Chiefs overcome sloppy 1st half, return to .500 with win at Washington

Chiefs Washington Football
Posted at 3:12 PM, Oct 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-17 17:49:16-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The turnover-prone Kansas City Chiefs spotted the Washington Football Team a three-point halftime lead as waves of anxiety crashed upon the shores of Chiefs Kingdom.

The Chiefs, who entered Sunday’s game at FedEx Field having lost three of four games, have been among the most disappointing teams early in the 2021 season.

The first half seemed to be a continuation of that frustrating start, especially after quarterback Patrick Mahomes picked up a dropped snap then awkwardly lobbed a ball a few yards forward for an interception that kept Kansas City from possibly scoring before halftime.

But the second half was all Chiefs.

Making his first career start, running back Darrel Williams’ second touchdown of the game put the game out of reach for Kansas City — one of three unanswered second-half touchdowns in a 31-13 victory.

“You have to battle,” Mahomes said. “You have to battle to win in this league every single week, and I thought guys did that in the second half. They just went out there together and we just played.”

While the win did little to quell ongoing concerns about the offense’s unexpected penchant for committing turnovers — Mahomes had another two interceptions and Mecole Hardman Jr. coughed up a fumble before halftime — the defense put together arguably its best game of the season as the Chiefs (3-3) returned to .500 on the season.

“Obviously, the first half, the game didn’t go the way we wanted to, but the defense did a great job keeping us in the game," said Mahomes, who bounced back from the first-half struggles to finish 32 of 47 for a season-high 397 yards with two touchdowns and two picks. "Then, in the second half, we just executed better. Guys relied on each other, believed in each other and we were able to find a way to get a win.”

Kansas City shut out Washington in the second half, allowing only 296 yards overall and only 76 yards in the second half.

“Anytime you come on the road in the NFL, I think it’s important for the defense to step up and just make plays,” said safety Tyrann Mathieu, who finished with five tackles. “I thought we did that for the most part.”

Kansas City made changes to both its starting offense and starting defense for the game.

Juan Thornhill replaced Daniel Sorenson at free safety on defense, while veteran Mike Remmers replaced Lucas Niang at right tackle. The Chiefs also utilized rookie Nick Bolton, who led the team with nine tackles, and Willie Gay Jr. together more at linebacker.

“Sometimes, it’s good for the other guys to take a step back to move forward,” said Kansas City head coach Andy Reid. “They got to play; everybody played. But it was good to get those guys in there and let them do their thing. I’ll see how it worked out on tape, and we’ll go from there.”

Thornhill finished with three tackles for a secondary that allowed only 4.7 yards per pass attempt.

Kansas City's defense also snapped a stretch of 16 consecutive quarters without forcing a turnover when it recovered an Antonio Gibson fumble in the second quarter.

“I thought Spags (defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo) had a nice gameplan all the way around,” Reid said. “They’re a scrappy offense ... but I thought he mixed and matched pretty well with their blitz game.”

Defensive lineman Tershawn Wharton also intercepted Taylor Heinecke, who finished 24 of 39 for 182 yards with a touchdown and an interception, in the fourth quarter.

Wharton pawed the pass out of the air, pinned it to the offensive tackle’s shoulder and then snatched it for the interception.

“You don’t see that very often, but what a move that was,” Reid said. “It was tremendous."

Mahomes put the Chiefs in front with a 2-yard touchdown to Tyreek Hill late in the third quarter and iced it with a 24-yard bomb to Demarcus Robinson late in the fourth quarter, capping an incredible 15-play drive that covered 96 yards.

“The way we did it, even though it wasn’t pretty in the first half, hopefully it will get us rolling,” Mahomes said. “We had another bad first half, and it could have spiraled right there. The way this season’s gone and the adversity we’ve dealt with, it could have spiraled, but the guys showed a lot of mental toughness to go back there and battle.”

Williams finished with 21 carries for 62 yards and two scores, helping Kansas City get off to a perfect start.

The much-maligned defense opened the game with a three-and-out and the offense marched 95 yards on 10 plays for a touchdown.

Williams, who made his first career start with Clyde Edwards-Helaire on injured reserve, capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run.

But that was the only time the Chiefs, who committed three more first-half turnovers, would find the end zone before halftime.

Kansas City led 10-3 early in the second quarter on a 52-yard Harrison Butker field goal, but a Mecole Hardman fumble helped Washington grab a 13-10 halftime lead.

With Anthony Hitchens sidelined by an elbow injury, former Chiefs tight end Ricky Seals-Jones got behind his replacement, Ben Niemann, for a 39-yard touchdown.

Hill, who briefly left the game after aggravating a quad injury that had him listed as questionable, finished with nine catches for 76 yards, while tight end Travis Kelce caught eight passes for 99 yards.

Kelce fought through a sore neck from a hit late in the fourth quarter of the Buffalo loss.

Linebacker Anthony Hitchens (elbow), tight end Jody Fortson (Achilles) and fullback Michael Burton (left pec) also left the game with injuries.