The Rams attempted to slow down Sunday’s game to keep the fast-break Chiefs’ offense in check.
Los Angeles’ strategy appeared to work through the first half and the Rams hung tough, keeping the game close at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
Then the Chiefs took matters into their own hands and slammed the door shut.
Rookie running back Isiah Pacheco’s 3-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter gave the Chiefs some cushion on the scoreboard. The Chiefs then used that momentum to cruise to a 26-10 win.
“It was a good opponent and I was proud of our guys for the job that they did,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Definitely not taking it lightly and coming out and playing good, aggressive football on both sides of the ball.”
Kansas City entered the game as a two-touchdown favorite and eventually won by 16 points, but it wasn’t easy.
Despite amassing a 437-198 edge in total yards of offense, marking their fifth straight game of 400-plus net yards, the Chiefs clung to a 13-3 lead at halftime.
The Chiefs scored on three of their first four possessions of the game behind quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ 39-yard touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce and kicker Harrison Butkder’s two field goals. Butker would add two more field goals in the second half.
Kelce’s touchdown grab gives him a career-high 12 this season, and he’s now scored a touchdown in three straight games. Kelce finished with four catches for a team-high 57 yards against the Rams.
Mahomes had an efficient outing, connecting with 10 different receives in the game. He completed 27 of 42 passes for 320 yards and a touchdown with an interception to post a 85.4 passer rating. Sunday’s outing marked Mahomes’ sixth straight game of 300 or more yards passing. He added 36 yards rushing on four carries.
“Pat had another big night with 300-plus yards,” Reid said. “We kind of take those for granted, but not easy to do.”
Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling paced the Chiefs’ wide receivers group with four catches for 56 yards, while JuJu Smith-Schuster, who returned to action after missing KC’s Week 11 game with a concussion, recorded three catches for 38 yards.
Pacheco recorded a team-high 69 yards rushing and the touchdown on 22 carries, adding a catch for 17 yards. As a team, the Chiefs produced 117 yards rushing on 30 carries.
Defensively, the Chiefs stymied a Rams offense led by backup quarterback Bryce Perkins.
Kansas City recorded three sacks, one each by defensive tackle Chris Jones, rookie defensive end George Karlaftis and rookie safety Bryan Cook. Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed and linebacker Nick Bolton each recorded an interception.
Bolton, who tallied a team-high 10 tackles, now has an interception in two straight games.
“Defensively, I thought we just played a heck of a football game, whether it was Bolton or Cook stepping in and doing a nice job,” Reid said. “(No.) 38 (Sneed) comes back in and has a huge pick for us to kind of end things for us. The defensive front, I thought played well, strong, against the run and the pass.”
With the win, the Chiefs improved to 9-2 and maintain a one-game lead in the race for the top seed in the playoffs.
Here’s what else stood out Sunday afternoon:
The Chiefs again turned to rookie wide receiver Skyy Moore to replace Kadarius Toney, who was inactive with a hamstring injury, as their punt returner.
Moore muffed a punt in the first quarter and the Rams recovered. It was the third botched punt from the first-round draft pick this season (the previous two came in Weeks 3 and 7).
Moore entered the regular season with limited experience as a punt returner, but the Chiefs spent a lot of effort during the offseason, including training camp, working him into the role. Toney took over punt-return duties shortly after the Chiefs traded for him during their Week 8 bye.
With this third muffed punt, the Chiefs’ experiment could be over.
Wide receiver Justin Watson assumed punt-return duties on the Rams’ second punt of the game. Watson cleanly fielded the punt and drew cheers from many of the Chiefs fans in attendance.
FIRST CAREER SACKS
A pair of early-round draft picks got their first full sacks of the season.
Karlaftis, the Chiefs’ second of two first-round picks this spring, took down Rams quarterback Bryce Perkins in the first quarter. Karlaftis entered the weekend with a half-sack, which he recorded in Week 5.
“It felt great,” he said.
Cook, the Chiefs’ second of two second-round picks in 2022, took down Perkins in the third quarter after chasing him down near the right sideline.
“Honestly, I didn’t realize it was a sack until after the play,” he said with a laugh. “I was like, ‘That was a sack?’ But it was good. I mean, I saw him scrambling in the backfield and it was, ‘all right, see ball, get ball.’”
After being a healthy inactive the previous 10 games, running back Ronald Jones made his regular-season debut in a Chiefs uniform. He contributed in a backup role and finished with 12 yards on four carries, adding one catch for 22 yards.
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald terrorized the Chiefs’ interior offensive line on the opening series, recording two tackles and a quarterback hit.
Then, it got quiet.
“There’s some adversity early and we responded to the challenge,” said Chiefs left guard Nick Allegretti, who started in place of Joe Thuney (ankle injury; inactive).
Did they ever.
Allegretti, center Creed Humphrey and right guard Trey Smith rallied to hold Donald, a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, mostly in check for the rest of the game.
“He’s one of the best players I’ve ever played against,” Smith said. “I think at the end of the day, just making sure we negate what he does extremely well and just putting bodies on him. Phenomenal player. He got me on that first drive about two times.”
“We knew were going against a generational talent,” Humphrey said. “He’s one of the best D-tackles to ever play the game. We knew he was going to win some battles, but we knew we could win some battles, too.
“It was really just staying in and keeping the mentality of keep fighting and keep it going, and I think throughout the game our guys did with him. So, yeah, credit to Nick and Trey. They did a good job after that first series.”
After recording the two tackles during the Chiefs’ first offensive possession, Donald recorded just one more tackle the rest of the way and finished with three tackles with no sacks.
Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed left in the second quarter to be evaluated for a concussion. He spent several minutes in the blue medical tent before heading to the locker room. Sneed cleared the protocols and returned to action to the third quarter.
Reid said safety Deon Bush left the game with an elbow injury, but the head coach didn’t sound overly concerned.
“He should be fine,” Reid said.
NOT SUITED UP
Left guard Joe Thuney (ankle), wide receiver Kadarius Toney (hamstring), safety Juan Thornhill (calf), quarterback Shane Buechele, defensive end Malik Herring, tackle Geron Christian and defensive end Joshua Kaindoh were inactive.
The Chiefs are on the road in Week 13 to take on the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium.