It was a collective effort from the Kansas City defense, with a focus on stopping the Seahawks’ passing game. Up front, Chris Jones led a pass-rushing onslaught that garnered two sacks of Smith and seven quarterback hits. Rookie defensive end George Karlaftis popped for his biggest moment of the season, earning a well-timed third-down sack deep in Seahawks territory after beating Seattle rookie tackle Abraham Lucas around the edge. Smith was under duress all day and was not getting the pockets he had been used to.
Kansas City’s physicality and variety of zone coverages played well against the Seahawks’ receivers. Metcalf still produced a solid seven catches for 81 yards, but it wasn’t enough to carry the offense. Smith seemed rattled by the heavy pressure and mix of coverages, leading him to take more checkdowns and short throws than he might have otherwise. Kansas City’s second- and third-level defenders did an excellent job rallying to tackle on those short throws, leaving the Seahawks with a nickel-and-dime approach that didn’t produce enough coins to pay for a win.
It must be said that the Seahawks were without wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who surely would have made this game more difficult for Kansas City. But this was still Kansas City’s most convincing defensive performance, and it could not have come at a better time. If its defense can inch closer to average, as opposed to the below-average unit it has been for most of the season, Kansas City might again be the team to watch in January.
Around the N.F.L.
Bengals 22, Patriots 18: Each team scored in only one half, the Bengals dominating the first before the Patriots rallied in the second. Joe Burrow diced up the Patriots for the first two quarters, leaning heavily on the big-bodied wide receiver Tee Higgins to dunk on the Patriots’ small cornerback group. But a couple of key mistakes — two interceptions thrown by Burrow and a Ja’Marr Chase fumble — made it tough for the Bengals to pull away, and the Patriots clawed their way back, narrowing the lead before fumbling inside the Bengals’ 10-yard line on what could have been a game-winning drive.
Kansas City 24, Seahawks 10: Geno Smith was in hell all day. Kansas City’s pass rush swarmed him for four quarters, generating a ton of interior pressure led by Chris Jones. When paired with the physical, tight-window style of coverage played by Kansas City, it was tough sledding for a Seahawks’ passing offense that has otherwise carried the team. For Kansas City, the ever-reliable Patrick Mahomes-to-Travis Kelce connection did its magic. Kelce snagged six catches for 113 yards, earning just over half of the team’s total receiving yards on the day.
Bills 35, Bears 13: Not many teams throw two interceptions and come away with a 22-point win anyway. The Bills are not most teams. Josh Allen was mostly good outside of a few numbskull plays, the kind of performance he can be prone to when nothing is really on the line. The Bills’ defense was the real reason for the team’s success, though. Bears quarterback Justin Fields had just seven carries for 11 yards, the first time he’s been held to under 50 yards since early October.
Ravens 17, Falcons 9: A surging Ravens’ defense held its own against a tough Falcons’ run game. The Falcons slammed their running backs forward 33 times but netted just 115 yards, roughly 3.5 yards per carry. The Ravens ran the ball much better, earning 5.4 yards per carry, and were able to control the pace of the game. Atlanta’s rookie quarterback, Desmond Ridder, led the offense into the red zone twice in the fourth quarter, but the first drive ended on downs and the second ended in a field goal that was too little, too late.