Adam TeicherESPN Staff WriterNov 5, 2023, 03:06 PM ET4 Minute Read
FRANKFURT, Germany — The Kansas City Chiefs won their International Series game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday like they’ve been winning games in the United States in 2023, with their defense leading the way.
This time, the Chiefs weren’t content with merely limiting the usually high-scoring Dolphins to a season-low in points in the 21-14 victory. The Chiefs also scored the decisive touchdown on defense.
The play was anything but routine, with cornerback Trent McDuffie stripping the ball from Tyreek Hill late in the first half. Kansas City teammate Mike Edwards picked him up and, after being surrounded by Dolphins, pitched a sideline to fellow safety Bryan Cook, who raced 59 yards to put the Chiefs ahead 21-0.
The Chiefs survived the second half when they forced the Dolphins to turn the ball over on downs late in the game with a chance to tie or win with a touchdown.
“Cook was rolling,” said quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who threw a pair of touchdown passes before the defensive TD. “He looked [like] the anchor leg of a four-by-one in track. He got those knees up and was rolling down the field.
“A huge play that obviously mattered a ton at the end of the game.”
McDuffie, a first-round draft pick in 2022, is proficient in prying the ball away from receivers. This was his fourth forced fumble of the season.
“He came up to smack him,” coach Andy Reid said. “That was a pretty aggressive hit and it was a catch and then an immediate hit and then he just went right for the ball, punching it down, which is tough to do as you lay a lick on him like that.”
Hill, traded by the Chiefs to the Dolphins last year, was playing in his first game against his former team. He had eight catches for 62 yards but the fumble was the most notable of his plays.
“They played two-man coverage and [McDuffie] was unblocked and he came free as soon as I caught it and I didn’t even get a chance to make a move,” Hill said. “That’s the explanation I’ve got for you. They did a good job.”
Edwards made the heads-up play to get the ball to Cook.
“I was about to get tackled and was like, ‘No, we’ve got to do something else,'” Edwards said. “So, I kind of looked back and I [saw] my boy [Cook] and I was like, ‘I trust him.’ You’ve got to have trust to do some things like that.
Kansas City used a season-high 61% zone coverage to combat Miami’s speed, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. The Chiefs are allowing just 15.9 points per game, their best through nine games since 2013.
The yards per pass attempt is 6.1, their best at this stage of the season since 1988, and yards per play is 4.8, their best since 1999.
Mahomes said he thought back in training camp that the Chiefs were developing their best defensive team since he took over as starting quarterback in 2018. The Chiefs invested heavily in their defense last season, drafting McDuffie and defensive end George Karlaftis in the first round, Cook in the second and other defensive contributors in the later rounds.
All are big factors in the defensive performance this season.
“We brought back so many people, so many young guys and they were going to develop,” Mahomes said. “But I mean the fact that they’re all developing this fast, I don’t know if anyone could have guessed it , but I knew they were going to be great as their careers went on.
“They’re so good at all three levels. Guys rotate in and they can play. It’s hard to get everybody snaps. That’s how good they are. It’s got to be a top defense in the NFL. [The Dolphins have] a great offense. For them to hold them to 14 points… that’s a tremendous, tremendous job.”
ESPN’s Marcel Louis-Jacques contributed to this story.