- Associated Press - Monday, September 25, 2017

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Chiefs have ripped off so many big plays during a 3-0 start this season that the latest, a 69-yard touchdown run by Kareem Hunt against the Chargers on Sunday, wasn’t even supposed to happen.

Hunt was reminded in the huddle that he only needed to pick up a first down to allow Kansas City to run out the clock. So when the record-setting rookie took the handoff, dodged to his left and hit daylight, coach Andy Reid wanted him to go down and eliminate any risk of a fluke turnover.

Instead, Hunt outran the defense for a touchdown to cap a 24-10 victory in style.

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“You’d like him to go down and that’s a tough thing to do,” Reid said. “Game over at that point if you get a first down. He kept running, and he’s young and he’ll learn that. That’s a tough thing to ask.”

It’s almost as if the Chiefs’ offense can’t help but reel off big plays.

Reid and his much-maligned quarterback, Alex Smith, have earned a reputation for running a dink-and-dunk system the past few years. Short pass plays and conservatives runs have been the norm.

But the drafting of speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill last year and Hunt this year have transformed the offense, giving it a pair of big-play threats that have so long been absent. Already those two have provided five plays of at least 50 yards this season, more than the Chiefs had all of last season combined.

“This is a big thing in this league,” Reid said of the big plays, pointing out how hard it has become to slowly drive downfield. “That’s a tough thing to do for an opponent.”

Far easier to get big chunks of yards in a single play.

The Chiefs had two of the four biggest plays from scrimmage in the entire league heading into Monday night’s game between the Cowboys and Cardinals. They both occurred in a 42-27 season-opening victory over New England, a 78-yard touchdown pass to Hunt and a 75-yard scoring strike to Hill that seemed to have set the tone for the way the Kansas City offense has been humming through three games.

When you throw in Hunt’s latest touchdown run, which made him the first rookie since 1981 with six or more scores through the first three weeks, the Chiefs have three of the 10 longest plays from scrimmage.

“He’s at a spot right now where he’s catching a lot of footballs, he runs with power, mentally he knows where he’s at, he’s able to block for us. So right now he’s doing everything that we’re asking him to do,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy said. “Now, not to say that Kareem doesn’t have weaknesses because we all have weaknesses, but so far what we’ve asked him to do, he’s doing it all pretty well.”

That may be the biggest understatement this week.

He had 17 carries for 172 yards against the Chargers, giving him a league-leading 401 yards rushing. He has 538 yards from scrimmage, more than 150 more than second-place Todd Gurley, and is a big reason the Chiefs are third in the NFL in total offense behind the Rams and Patriots.

“With a back like him,” Smith said, “he has continually showed us not only how physical he is, especially in a short-yard situation breaking tackles, but when it definitely has big-play potential. He is such a good combination of those two things.”

Hunt isn’t the only reason the Chiefs have been ripping off those big plays. Remember that the Chiefs’ two biggest plays this season have come with Smith slinging the ball.

The quarterback known primarily as a game manager tossed two more touchdown passes against the Chargers, giving him a 128.1 passer rating. That makes four straight regular-season games dating to Week 17 last season in which Smith has surpassed the 100.0 mark in a game.

His prettiest throw Sunday came in the first quarter, when he followed a turnover by the Chargers by hitting Hill in stride for a 30-yard touchdown strike. Smith threw a short shovel pass to Albert Wilson a few minutes later for a 14-0 lead, and the Chargers were forced to play catch-up the rest of the way.

“We are always trying to evolve. I think you are always trying to do that in this league,” Reid said of his offense. “Too many smart football guys that study it in the offseason. So you have to continually add to it. That doesn’t mean you don’t have your base go-tos. But you have to change a little bit and move things around. That is kind of the neat challenge.”


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