This was a game of missed opportunities for the Chiefs. They were stuffed twice on the goal line in the first half, including a fourth-down try by Spencer Ware. Alex Smith’s awful third quarter interception in the end zone helped turn the game around. After a fantastic first half by Smith, the Chiefs offense was scoreless after halftime.
This is one to remember in Mariota’s development. In frigid conditions, Mariota rebounded from two poor turnovers to lead a 10-point fourth quarter comeback in Arrowhead. Tennessee’s 88-yard touchdown drive included two third-and-long conversions and another beautiful throw on fourth-and-5. Given 1:07 and no timeouts, Mariota calmly knew just where to go with the ball to set up the winning field goal. Now 8-6, this Titans squad has the look of a playoff team.
Davis returns to an injury-riddled Chiefs running back room. Jamaal Charles is on injured reserve and Spencer Ware is out this week with a concussion, leaving Charcandrick West, Bishop Sankey and Anthony Sherman as the only active backs on the roster.
For much of the season, Davis was the Chiefs’ fourth running back, but was traded to the Packers when Charles was 100 percent healthy — or so Kansas City thought. Davis appeared in two games in Green Bay before being waived. Davis was then briefly signed by the Jets before being waived less than one day later to make space for fellow free agent tailback C.J. Spiller.
Welcome to the end zone, Melvin Gordon. The Chargers running back posted a goose egg in the touchdown column in his rookie season, but on his 220th career touch, the Wisconsin product finally found pay dirt. Getting that monkey off his back was nice, but Gordon looked like a completely different runner in the early stages of this game. He generated a multitude of yards after contact, and looked like a force to be reckoned with. On eight first-half carries, Gordon accumulated 39 yards and two scores. The second half was a different story, as the second-year back only had 18 yards on six totes. It still was an encouraging start nonetheless to Gordon’s sophomore campaign.
You think the Chiefs missed Justin Houston? Kansas City’s pass rush was nonexistent in the first half, allowing Rivers to effortlessly dissect the secondary. It wasn’t much better in the second half, although Dee Ford sacked Rivers with under a minute remaining in regulation. San Diego’s offensive line had the advantage over Ford, a 32-year-old Tamba Hali and journeyman Frank Zombo for most of the day. Houston is projected for a mid-season return, and the Chiefs will have to find other methods over the next few contests to replace his production.
After a string of turnover-laden showings and cheap jerseys and sluggish offensive performances, Trevor Siemian put together his most composed game of football of the season in a big spot. Siemian recovered from a sack-heavy first half to throw three touchdowns and top 300 passing yards for the first time since Week 3.
The first-year starter showed poise and mobility in the pocket on two plays in particular. Siemian’s escapability was on display during an impromptu spin-move away from Justin Houston and roll-out touchdown pass to Jordan Taylor in the red zone that took 9.53 seconds to fully develop. Then, deep in his own territory in the fourth, Siemian deftly moved the pocket to convert a long third down to another tight end, A.J. Derby, before launching two bombs to Emmanuel Sanders. If Siemian can perform with this confidence down the stretch, Denver won’t even need to look in Tony Romo’s direction in the offseason.
To be fair, Carr got precious little help from a star-studded wide receiver corps that struggled to make plays versus Kansas City’s stingy cornerback trio of Marcus Peters, Steven Nelson and Terrance Mitchell. Michael Crabtree, Amari Cooper and Seth Roberts turned 26 targets into 62 yards — a mind-numbing display of futility. Crabtree couldn’t get open, a wide-open Cooper lost the ball on a potential game-changing touchdown and Roberts failed to convert a bevy of red-zone opportunities.
When Derek Carr’s MVP campaign ultimately falls short, he can point to his two back-breaking performances versus his division rival. The prediction in Kansas City this week, per NFL Network’s James Palmer, was that Carr’s fractured pinky finger would be stiff and painful in the elements. That certainly seemed to be the case, even if Carr downplayed the notion after the game. He took all of his snaps from the shotgun formation, misfired on basic throws, failed to generate his usual velocity on a few deeper passes and showed a disturbing penchant for dumping off short of the sticks on third downs. Carr finished the night averaging a minuscule 2.85 yards on 41 attempts, the second-lowest figure in the Super Bowl era by a quarterback with 40 or more throws.
Cameron Heyward is healthy and hungry. The Steelers defensive end had yet to record a sack this season since suffering a high ankle sprain in the third week of the preseason, but exploded for three against the Chiefs. Alongside Heyward dancing in Kansas City’s nightmares will be fellow linebacker Vince Williams, who totaled a career-high 16 total tackles and a sack.
One week after ravaging the Jets with eight takeaways, the Chiefs were undone by their own turnovers. Kansas City surrendered the ball twice in the first quarter inside its own 30-yard line on a Spencer Ware fumble and a tipped Alex Smith pick; the Steelers turned those two turnovers into 15 quick points, a lead Pittsburgh would never relinquish.