EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For the first time in weeks, the Chiefs opened a game hot.
But for the sixth time in seven games, the deteriorating Chiefs were unable to pair a strong offensive performance with a stout defensive effort. And the Jets’ 23rd-ranked offense proceeded to carve up the Chiefs’ defense and propel New York to a 38-31 victory at MetLife Stadium.
“It’s certainly not where we thought we’d be after a 5-0 start, but that’s the NFL,” said Alex Smith, whose Chiefs now sit 6-6. “Every team can get you in this league on any day .... we’ve had some games where I think both sides, offense and defense, really felt like they weren’t holding up their end for each other.”
The defense’s inability to contain journeyman quarterback Josh McCown (26 of 36, 331 yards and a touchdown) and receivers Jermaine Kearse (nine catches, 167 yards) and Robby Anderson (eight catches, 107 yards) opened up a middling running game that rushed for 159 yards on 47 carries.
Smith, who finished 19 of 33 for 366 yards, connected with Travis Kelce for a 22-yard touchdown throw on the Chiefs first drive, and they would score even faster on their next possession, when Smith found a wide-open Kelce in the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown that took just six seconds.
The Chiefs led 14-0 only five minutes into the game, but the Jets would respond as they began to attack the Chiefs’ toothless defense. Running back Bilal Powell capped a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive with a 1-yard plunge on their next drive, and McCown finished an eight-play, 68-yard drive with a 1-yard sneak to tie the game at 14 before the end of the first quarter.
The Jets took a 21-17 lead into halftime when McCown completed another scoring drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to running back Matt Forte, and extended their lead to 24-17 with a field goal right after halftime.
On the first play of the Chiefs’ next drive, Smith aired out a deep throw to Hill, who ran under it for a 79-yard touchdown that tied the game.
The Jets added a pair of field goals and the Chiefs found themselves in a 30-24 hole early in the fourth. But Smith promptly went back to Hill on a 40-yard score to put the Chiefs ahead 31-30.
McCown promptly converted two third downs, but the Chiefs held firm at third-and-goal at their own 7. A personal foul penalty on defensive tackle Bennie Logan for hitting a defenseless player — the snapper — nullified the go-ahead field goal and gave the Jets a new set of downs in front of the goal line. On third-and-goal from the 4, Frank Zombo forced an incompletion by hitting McCown.
But that was waived off on a holding penalty against cornerback Steven Nelson, who mugged tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the end zone to give the Jets yet another fresh set of downs at the Chiefs’ 2 with 2:33 left.
McCown eventually scored from a yard for a 36-31 Jets lead. The Chiefs forced an incompletion on the two-point conversion, but Nelson was whistled for a hold that nullified the stop and gave the Jets another crack at it. In frustration, cornerback Marcus Peters picked up the flag and threw it into the stands.
Peters walked off to the locker room as the Jets succeeded in tacking on the two-point conversion with a short run by Elijah McGuire.
The Chiefs got the ball back down 38-31 with 2:15 left. Smith connected with Hill for a 40-yard gain on third-and-10 from their own 37. But three plays later, the Chiefs found themselves in a fourth-and-6 at the Jets’ 19 and Smith’s pass sailed incomplete, ending the comeback bid.