Arizona Thwarts Kansas City: Three Things Learned
Cardinals 17, Chiefs 14
In a low-scoring battle of two strong defenses, Arizona narrowly beat Kansas City for its tenth win of the season, thus keeping the Cardinals atop the NFC and increasing their perfect home record to 6-0 this year.
Chiefs' QB Alex Smith was rather un-Alex-Smith-like today, completing 26-of-39 for 293 yards, one touchdown (NOT to a WR), and one interception. Smith has only six interceptions thus far this season--and had only seven all of last season--but, very-Alex-Smith-like, he was sacked five times today. Smith did eclipse the 20,000-yard passing mark so congrats to him.
RB Jamaal Charles carried the ball a mere ten times for 91 yards including a 63-yard touchdown on the Chiefs' first possession and also caught two balls for 20 yards and another score in the second quarter, but kind of fizzled out as the game progressed and the usually-tough Cardinals' defense stepped it up. TE Travis Kelce was very Gronk-like today with seven catches for 110 yards.
For Arizona, QB Drew Stanton went 15-of-30 for 239 yards and one touchdown. Despite being without RB Andre Ellington, the Cardinals relied upon the legs of rookie RB Kerwynn Williams who managed 19 carries for 100 yards. Super stud WR Larry Fitzgerald returned after a two-week injury absence and while he was targeted several times he managed only four receptions for 34 yards; however, one was a key third down catch to keep a second-quarter drive alive that would eventually yield three points by K Chandler Catanzaro who uncharacteristically missed two field goals today. Prior to today's game, the Cardinals had gone 11 quarters without an offensive touchdown drive and today WR Jaron Brown caught a 26-yard pass from Stanton. Could Fitz's return be linked to such happenstance eventhough he, himself, did not score? One can only speculate.
So, what did we learn today?
1. And the classiest moment of the season award goes to...the Arizona Cardinals. While we all knew that Fitz is among the classiest guys in the league, today, Cardinals' coaches and players donned special Eric Berry "Be Bold. Be Brave. Be Berry" t-shirts during warm-ups in support of the Chiefs' safety who is potentially battling lymphoma and the organization donated $10,000 to the Eric Berry Foundation. Now if everyone acted with such generosity the world would, indeed, be a better place.
2. And speaking of Arizona coaches, I swear head skipper Bruce Arians has the best luck of any coach with respect to challenges. Today, he challenged a reception by Kelce who appeared to "make a football move" up the field before being tackled, having the ball knocked loose as he hit the ground, and then tossing it away while seated, assuming the play was over. The ball was picked up by CB Justin Bethel. The ruling on the field was "down by contact"--Kelce, obviously, believed this was the case--and Arians challenged the ruling, which was ultimately reversed and deemed a fumble; a call that undoubtedly irked Chiefs' fans. While the ball was, indeed, moving as Kelce went to the ground, to me (in my best Mike Carey impression) it appeared that even if Kelce did fumble, he recovered it himself, and then tossed it while seated; therefore, indicating a correct down-by-contact call. But it wouldn't be a true NFL game without a questionable call, now, would it?
3. As has been widely stated, including during today's game almost ad nauseum (although not as ad nauseum as Peyton Manning's "Omaha"), the last time a Chiefs' WR caught a touchdown was in week 14 last season: from Smith to Dwayne Bowe in Washington, thus making Kansas City's WR-touchdown drought 12 consecutive games. After some research (which is what I do, after all), in fact, the last time a Chiefs' WR caught a touchdown was during the 2013 season finale in San Diego (remember, when the Chargers barely beat the Chiefs' second- and third-string to earn the other wildcard spot?). This was a two-yard pass from QB Chase Daniel to WR Dexter McCluster (now a Titan). But McCluster was a RB, you might be saying. This was true, however, the Chiefs converted him to WR prior to the 2012 season. So, in actuality, the drought is only nine games and not 12 and while this was not necessarily gleaned during the game, it was learned today and, thus, qualifies as a learned "thing" and merits mention.
Next week, the 10-3 Cardinals travel to the upstart 6-7 Rams (who pitched another no-hitter today in Washington) on Thursday night, while the Chiefs host the 2-11 Raiders who shocked the 49ers.