KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs had played so horrendously on defense earlier this season that the Dallas Cowboys and their top-ranked offense probably felt confident that they could keep things rolling Sunday night.
Chris Jones and the rest of the Chiefs made an emphatic statement to the contrary.
Jones piled up 3 1/2 sacks while forcing a fumble and recovering one, and Charvarius Ward and L'Jarius Sneed picked off Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott at crucial points in the game, helping the AFC West-leading Chiefs roll to a 19-9 victory over the Cowboys inside noticeably raucous Arrowhead Stadium.
“We had a few rough weeks. We had a lot of guys injured. It wasn't clicking,” Jones acknowledged, “but when you take everything into consideration, we were still able to compete. And to have everyone back and build that chemistry, I think it's a huge part of our success right now.”
The defense helped bail out Patrick Mahomes, who had 260 yards passing with an interception and a fumble. Clyde Edwards-Helaire added 63 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Chiefs (7-4) in his return from injured reserve.
“This entire season, there's been a lot of ups and downs for everybody,” said Mahomes, whose team is nevertheless 4-0 against the NFC East and riding a four-game win streak into its bye. “We've had games where we put up a lot of points and played good, and games we haven't, and we still found a way to get a win.”
Prescott was held to 216 yards passing and two interceptions for the Cowboys, though he was missing a whole lot of help.
Left tackle Tyron Smith missed his third straight game with an ankle injury. Amari Cooper tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, and fellow wide receiver CeeDee Lamb sustained a concussion just before halftime. And running back Ezekiel Elliott appeared to tweak his ankle early on, though he finished the game with nine carries for 32 yards.
“We had a healthy 48 players ready to play,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “We had a number of guys that couldn't play in the game. That's the NFL. That's the course of a season.”
Micah Parsons was the biggest bright spot for the Cowboys (7-3), forcing a fumble and getting two more sacks, as the NFL's highest-scoring offense was held to 5 of 15 on third down and 276 yards in all.
“I'm never discouraged but pissed off, yeah, for sure,” Prescott said. “Especially when you have an opportunity to come out and play against a team that's been in the Super Bowl the last two years, and we had a chance to show what we're capable of. But this is a resilient team that's going to continue to fight and get better, I can tell you that.”
The Chiefs did the exact same thing after a rough first seven weeks that left them 3-4 and last in the AFC West. They've eliminated many of the turnovers and penalties that hamstrung their offense, and a defense that was historically inept in September and October has turned into a ferocious, ball-hawking bunch in November.
Just ask Prescott, who spent a good part of Sunday running away from it.
Mahomes followed up a 406-yard, five-touchdown performance against the Raiders by dicing up the Cowboys in the first half. He led Kansas City on an 86-yard march that ended with Travis Kelce taking a direct snap for a touchdown, then he led a 65-yard drive a few minutes later that ended with Edwards-Helaire's short TD run.
All the Cowboys managed was Greg Zuerlein's field goal and they trailed 16-3 at the break.
Zuerlein hit two more in the second half, and Harrison Butker added another field goal for Kansas City as the teams traded silly mistakes that kept them from reaching the end zone. Mahomes had a pass bounce off Kelce's hands for another interception, and the Cowboys had a promising drive go haywire after a false-start penalty.
The Chiefs made sure the Cowboys never got within one possession the rest of the way.
“Every week is a big-time challenge, and I'm talking about wins and losses, these ups and downs — teams are favored and they get beat. It's crazy,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “We just have to keep our nose to it and bear down and take each game as it comes. We haven't proven anything yet. You can talk about it all after the season; go find an island and tell everyone about it. But right now, not so much.”
The teams nearly came to blows late in the first half when the Cowboys' Kelvin Joseph ripped the helmet off Rashad Fenton, who in turn began taunting the Dallas sideline. Both players were flagged for offsetting penalties.
Cowboys: Lamb was hurt going up for a jump ball in the end zone near the end of the first half. Ward picked it off and Lamb landed hard. He was helped by trainers to the locker room and did not return. ... FS Donovan Wilson left with a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter.
Chiefs: Chiefs FS Tyrann Mathieu was added to the injury list as questionable about three hours before kickoff. But after working with trainer Rick Burkholder before the game, the three-time All-Pro pronounced himself ready to go. ... RB Jerick McKinnon hurt his hamstring in the first quarter. ... Fenton hurt his right knee in the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys return home to play against the Raiders on Thanksgiving Day.
The Chiefs get a week off before playing the Broncos on Dec. 5.
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