KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In a record-setting year the Kansas City Chiefs offense quickly built around the premise that defenses might be able to take away Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill or Kareem Hunt, but rarely all three. During Sunday’s 29-13 win over Miami that made the Chiefs AFC West champions, the Dolphins couldn’t stop any of them.
“We got beat by a couple of guys we talked about stopping,” Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said. “That’s really what hurt us.”
Quarterback Alex Smith finished 25-of-39 passing for 304 yards, putting him at a career-high 4,042 cards for the season. Kelce also topped the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the second straight season. Hill already crossed the 1,000-yard receiving threshold, while Hunt sailed past 1,000 yards rushing.
That makes the Chiefs the second team in NFL history to have a 4,000-yard passer along with a 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000 yards receiving from a wide receiver and a tight end. The 1981 San Diego Chargers pulled off the same feat with quarterback Dan Fouts, running back Chuck Muncie, wide receiver Charlie Joiner and tight end Kellen Winslow.
“I think the thing I’m more pumped about is the whole offense altogether,” Smith said. “To have a 1,000-yard rusher, two 1,000-yard receivers and then to hit 4,000 passing as a quarterback, to have all that going on at once I think is the most special part. I think taking pride in that as an offensive unit, that we got a can’t-stop-us-all mentality.”
Hill caught six passes for 109 yards while Hunt rushed for 91 yards and Kelce chipped in 47 received yards and a touchdown as the Chiefs offense showed what it can do when Smith and his Three Musketeers fire on all cylinders.
“We’re just playing confident football,” Kelce said. “Confident that guys are going to make plays when the ball’s in the air, that Alex is going to put that thing right on the money where it needs to be and that the guys up front are going to give him time.”
No where did that confidence manifest itself more than when Smith took shots deep down the field. The Chiefs started the second quarter staring at third-and-15 from their own 35-yard line. Smith took a shot deep down the middle to Hill for a 52-yard gain the Miami 13-yard line. Three plays later Smith connected with Kelce on a 9-yard touchdown pass giving Kansas City a 10-3 lead they would never relinquish.
“It just means anybody is capable,” Hill said. “Alex has been trusting us a lot down the field and that gives us confidence as receivers. Make the play for him. Just got to keep at it.”
Smith took another shot at Hill late in the first half. With 32 seconds until halftime, Smith lobbed a deep ball down the right sideline. Hill tracked the ball, make an abrupt adjustment to gain position on Dolphins safety T.J. McDonald and making a leaping grab for a 33-yard gain.
Hunt said the vertical passing game helps him running through the trenches.
“If you have to watch out for the deep ball then you have to put people back there,” Hunt said. “You can’t just crowd the box up. If you don’t do that we are going to beat you deep. It’s nice having Tyreek, Kelce, 12-Gage (Albert Wilson) and all those guys be able to make plays.”
As big a day as Smith and the offense had, just a couple of miscues kept it from being a monster outing. Midway through the second quarter, Smith fired a deep ball that just bounced off the finger tips of Wilson. Hunt later plunged into the end zone from a yard out.
On Kansas City’s opening drive of the second half, Smith fired a pass on the to Hill along the sideline of the end zone. Replay review upheld the call on the field of Hill stepping out of bounds, although some replay angles suggested Hill did get both feet in bounds.
“Oh, definitely, I did,” Hill said. “Tony Toe Tap all day. I do this.”
Early in the fourth quarter a holding penalty wiped out a run by Hunt that would have given the Chiefs third-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
In both instances the Chiefs settled for field goals. Smith said those plays illustrate the thin margin of error in the red zone between seven points versus a field goal.
“Really hurt ourselves with that one penalty,” Smith said. “Anytime you get a penalty in the red zone you really back yourself up and it’s tough to overcome. The other ones I thought we had chances, we’ll look at it and keep trying to improve.”
Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said he thinks the team played better football the last three weeks than during the team’s red-hot 5-0 start. Smith says he cannot argue with that assessment.
“Been playing pretty good football,” Smith said. “Playing together. I think it has been different than the beginning of the year when it was, we were all over.”