other injury on Sunday that was mentioned after the game was that running back Charcandrick West entered the NFL's concussion protocol in the fourth quarter.

  1. Chiefs offense was cruising on their first drive before the red zone

The Chiefs offense went 74 yards on 14 plays and took 7:53 off the clock on their opening drive, which concluded with a Cairo Santos 22-yard field goal. It gave the Chiefs an early 3-0 lead.

On that drive, the Chiefs got as far as first-and-goal from the Buccaneers 4-yard line, but a loss of 5 yards on first down on a play that had tight end Travis Kelce take the ball off the right end on a run didn't help the offense's goal of punching it across the goal line for the first time since the first quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars two weeks ago.

Smith was 6 of 7 for 50 yards on the opening drive.

  1. The defense couldn't get off the field

While Evans made the play on the key third down late in the game, the fact is the Chiefs defense struggled to get off the field throughout the game.

The Buccaneers finished the game having converted 11 of 16 (69 percent) third-down attempts, and seven of their eight offensive drives were nine plays or longer.

The 69 percent conversion rate is the best against the Chiefs since this regime took over before the 2013 season. In fact, there have only been two games since 2000 that a team has had at least a 69 percent conversion rate against the Chiefs, which was against the San Diego Chargers in 2010 and the Oakland Raiders in 2000. The Chiefs lost both of those games as well.

  1. Alex Smith takes it in for the touchdown

The offense found the end zone late in the second quarter as quarterback Alex Smith scrambled for an 11-yard touchdown on second-and-7.

The play gave the Chiefs a 10-6 lead late in the first half and it was set up after a 42-yard throw-and-catch from Smith to rookie Tyreek Hill got things moving to begin that drive.

It was one of two long completions on the day from Smith, who found Travis Kelce on a game-long 44-yard completion early in the fourth quarter. That play gave the Chiefs a first-and-goal opportunity as they trailed 12-10.

Smith would finish the game 24 of 31 for 261 yards with a touchdown and an interception, adding two rushes for 10 yards and a touchdown on the ground as well.

  1. The red zone interception was a key play in the game

One of the key momentum-changing plays in Sunday's game was the second-and-goal pass from Smith intended for receiver Chris Conley, which came just a play after the 44-yard hookup to Kelce early in the fourth quarter.

Smith went from one of his best passes of the day on the throw to Kelce, to perhaps the pass he'd most like to have back on back-to-back plays. The latter pass was intercepted by Buccaneers defensive back Chris Conte and returned 53 yards to midfield.

On the ensuing possession, the Buccaneers went 52 yards on nine plays—converting three third downs on the way to the 3-yard touchdown pass from Winston to fullback Alan Cross, which gave the Buccaneers a 19-10 lead with 6:30 left in the game.

Just like that, the Chiefs went from having a definite field goal opportunity in a goal-to-go situation while trailing by just two points, perhaps even a touchdown, to getting nothing and allowing a touchdown just a few minutes later.

It was the biggest momentum-changer of the day.

  1. Chiefs would respond with a late touchdown drive

Trailing by two possessions with just over six minutes remaining in the game, Smith and the Chiefs offense went hurry-up and were able to go 78 yards on 12 plays in 3:59—finishing the drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Smith to receiver Albert Wilson.

At that point, the Chiefs trailed 19-17 and had all three of their timeouts left.

The Buccaneers were able to convert a key third-and-3 with just over two minutes remaining, so the Chiefs offense was ultimately given the ball back with just 8 seconds remaining after the defense was able to stop the Buccaneers from running for a first down on their next three carries.

After a Hill punt return went for 20 yards, the offense was able to get off two plays but couldn't get near a game-winning field goal attempt for Santos.

  1. Red zone defense was the reason the game was close

While the Chiefs defense would have loved to do better on third down, the fact is the only reason the game was as close as it was is because the Chiefs defense forced the Buccaneers to go 1 of 5 in the red zone, making them settle for field goals and giving the offense an opportunity to try and win the game.

Early in the game, the defense also hopped on a Winston fumble deep in Chiefs territory, as cornerback Steve Nelson was able to secure the ball in the backfield—giving the defense it's NFL-leading seventh red zone takeaway this year.

Just a bit later, Nelson would make a fantastic play in the end zone—knocking the ball out of the usually-secure hands of Evans, who had both hands on the ball with his feet down before Nelson knocked it out as they went to the ground.

With Evans at 6 feet 5 and 230 pounds, the 5-foot-11, 194-pound Nelson was at a complete size disadvantage on the play, but still found a way to knock it away, forcing the Buccaneers to settle for another field goal.

  1. Chiefs have some players dealing with things well beyond football right now

Most of the country knows about the passing of long snapper James Winchester's father earlier this week, and after missing practice all week to be with his family, James made it back for Sunday's game.

"My hat goes out to him for being here and doing that," Reid said after the game. "We had another death in the family here with Justin March and his dad passing away. It's tragic. That's a lot on their plate.

"It's a heavy load for a young guy to take, so my hat's off to him. There's not a whole lot that you can say, other than being there (for them)."

  1. Travis Kelce goes over 100 yards for just the fourth time in his career

While he'll be the first one to tell you that it doesn't matter because they didn't win the game, Kelce went over 100 yards for just the fourth time in his career, as he caught seven passes for 108 yards on Sunday, which is the best output of his season thus far.

Kelce had the longest catch of the day for either team with his 44-yard reception early in the fourth quarter. 

Photos from the Chiefs Week 11 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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