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Chiefs fall back on big-play defense once more to go to 9-0

Eric Edholm
Shutdown Corner

Andy Reid's former defensive coordinator in Philadelphia, Jim Johnson, once said his goal was to keep opponents to 17 points or fewer every game. Do that, the late Johnson thought, and his team would have a chance to win almost every game.

The Kansas City Chiefs are 9-0 because they have kept every opponent to 17 points or fewer. It's no coincidence in them being unbeaten. They did so again in a not-so-pretty but oh-so-effective 23-13 victory over the Buffalo Bills Sunday.

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You can spout off every reason you want to criticize or poke holes in the Chiefs, and there was plenty of ammo from the game Sunday.

In his first NFL start, Bills undrafted rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel, who was brilliant and fluid early, threw two miserable interceptions that were less the reason of anything the Chiefs did and more on him and his receivers.

There were dropped passes by the Bills all over the field

The Bills run the ball at will pretty much, and they outgained the Chiefs 470-209.

All your stats are there to say that the Chiefs are not for real. But when they absolutely needed a big play on defense, they got it.

Sean Smith's 100-yard interception return for a touchdown was the tilting point of the game, as Tuel missed a wide-open Stevie Johnson in the end zone and threw it inexplicably to a spot where no Bills receiver was at. Call it good fortune, but Smith made the play and helped his unbalanced and ineffective offense that didn't find any real mojo until Jamaal Charles heated up slightly late.

[Also: Dez Bryant battles emotions in Cowboys win]

Marcus Cooper was the defensive back the Bills wanted to pick on all game, and he was burned for a 59-yard touchdown on a straight go route early on. But Cooper ended up having a strong game, with three passes defended (one on a would-be touchdown throw to Robert Woods) and a forced fumble. You need these kinds of mentally tough contributions from bit players when you're trying to win on the road against an opponent that has all the momentum.

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The Chiefs won't beat better opponents with more accomplished quarterbacks by sitting back and accepting gift turnovers, of which there were an obvious three on Sunday. Championship teams will have games like these where they scratch out an ugly victory by doing enough in two of three phases, defense and special teams.

Is this that kind of team? That isn't clear yet. But you really can't argue with the results. For now.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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