Chiefs vs. Dolphins: Five Things to Watch

The Kansas City Chiefs travel to take on the Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon.

Here are a few things to watch for against the Dolphins on Sunday: 1. Third-and-manageable

The Chiefs converted 11 of 16 third downs against the Denver Broncos last Sunday, including seven of nine in the second half.

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It will be important for the Chiefs to continue to have that kind of success against the Dolphins this weekend.

Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson spoke about that success on Thursday.

"You're going to have 10 to 15 third downs a game and the key I think for us against the Broncos was the fact that they were all manageable," Pederson explained. "We did a nice job on first and second down on getting positive yards. We have to keep building on that."

Facing a Dolphins defense that has allowed just 10 of 32 third down conversions in their first two games, the Chiefs offense will need to continue their upward trend as they face another good defense this Sunday.

Pederson explained the preparation leading up to the game helped the offense be successful as well.

"Execution was pretty much on point with what we did in practice and the looks we gave our offense in practice," Pederson said. "The guys took it upon themselves to get it done in the game." 2. Game-changing plays

One thing we've come to see from the Chiefs defense and special teams over the years is big plays that change games.

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Since 2002, the Chiefs rank fourth in the NFL in special teams touchdowns with 19. It's something we haven't seen from the Chiefs in the first two games of this season, neither on defense nor on special teams.

The Chiefs are one of just three teams in the NFL (Steelers, Giants) who have not yet forced a turnover.

Considering they aren't facing a quarterback with the accuracy of Peyton Manning this week in Ryan Tannehill, the opportunity for a takeaway will increase. The Chiefs could use a game-changing play on defense to help spark their first win of the season.

Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton talked about making those game-changing plays on defense.

"We talk to our players all the time about it. You have to stay the course and just keep going," Sutton said. "Those things happen. I'm not sure why and when they happen but you have to keep flying to the ball and when you're opportunity comes, take advantage of it."

The status of rookie punt returner De'Anthony Thomas is not yet known as he practiced on Wednesday, but didn't on Thursday as he continues to deal with a hamstring issue.  

As Knile Davis gets more time at running back because of the ankle injury to Jamaal Charles, Frankie Hammond will then see more time as the kick returner for the Chiefs.

Last week against the Buffalo Bills, the Dolphins had a punt blocked and also gave up 102-yard kick-return touchdown to C.J. Spiller.

Hammond and the rest of the special teams unit understand they can have an impact in this game.

View photos from the Chiefs vs. Dolphins series history.

"Each week we draw stuff up to score and make a difference in the game," Hammond said. "We just have to match their intensity and be prepared when opportunities come and go take advantage of it."

On the offensive side of the ball, big plays will hopefully continue from tight end Travis Kelce.

Kelce has seven catches for 130 yards through the first two games. All seven of those catches resulted in first downs and four of them went for at least 20 yards.

As one of the more fiery players on the Chiefs team, Kelce's mindset is about dominating his opponent.   

"You've got to play this game with passion," Kelce said. "Every snap you get, you really have to go out there and dominate the other guy. Take them both mentally and physically out of the game. That's just how I go about playing this game." 3. Alex Smith's ability to run

Smith has carried the ball 11 times for 78 yards through the first two games. Most of those have been on scrambles, but it's something that has been successful for the Chiefs offense.

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Smith is on pace (albeit through just two games) for 624 rushing yards, which would beat his career best set in 2013 of 431.

"He's definitely an athletic, mobile guy and I think people underestimate his ability to run and the speed he has out of the pocket," Pederson said of Smith. "Cameron Wake is probably the best D-end we've seen so far this year and he can definitely rush the passer, so you have to be aware of where he's at.

"But [Smith's] ability to not only see the defense down the field but find the lane and take off is so important when teams want to play man coverage and kind of take your receivers out of the game. We encourage him to run and then of course, just protect himself. So it's something that's a part of his game and we'll continue to use that if we can."

Smith agreed that taking off and running for a first down is something he'll continue to do if presented the opportunity.

"I think it's part of the game and sometimes it's often overlooked," Smith said. "I think it can give defenses a lot of problems and give them something else to think about and prepare for. Certainly, when those opportunities do present themselves, especially on third down, you hope they convert the chains a few times and sometimes that's the difference in a game."

Facing an aggressive Dolphins defense, Smith's ability to maneuver inside the pocket and ultimately scramble if needed could be a key in this game and is definitely something to watch for on Sunday. 4. Attacking Miami's spread offense

The Dolphins like to run a spread offense under new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who spent last season as the quarterbacks coach with the Philadelphia Eagles under coach Chip Kelly.

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They spent 93 percent of their offensive plays against the Bills last week with three receivers on the field.  

"They're not a lot different than a lot of teams," Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton explained. "Obviously, the difference is they have the zone read concept in their system. So that demands you're kind of drilled down or screwed down and make sure you got all your option assignments taken care of and that part of thing. The actual runs that they run are similar to a lot of other people's and it's just they always have the threat of the quarterback keeping the ball."

Tannehill is a former receiver and has the athletic ability to get out and run if needed, but Sutton said the key for the Chiefs defense is to make them one dimensional on third down.

"The obvious one is getting them in third-and-long where the zone read isn't quite as big a factor," Sutton explained. "They have to pass the ball at some point. I think that's one of the challenges in this game is to get them in longer third downs where zone read, you can run, but if the ball is handed off, can you make enough to make the first down? If we can force them off that spot and make them play that way—that would be a big advantage to us."

New Chiefs defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson knows that success on first and second down for the defense starts with the guys in the middle of the trenches.

"Penetration seals the deal on the play," Vickerson explained. "Playing your technique up front and just getting off and disrupting the play. It always messes up any running play. It's penetration in the backfield so that's what we have to do."

Vickerson brings an edge to the Chiefs defense that was apparent on the few snaps he saw against his former team last week in Denver.

"I just want to bring another dimension to the team of flying around fast, nasty with attitude," Vickerson said. "Just playing in a fast, physical environment—that's just how I play." 5. Taking care of the ball

One of the biggest differences on the offensive side of the ball for the Chiefs last week against the Broncos is that they didn't turn the ball over.

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This helped them have an opportunity late in the fourth quarter to tie the game.

As Smith uncharacteristically threw three interceptions in the Chiefs opener against the Titans, the offense was back on track for the most part against the Broncos.

Pederson spoke about what the offensive line can do to help protect Smith and ultimately help him take care of the ball.

"I think they just keep working and keep building off of what they did [against Denver]," Pederson said. "They were physical. They were mentally sharp and they were flying around and they kind of came together a little bit so they just have to build off of that."

Smith knows he's going up against a defense that possesses the ability to put pressure on a quarterback.

"You look at their first game at home against the Patriots and they really got after the quarterback," Smith said. "I think that one of the strengths of their defense is that front. Those D-lineman can really get after the passer, all of them. I think across the board, they're very talented and they know the scheme. The scheme puts a lot of them in good positions and they've gone out there and made plays." If Smith and the Chiefs offense can take care of the ball on Sunday, they have a great chance of picking up their first win of the season.

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